Ketogenic Diet for Cancer: Critical Assessment and Research Recommendations

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Journal: Nutrients
Publication Date: 10/2021
Summary: 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 preclinical 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.

Key Takeaways

The Warburg Effect suggests that cancers feed primarily off of glucose. Preclinical studies suggest that the ketogenic diet has anti-cancer properties and prolongs the survival of cancer patients. Unfortunately, clinical trials do not show a definitive positive effect for the ketogenic diet on cancer, but there are few high quality studies. Thus, we must develop more high quality research to demonstrate how the ketogenic diet affects cancer.

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