Ketogenic diet for cancer: Critical assessment and research recommendations

Academic Article


  • Despite remarkable improvements in screening, diagnosis, and targeted therapies, cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the United States. It is increasingly clear that diet and lifestyle practices play a substantial role in cancer development and progression. As such, various dietary compositions have been proposed for reducing cancer risk and as potential adjuvant therapies. In this article, we critically assess the preclinical and human trials on the effects of the ketogenic diet (KD, i.e., high-fat, moderate-to-low protein, and very-low carbohydrate content) for cancer-related outcomes. The mechanisms underlying the hypothesized effects of KD, most notably the Warburg Effect, suggest that restricting carbohydrate content may impede cancer development and progression via several pathways (e.g., tumor metabolism, gene expression). Overall, although pre-clinical studies suggest that KD has antitumor effects, prolongs survival, and prevents cancer development, human clinical trials are equivocal. Because of the lack of high-quality clinical trials, the effects of KD on cancer and as an adjunctive therapy are essentially unknown. We propose a set of research recommendations for clinical studies examining the effects of KD on cancer development and progression.
  • Published In

  • Nutrients  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Lane J; Brown NI; Williams S; Plaisance EP; Fontaine KR
  • Volume

  • 13
  • Issue

  • 10