Study Suggests Popular Diets Like Keto and Intermittent Fasting May Influence Cancer Growth

by Ella

A recent study indicates that widely followed dietary regimens, such as the Keto diet, may exert an effect on the progression of tumors. However, further investigation is required to gauge their efficacy in human subjects.

Research into diets restricting overall calorie intake, glucose consumption, or targeting specific nutrients, including ketogenic, time-restricted, and intermittent fasting diets, reveals potential inhibitory effects on the growth of cancerous tumors.


While there’s no singular dietary approach universally effective in influencing cancer development, recent findings underscore the potential role of nutrition in cancer treatment strategies.


The study, conducted by Semmelweis University in Hungary, analyzed a comprehensive compilation of over 300 studies exploring the impact of various diets on cancer cell metabolism.


Dr. Otilia Menyhárt, an assistant professor at Semmelweis University and the study’s lead author, emphasized the metabolic diversity among cancer cells, stating, “Cancers are very heterogeneous in their metabolic dependencies: there is no one-size-fits-all.”


“What they do have in common is an extremely high energy need to support their growth,” she added.

The adjustment of diet holds promise for enhancing patients’ responses to treatment and influencing tumor progression, according to the study authors.

Certain types of tumors, such as colorectal, cervical, and specific breast cancers, rely heavily on glucose as their primary energy source. Meanwhile, glutamine, an amino acid, fuels non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, myeloma, and brain tumors. Additionally, fructose consumption has been associated with the growth of prostate cancer cells.

Exploiting Metabolic Differences

Dr. Menyhárt explained that depriving the body of glucose for an extended period induces a fasting state, prompting the body to seek alternative fuel sources. This metabolic shift leads to the production of ketones in the liver, a process central to the popular Keto diet.

Individuals adhering to the high-fat, low-carb regimen primarily consume fish, seafood, meat, poultry, non-starchy vegetables, eggs, nuts, among other foods.

While healthy cells adeptly utilize ketones for energy, cancer cells exhibit metabolic inflexibility, struggling to adapt to this shift. Consequently, cancer cells have limited ability to derive energy from ketones.

Moreover, fasting prompts healthy cells to transition from a growth phase to a state of maintenance and repair, whereas cancerous cells do not undergo such changes.

Additionally, under starvation conditions, tumor cells produce elevated levels of reactive oxygen species, rendering them more susceptible to DNA damage induced by treatment.

The study suggests that preceding and following chemotherapy with fasting can enhance its efficacy while significantly reducing associated side effects. However, these effects were observed only in specific diseases.

Dr. Menyhárt highlighted the mixed outcomes, stating, “[A] ketogenic diet in anticancer therapy can lead to increased survival and decreased tumor growth but in certain cancers, it accelerates disease progression.

The study notes low compliance rates in clinical trials, often attributed to side effects or poor adherence, hindering the formulation of clinical recommendations regarding dietary interventions during cancer treatment.

“To change that, protocols that patients are able and willing to follow should be created and clinically tested,” Dr. Menyhárt emphasized.



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