Ketogenic Diet Explained

Ketogenic Diet in Cancer Treatment


Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Research studies have estimated that approximately 595,690 Americans die from cancer every year, that’s about 1,600 deaths every day, on average. Cancer is frequently treated utilizing a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Recent research studies have analyzed a variety of nutritional strategies for cancer treatment. Early research studies suggest that the ketogenic diet may help treat cancer.

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet which is often compared with the Atkins diet and other low carb diets. Also commonly known as the keto diet, this nutritional strategy entails drastically reducing your consumption of carbohydrates and instead substituting them with fat. This dietary shift is what causes the human body to enter a state of ketosis, the well-known metabolic state associated with the keto diet. Ketosis utilizes fat as the cell’s main source of energy, rather than sugar or glucose.

Ketosis causes a considerable increase in the levels of ketones. In general, a ketogenic diet used for weight loss consists of about 60 to 75 percent of calories from fat, with 15 to 30 percent of calories from protein and 5 to 10 percent of calories from carbohydrates. However, when a ketogenic diet is used therapeutically to treat cancer, the fat content might be significantly higher, up to 90 percent of calories from fat, and the protein content will also be considerably lower, up to 5 percent of calories from protein.

The Role of Blood Sugar in Cancer

Many cancer treatments are designed to target the biological differences between cancer cells and normal cells. Nearly all cancer cells share one common characteristic: they feed off of blood sugar or glucose in order to grow and multiply. During the ketogenic diet, several conventional metabolic processes are modified and blood sugar levels decrease, “starving” cancer cells. As a result, cancer cells have been demonstrated to grow much slower, often decreasing in size or even dying.

This nutritional strategy as a form of cancer treatment was first proposed by Otto Heinrich Warburg, a leading cell biologist. Otto Warburg led to the discovery that cancer cells are unable to flourish using energy produced from cellular respiration but instead from glucose fermentation. The Warburg effect developed from the role of glycolysis and lactic acid fermentation to transfer energy, compensating for lower dependence on oxidative phosphorylation and limited mitochondrial respiration.

Benefits of the Keto Diet for Cancer

The ketogenic diet provides other benefits in cancer treatment. Primarily, reducing carbohydrates from your diet can quickly lower calorie intake, reducing the energy available to the cells. In turn, this may slow down tumor development and the progression of cancer. Additionally, the ketogenic diet may help lower insulin levels. Insulin is an anabolic hormone which promotes cell growth, including cancerous cells. Therefore, lower insulin may help slow down tumor development.

The Ketogenic Diet and Cancer in Animals

Researchers have analyzed the ketogenic diet as an alternative cancer treatment for many decades. Until recently, most research studies were performed in animals. A big number of these animal research studies have demonstrated that the ketogenic diet can reduce tumor growth and improve survival levels in mice.

One research study in mice reviewed the cancer-fighting effects of the ketogenic diet along with other diets. Strikingly, the researchers found that 60 percent of mice following the ketogenic diet survived. This increased to 100 percent in mice that received a ketone supplement while on the keto diet. None lived on a standard diet.

The Ketogenic Diet and Cancer in Humans

Despite the promising evidence of the benefits of the ketogenic diet as a form of cancer treatment in animals, research studies in humans have only just started. At present, the limited research studies does seem to demonstrate that a ketogenic diet may decrease tumor size and decrease the progression of certain cancers. One of the few documented cases was conducted on a 65-year-old woman with brain cancer. Following surgery, she followed a ketogenic diet and the tumor’s progression decreased.

However, 10 weeks after returning to a normal diet, she experienced a substantial increase in tumor growth. Similar case reports analyzed the reactions to a ketogenic diet in two women who were undergoing therapy for advanced brain cancer. Researchers discovered that glucose uptake was decreased from the tumors of both patients. One of the women reported improved quality of life and stayed on the diet for 12 weeks. During that time her disease showed no further progression.

One research study tracked tumor growth in response to a high-carbohydrate diet versus a ketogenic diet in 27 patients with gastrointestinal cancer. Tumor growth increased by 32.2 percent in patients who received the high-carb diet while tumor growth decreased by 24.3 percent in patients on the ketogenic diet. In a different research study, three out of five patients on a ketogenic diet combined with radiation or chemotherapy experienced complete remission.

Can the Ketogenic Diet Help Prevent Cancer?

A variety of research studies have also demonstrated that the ketogenic diet can help prevent cancer in the first place. Primarily, it can help reduce several risk factors for cancer. The keto diet may help decrease IGF-1 levels. Insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1, is a hormone that’s essential for cell growth while reducing programmed cell death. This hormone can play a part in the evolution and progression of cancer. The ketogenic diet is thought to decrease IGF-1 levels, thereby decreasing the effects insulin has on cell growth, reducing the risk of cancer.

The ketogenic diet can also help lower blood sugar levels and decrease the risk of diabetes. Other evidence indicates that people with elevated glucose and diabetes have an increased risk of developing cancer. Research studies show that a ketogenic diet can be extremely effective at lowering blood sugar levels and handling diabetes. The keto diet can reduce obesity. Obesity can be a risk factor for cancer. Since the ketogenic diet is a powerful weight loss tool, it may also help reduce the chance of cancer by fighting obesity.

Emerging research studies continue to demonstrate that sugar or glucose is the main source of fuel for cancer. Researchers have attempted to demonstrate that regulating the metabolic functions within the human body is the real solution towards treating cancer. The ketogenic diet can help treat cancer because it limits the amount of sugar in the body and instead replaces it with ketones, “starving” cancer cells and decreasing cell growth and cancer progression. 

Dr. Alex Jimenez D.C., C.C.S.T. Insight


A ketogenic diet offers many health advantages. Based on animal and early research studies in humans, it may also serve as a cancer treatment. However, it’s important to keep in mind that further research studies are still required to conclude the effects of the ketogenic diet on cancer. You shouldn’t avoid conventional cancer therapy in favor of an alternative treatment option like the keto diet. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic and spinal health issues. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .

Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez

Additional Topic Discussion: Acute Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most prevalent causes of disability and missed days at work worldwide. Back pain attributes to the second most common reason for doctor office visits, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections. Approximately 80 percent of the population will experience back pain at least once throughout their life. The spine is a complex structure made up of bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles, among other soft tissues. Injuries and/or aggravated conditions, such as herniated discs, can eventually lead to symptoms of back pain. Sports injuries or automobile accident injuries are often the most frequent cause of back pain, however, sometimes the simplest of movements can have painful results. Fortunately, alternative treatment options, such as chiropractic care, can help ease back pain through the use of spinal adjustments and manual manipulations, ultimately improving pain relief.

EXTRA EXTRA | IMPORTANT TOPIC: Recommended El Paso, TX Chiropractor?


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Professional Scope of Practice *

The information herein on "Ketogenic Diet in Cancer Treatment" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

Blog Information & Scope Discussions

Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, acupuncture, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from various disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

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Our office has reasonably attempted to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.

We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez, DC, or contact us at 915-850-0900.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*


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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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