low-carb dieting's effect on cancer


Low-carb diets are showing major promise in assisting the fight against cancer. Eating a severely carb-restricted diet helps to starve cancer cells which can limit, and in some cases stop, tumor growth in its tracks. This is a huge win as a new weapon in the war on cancer.

We here at niKETO want to be clear, however, that while eating low-carb can make a big difference in helping to fight cancer, it cannot win the battle alone.

It’s important to make the distinction between what science says low-carb’s effect on cancer can be and what some less-than-reputable sources on the internet claim keto can do for curing cancer.

Low-carb dieting is not a cure for cancer, it’s not alternative medicine, and it’s not a reason to stop chemo or radiation or to stop listening to a doctor.

Eating a low-carb diet can absolutely impact on, and it helps tremendously in cancer prevention, but it’s not a standalone cure.

Unfortunately, this point needs to made clear, because there are articles out there that use sensationalized headlines and claims about keto’s cancer-curing effects to draw people in for the sole purpose of making the publication money, and with no regard for giving out actual helpful information.

In addition to us here at niKETO, there are reputable resources online that aim to educate and assist those interested in learning the facts about low-carb’s cancer fighting abilities. Please seek out the right ones by avoiding sites that claim low-carb is a cancer cure-all.


Asking what cancer is seems almost silly. By now, most people know how devastating cancer is; the National Cancer Institute estimates that about 80% of people will experience a loss to cancer in their lifetime, and 50% of people will develop some form of cancer.

Taking over 100 different forms, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. We are very well aware of what cancer does, but how does it work?

It’s important to know how cancer operates when learning how to defeat it. It’s especially important to know how cancer works in order to understand how a low-carb diet can help slow or prevent its growth since it seems, on the surface, like low-carbs and cancer don’t have anything to do with each other.

Cancer: The overwhelming growth of abnormal cells in the body. These cells usually begin in a clump that grows into a tumor. The tumor continues to grow and spread into healthy organs until it takes the organs over and ceases their function.

Cancer is devastating because it never stops dividing its harmful cells, and these bad cells eventually overtake the healthy cells that keep our bodies going.

So, naturally, the best solution to cancer is to stop its spread and try to kill the source.

Halting the spread, and preventing the tumor from taking hold in the first place, is where low-carb living can help.


Cancer cells, just like any healthy cell in the human body, needs energy to divide and grow.

We eat to feed our healthy cells so they grow and repair any damage through the autophagy process by which our damaged cells are removed and recycled. All of that takes metabolic energy.

Cancer divides using the same metabolic pathways, but does so at a much faster rate.

The question becomes, how do you supply energy to healthy cells without feeding the cancer cells?

This question is the crux of how of low-carb eating can assist in starving these nasty little cancer #@&$%*.

Cancer uses glucose to fuel its invasion. But do you know what it can’t use that the rest of your cells can?

Ketones! Ketones the glorious alternate fuel source that’s produced as a result of low-carb’s fat adaptation.

The whole point of low-carb dieting is to switch away from a glucose-based energy source to a ketone, fat-based energy to run your body. Eating a fat-rich diet with minimal carbs means not enough glucose to feed cancer, but plenty of ketones to feed your healthy organs and regular metabolic functions.

This is how low-carb helps. It can slow cancer’s movement and stop tumors from getting bigger.

Depriving a cancerous tumor of glucose is known as the “Warburg Effect,” named for Otto Warburg who was the first to link cancer growth to glucose consumption in the body.

“Otto Warburg and his group of colleagues were able to conclude that by depriving tumor cells of glucose and oxygen, they would be able to deprive tumor cells of energy. By depriving the tumor cells of energy, this is how they would kill the tumor cell.” - Trends in Biochemical Sciences. 41 (3): 211–8

His conclusions have been studied over the last 98 years and led to huge advancements in cancer research and the understanding of how cancer works and how it can be killed.

Dr. Warburg’s research is the basis for a low-carb diet’s assistance in battling cancer and why diets like keto are being looked at and studied as a reinforcement to traditional cancer fighting medicine.


The effect of low-carb’s impact on cancer is two-fold. As seen above, eating low-carb can assist the cancer fight by starving cancer cells and prohibiting further growth. But another huge benefit low-carb diets bring to the cancer fight is in the prevention of cancer, keeping it from taking hold in the first place.

IGF-1 – This looks like something you’d find painted on the side of a rocket, but it stands for Insulin-like Growth Factor 1. This article explains the specifics of IGF-1, but it looks like a rocket’s schematics. The important thing to know is IGF-1 acts like insulin for growth, but it’s not insulin.

The long and short of IGF-1 is that it’s a hormone your body will use for cell growth and development during childhood. Typically, IGF-1 levels off during our later teen years, as we no longer need to develop any new growth, our brains and organs are formed by then.

But, eating high glycemic foods rich in sugar and simple carbs promotes the production of IGF-1 even into later years when we don’t need it nor want it.

IGF-1 can inhibit the programmed death of used or damaged cells and instead promote the growth of bad cells like those that become the rampantly spreading cancer sarcomas.

Eating a low-carb diet keeps your glycemic-load low by excluding the sugars that turn into glucose, and in turn help to produce the IGF-1 hormone that cancer uses as a building block inside your body.

Eating cruciferous vegetables in league with your low-carb diet is seen as a great strategy in making sure your body doesn’t have what it needs to over produce the damaging IGF-1 hormone. Plant proteins are not capable of triggering the IGF-1 production response and can help regulate the proteins that do.


What do we know? Unfortunately, not enough. More research and test trials on actual patients are a goal many researchers are aiming for. As of right now, the research we do have looks very promising.

  1. Low-carb and ketogenic diets, used in conjunction with traditional medicine for cancer treatment, have shown positive signs in quality of life over medical treatment alone.

  2. The neuroprotective effects of low-carb diets in slowing cancer progression can lead to extended life prognoses.

  3. Low-carb diets can hinder cancer’s ability to metastasize in the first place, making low-carb a great tool in the cancer prevention discussion.

It’s important to note that those few cancer patients who were put on the ketogenic diet for study showed no negative side effects due to low-carb nutrition and it was determined that adding a low-carb diet to traditional cancer treatments was safe and effective with zero interference to the treatments.

So we know that the ketogenic diet and low-carb living have shown enough promise to make scientists and medical professionals want to dig deeper into low-carb eating and to clinically explore low-carb’s ability to help traditional medicine in battling cancer.

If you have any person experience with cancer and low-carb dieting, please feel free to tell us about it at eatniketo.com or on our facebook page.