The anti-cancer potential of Keto

People go keto for a lot of reasons…

To fit into that one pair of jeans they saved from high school (you know… the ones you save just to say you fit into a pair of jeans from high school).

To balance blood sugar and prevent (or even reverse) conditions like prediabetes and diabetes.

To replace brain fog and mid-afternoon slumps with keto euphoria and a clear mind.

But there’s one benefit that’s not on most keto dieters’ radar — at least not yet…

Keto’s anti-cancer benefits.

Now, Keto’s effect on cancer is far from certain. But there’s promising new evidence that, in the future, people will go keto for far more important reasons than slipping into old jeans. They’ll go keto to fight cancer.

The anti-cancer effects of keto

Researchers from the University of Texas just performed a study that demonstrates the keto diet’s anti-cancer potential…

In the study, researchers fed mice with lung cancer a keto-inspired diet that was very low in sugar. They also gave them a diabetes drug that keeps the kidneys from reabsorbing sugar.

Both the ketogenic diet and the diabetes drug prevented a common type of lung cancer tumor — squamous cell carcinoma tumors — from growing. Why would reducing the amount of sugar keep tumors from spreading?

Well, you may have heard that cancer cells rely on sugar for energy. And squamous cell carcinoma cells rely on sugar more than any other type of cancer cell.

University of Texas researchers also looked at blood samples from 192 people with lung or esophageal squamous cell cancer, and 120 people with lung adenocarcinoma (another common type of lung cancer) to see how blood sugar levels impacted cancer survival rates. These blood samples were taken at random times throughout the day.

People with squamous cell carcinoma who had higher blood sugar levels had worse cancer survivals rates. So, the cancer benefits of restricting sugar with the keto diet could carry over to people too.

What to eat to reduce your cancer risk right now

There are a few important facts I still need to make clear about this study…

Restricting sugar didn’t affect non-squamous-cell cancer types, only squamous cell cancers. So, fighting cancer with keto may only be possible for certain types of cancer.

Researchers also found that, although the keto diet prevented tumors from growing, it didn’t shrink them. So, the keto diet would likely be used as one tool in a larger arsenal that helps people survive cancer. And of course, all this research is in the very early stages.

Related: The keto diet in a nutshell

If you’re looking for a proven diet to protect yourself from cancer right now, here are some of the most research-backed anti-cancer eating tips:

  • Eat less sugar and refined carbs. Research shows that foods that cause blood sugar to spike, like those high in sugar and refined carbs, increase the risk of stomach, breast and colorectal cancers, among others. So even if you don’t go keto, cutting some carbs and sugar could help you.
  • Put down the processed meat. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (and loads of research), processed meat causes cancer. So, save the hot dogs, honey-baked ham, bacon, chorizo, salami and other processed meats for special occasions only.
  • Get your protein from fish. Fish is filled with healthy fatty acids that fight inflammation. That may be why it can lower colorectal cancer risk by 12 percent.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruit. Vegetables and fruit contain antioxidants that have anti-cancer properties. In fact, numerous studies show that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of several types of cancer, including lung cancer.
  • Go nuts for nuts. Nuts are also filled with healthy fatty acids that reduce inflammation… which explains why they also lower cancer risk. One 2015 study that included more than 19,000 people found that they can reduce the risk of dying from cancer.
  • Let loose on legumes. Legumes are high in fiber and high-fiber diets lower cancer risk. That may be why a 2009 study found that people who eat a lot of legumes have a 50 percent lower risk of stomach, prostate and other cancers.

Editor’s note: Advancements in cancer treatment and prevention happen every day. Problem is, you’re not hearing about most of them. Click here to discover natural and alternative ways to avoid and beat cancer, including minerals, herbs, supplements, foods and proven therapies — all in one comprehensive guide, Surviving CancerFor a preview, click here!


  1. Preclinical research suggests anti-cancer effect of keto diet — MedicalXpress
  2. p63 and SOX2 Dictate Glucose Reliance and Metabolic Vulnerabilities in Squamous Cell Carcinomas — Cell Reports
  3. Higher glycemic index and glycemic load diet is associated with increased risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma: a case-control study — Nutrition Research
  4. Dietary glycemic index and glycemic load and breast cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) — The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  5. Glycemic index, glycemic load and endometrial cancer risk: results from the Australian National Endometrial Cancer study and an updated systematic review and meta-analysis — European Journal of Nutrition
  6. Glycemic index and load and risk of upper aero-digestive tract neoplasms (Italy) — Cancer Causes Control
  7. Fish consumption and colorectal cancer risk in humans: a systematic review and meta-analysis — The American Journal of Medicine
  8. Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies — The BMJ
  9. Fruit and vegetables and cancer risk: a review of southern European studies — The British Journal of Nutrition
  10. Fruits, vegetables and lung cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis — Annals of Oncology
  11. Nut consumption is inversely associated with both cancer and total mortality in a Mediterranean population: prospective results from the Moli-sani study — The British Journal of Nutrition
  12. Legume intake and the risk of cancer: a multisite case-control study in Uruguay — Cancer Causes Control
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and