Animal research indicates that a ketogenic diet reduces levels of brain amyloid-beta, a misfolded protein that contributes to Alzheimer’s disease, while also restoring mitochondrial function and improving learning and memory. (18, 19, 20) Although fewer studies on a ketogenic diet have been done in humans with Alzheimer’s disease, a recent trial found a ketogenic diet to be both safe and effective for mild Alzheimer’s disease. (21)

What is the ketogenic diet exactly? The classic ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet plan that was originally designed in the 1920s for patients with epilepsy by researchers working at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. Researchers found that fasting — avoiding consumption of all foods for a brief period of time (such as with intermittent fasting), including those that provide carbohydrates — helped reduce the amount of seizures patients suffered, in addition to having other positive effects on body fat, blood sugar, cholesterol and hunger levels. (1)
However, this doesn't happen in every case or even most cases. In fact, many people see little to no increase in their LDL cholesterol while experiencing beneficial changes in other markers, such as an increase in HDL cholesterol and a decrease in triglycerides, blood sugar, and insulin levels – all of which are associated with reduced risk of CVD.
The vast majority of claims regarding the ketogenic diet and cancer are drawn from lab and animal studies. Findings from animal studies are revealing. A study published in July’s Nature found that in mice, the ketogenic diet enhanced the effects of a specific cancer treatment. The drugs in that treatment targeted a signaling network guided by an enzyme (abbreviated P13K), which is commonly mutated in cancers.
Dr. Folkman had developed two drugs, angiostatin and endostatin, that in animal experiments reversed tumor growth by blocking new blood vessel formation, essentially starving out the cancer cells. In a November 1998, presentation of his work at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, Dr. Folkman announced to the world that at least in mice, “we have not seen a tumor we cannot regress.”
This means that pilot studies are smaller in scale than a standard clinical trial, but they still yield important evidence and indicate which treatments should be assessed further. Typically, scientists perform pilot studies after case studies and animal studies yield promising results, which is exactly what was done regarding the keto diet and cancer.
One study assessed the effect of dietary interventions on quality of life, cognition and behavioural functioning, reporting participants in the KD group to be more active, more productive and less anxious after four months, compared to the control group. However, no significant difference was found in quality‐adjusted life years (QALYs) between the KD group and control group at four or 16 months (GRADE rating very low).
If you’ve decided to move forward in trying the keto diet, you will want to stick to the parameters of the eating plan. Roughly 60 to 80 percent of your calories will come from fats. That means you’ll eat meats, fats, and oils, and a very limited amount of nonstarchy vegetables, she says. (This is different from a traditional low-carb diet, as even fewer carbs are allowed on the keto diet.)
Pattern B LDL, on the other hand, has a much smaller particle size and is much more prone to oxidation. Another thing about pattern B LDL is that it is small enough to enter into the endothelial lining of the artery where it can become oxidized and more likely to form plaque.  There is a high association between these small dense particles and cardiovascular disease.
Within 7 days of initiating the ketogenic diet, blood glucose levels declined to low-normal levels and blood ketones were elevated twenty to thirty fold. Results of PET scans indicated a 21.8% average decrease in glucose uptake at the tumor site in both subjects. One patient exhibited significant clinical improvements in mood and new skill development during the study. She continued the ketogenic diet for an additional twelve months, remaining free of disease progression.
But no fear, there’s always a new miracle around the corner, and in 1998 the newspaper reporters and TV newscasters, having effortlessly drifted away from interferon and interleukin-2 and the bone marrow transplant craze, were all in a tizzy over the newest “final” solution to cancer, anti-angiogenesis, based on the pioneering work of the late Dr. Judah Folkman of Harvard. Dr. Folkman had spent decades studying the process of angiogenesis in cancer tissues, the formation of new blood vessels that allow tumors to grow quickly and invade through normal tissues and organs with deadly effect.
Except that it really isn’t, at least not anymore. If you do a Pubmed search on “targeting cancer metabolism,” which is what Dr. Seyfried is talking about, you’ll find over 22,000 articles, with over 3,000 in 2013 alone, with a sharply increasing curve since 2000 that only now appears to be leveling off. A search on “cancer metabolism” brings up 369,000 references, with 28,000 in 2013 alone. Cancer metabolism is an incredibly important topic in cancer research and has been for several years now, and finding means of targeting the common metabolic abnormalities exhibited by cancer cells is currently a hot area of research. From my perspective, Dr. Seyfried is exaggerating how hostile the cancer research community is towards metabolism as an important, possibly critical, driver of cancer, although, to be fair, one prominent cancer researcher, Robert Weinberg, has been very skeptical. To me, Seyfried just appears unhappy that genetics is currently thought—for good reasons, I might add—to be the primary driver of most cancers. Note that I intentionally used such phrasing, because Dr. Seyfried, in my readings, appears all too often to speak of “cancer” as if it were a monolithic single disease. As I’ve pointed out many times before, it’s not. Indeed, only approximately 60-90% of cancers demonstrate the Warburg effect.
It is an oversimplification that cancer cells use anaerobic fermentation all the time. Tumors have hypoxic zones and normoxic (aerobic) zones, with a symbiotic relationship between the two. Hypoxic cancer cells derive energy from fermentation of glucose, and secrete lactate. Normoxic cancer cells prefer and attract lactate as fuel for the TCA cycle, sparing glucose for the hypoxic cells. Cancer cells can switch fairly quickly between hypoxic and normoxic states, and may oscillate between the two. [NCBI, “Tumor cell metabolism: an integral view”]
When you first embark on a ketogenic diet, your goal is to be in nutritional ketosis consistently. Over time, as you train your body to function on fewer carbohydrates, you may enter the fat adaptation phase. While ketosis can be achieved after just a few days of the diet, at least three to four weeks of strict adherence to the diet is required in order to reach the fat adaptation state. This is also the time frame during which you’ll likely begin to notice benefits of the diet.
Can your body handle higher amounts of dietary fat? (To make this process easier, I recommend my patients gradually increase their fat intake. Your digestive enzymes need time to ramp up to be able to handle the higher fat content in your digestive tract, or it can cause unpleasant gas, bloating, and diarrhea.) Remember: If the thought of eating higher-fat foods like steak or avocado doesn’t appeal to you, keto probably isn't for you.
Apoptosis Induction. Studies show that dietary energy restriction enhances phosphorylation of adenosine monophosphate kinase (AMPK), which has been found to induce apoptosis in glycolytic-dependent brain cells and protect normal brain cells from death. One way to naturally restrict energy consumption is with a keto diet because most keto dieters spontaneously eat fewer calories than they do when they are on a higher carb diet. Altogether, this may explain why most of the research on keto and cancer has shown the keto diet to be effective in the treatment of brain tumors (glioblastomas and gliomas).

In another parallel experiment the mice used did not have cancer at the start, but were bred to have a genetic predisposition toward breast cancer. Almost half of these mice, when fed on the Western diet, showed cancer within the first year (the average life span of these mice is two years). Only one of the mice in this group reached its normal life expectancy, and 70% ultimately died of cancer. Of the group on the ketogenic diet, only 30% ever developed cancer, and over half reached their normal life expectancy or exceeded it.
Here’s what happens when you eat low carb, high fat, keto. The small LDLP number goes way down. Along with the triglycerides dropping, along with the HDL going up, along with all those other great markers that improve that nobody’s paying attention to in the medical profession, your small LDL goes down. The question that comes into play here is “What about the number of total particles?” That’s the debate that nobody’s going to answer until we do some studies on it.
Leanne: Perfect tip. To go to the medical issues, I’ve had a lot of people say “If my LDL is higher, and my HDL is lower, is eating this way okay for me?” I would say just based on our conversation so far, “Heck yeah because this is going to increase your HDL and lower your LDL more than the grains and whole foods, whole grain things will do and any of those heart healthy packages.” I just tell people … if your food is coming from a package, especially if it has one of those heart healthy things on it, probably avoid it. Just go to the oats group of the store, grab what you need.
Now, there’s even evidence that a low-carb, high-fat regimen (as the keto diet is) helps you live longer, compared to a low-fat diet. In a study by the medical journal The Lancet that studied more than 135,000 adults from 18 countries, high carbohydrate intake was associated with higher risk of total mortality, whereas total fat and individual types of fat were related to lower total mortality. Total fat and types of fat were not associated with cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction or cardiovascular disease mortality.
For patients interested in Ketogenic diet, it is vitally important that you talk with your health-care providers, says Alice Bender, MS, RDN, AICR’s Director of Nutrition Programs. “A dietitian is best positioned to talk with you about what is known regarding the pros and cons – especially to learn if this diet has any research showing the reasonable application with your particular type of cancer and if the ketogenic diet may even be harmful for you.”
In adults, the type of ketogenic diet typically used is the modified Atkins diet. Carbohydrates are limited to 20 grams per day and the intake of foods containing fat is required to get into the state of ketosis. For example, foods such as heavy cream, oils, avocado, eggs, butter and meats are encouraged; whereas conventional breads, pastas, cereals and cakes are restricted.
After the 12 weeks intervention, researchers noted that the concentration of LDL particles decreased by 9.6% from 1180 nmol/L 1180 to 1066 nmol/L. [22] As previously mentioned, lower levels of LDL particles are beneficial to cardiovascular fitness. Additionally, the particle size of LDL increased by an average of 5.2% from 20.75 mm to 21.27 mm. [22]

Patients diagnosed with the immune based “blood cancers” like leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, as well as the sarcomas, a type of connective tissue malignancy, required a lower carb, high animal fat, moderate animal protein diet. Other patients, usually with problems other than cancer, thrived on a more “balanced” diet, incorporating a variety of plant and animal foods.
And don’t associate yourself with Ralph Moss, the number one promoter of laetrile quackery and make easily refuted claims such as the claim that “chemo and radiation do not cure cancer or extend life, although cancer physicians often make this claim” and that radiation “often does more harm than good to the patient.” Given that all Dr. Seyfried has is a couple of case studies as clinical support for his treatment (see below) and I can produce reams of studies over nearly 50 years demonstrating that chemotherapy can cure specific cancers and prolong life when used appropriately, the “2% gambit” notwithstanding, it’s not a winning proposition, and it sure doesn’t help your credibility to use the language of cancer quacks to promote your idea.
In the 1920s, a German biochemist named Otto Warburg observed that most cancers get their fuel differently than normal cells, a phenomenon dubbed the "Warburg effect". The difference, in simple terms, is that cancer cells consume a lot more glucose than healthy cells. So, because cancer relies heavily on glucose, the idea is that putting your body in a state of ketosis — which lowers blood sugar levels — might effectively "starve" cancer cells because there's less glucose to consume.
I recently applied for life insurance after following the ketogenic diet for about six months. I was initially quoted the lowest rate based on the fact that I have no health issues whatsoever. However, my cholesterol readings were very high so they came back and said that I had elevated total cholesterol readings of 378 which alarmed me. They have now doubled my life insurance rates because of it. Even though my total cholesterol was high everything else seems good according to this article. LDL – 272, HDL – 92, Triclycerides – 70. This all translates to an LDL/HDL ratio of slightly under 3:1 and a Triglyceride/HDL ratio of close to 1:1. I don’t know if I should be concerned that my total is well over the 300 that is sited in this article. Does anyone know?
Jimmy Moore: I wouldn’t fret so much about the blood sugar, I would definitely keep an eye on insulin. Unfortunately there’s just not an easy way to prick your finger and check insulin at home. It doesn’t exist yet. It’s coming real soon. It’s not available yet. I think the big take home is relax, chill out, you’re doing good for your body, especially like we talked about with the cholesterol numbers. If that HDL is going up, if the triglycerides are going down, the small LDL particles are going down, your HSCRP is under 1, why are you worried?
Further, the authors revealed that only 60 to 65% of patients with epilepsy become seizure free using medication while 35% are resistant to the effects of medication. And they used these statistics to justify this study. They further stated that there has been an “exponential” growth in interest in using the ketogenic diet for the treatment of epilepsy.

You can still eat plenty of healthy dietary fats and also include gut-healing foods like leafy and cruciferous greens, prebiotic-rich foods like garlic and dandelion greens, and probiotic rock stars including kimchi and unpasteurized sauerkraut. Even with a daily 50-gram carb allowance, you can find a lot of anti-inflammatory, gut-supporting foods.
Pattern B LDL, on the other hand, has a much smaller particle size and is much more prone to oxidation. Another thing about pattern B LDL is that it is small enough to enter into the endothelial lining of the artery where it can become oxidized and more likely to form plaque.  There is a high association between these small dense particles and cardiovascular disease.
Taking your first step into the ketogenic diet is an exciting phase for your health. But before coming up with an actual ketogenic diet food list, it's important to first take a look at what you're eating now and take out anything that's unhealthy. This means that you have to remove sugars, grains, starches and packaged and processed foods from your diet. Basically, anything that won't add to your new eating regimen has to go. This is what I call a "pantry sweep."
The ketogenic diet is a natural, nontoxic metabolic therapy being studied and utilized for cancer prevention and treatment. It works because cancer cells are dependent upon a constant supply of blood sugar (glucose) to stay alive. Normal cells can make energy from both glucose and ketones (metabolic by-products of burning fat), but most cancer cells can only use glucose. Avoiding carbohydrates (starch and sugar) while enjoying delicious and healthy protein and fats will lower blood glucose and increase blood-ketone levels, resulting in a normal body state called nutritional ketosis. Research has shown that nutritional ketosis starves cancer cells while nourishing normal cells and strengthening total body health.
They’re totally ignoring HDL. They’ll say, “Oh yeah, it looks good. But oh my god your LDL is bad or your total cholesterol is bad.” The other thing that they’re ignoring about your cholesterol panel which doesn’t necessarily show up in your numbers that they look at is the triglycerides. If you’ve got your numbers and you’re looking at them now, go grab them and let’s look at them. If you have a triglyceride number over 100, I know they say the range is 150 or below but over 100 means you’re eating way too many carbohydrates in your diet still. The tell tale sign that you’re eating low carb, high fat, keto very well is your triglycerides will be sub 100 and then sub 70 optimally.
In fact, ketogenic diets have been used for nearly a century to treat seizures, says Gary Yellen, a professor or neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. “It dates back to studies from the 1920s that found this kind of diet was like a sustainable form of fasting, which we’ve known, supposedly since antiquity, to be beneficial for epilepsy,” he says.
The "classic" ketogenic diet is a special high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that helps to control seizures in some people with epilepsy. It is prescribed by a physician and carefully monitored by a dietitian. It is usually used in children with seizures that do not respond to medications. It is stricter than the modified Atkins diet, requiring careful measurements of calories, fluids, and proteins. Foods are weighed and measured.
The idea behind ketogenic diets is very simple. If glucose is the primary fuel for cancer, then lower carbohydrate intake and replace carbohydrates with other sources of fuel, such as fats, in order to push the body’s metabolism into ketosis. It actually turns out that ketogenic diets are probably useful in the treatment of intractable epileptic seizures in children. Unfortunately, their mechanism of action in preventing seizures is unclear, although four potential mechanisms, including carbohydrate reduction, activation of ATP-sensitive potassium channels by mitochondrial metabolism, inhibition of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, or inhibition of glutamatergic synaptic transmission (glutamate as a neurotransmitter), have been proposed. Interestingly, the mTOR pathway is an important signaling pathway in many cancers that couples energy and nutrient abundance to the execution of cell growth and division, owing to the ability of TOR protein kinase to simultaneously sense energy, nutrients and stress and growth factors. It’s a commonly overactive signaling pathway in cancer.
Notably, there is a relationship between metabolic and epigenetic modifications. Shimazu et al. (2013) observed that βOHB inhibits class I histone deacetylases. During the KD, the elevation of βOHB causes changes in large-scale gene transcription but particularly those linked to oxidative-stress resistance factors. This result emphasizes that the KD has a potential role as a disease-modifying treatment in epilepsy.
What are those lines of evidence? Well, there are drugs which lower insulin and glucose, like metformin. It’s a commonly used drug in diabetes that has shown promising results in cancer treatment. This is not fringe stuff here. Metformin is being studied. There is an article about it for cancer treatment on the NIH Cancer Institute website and on the MD Anderson website, which are two prominent mainstream cancer treatment organizations. There are several studies to support that as well.
A survey in 2005 of 88 paediatric neurologists in the US found that 36% regularly prescribed the diet after three or more drugs had failed, 24% occasionally prescribed the diet as a last resort, 24% had only prescribed the diet in a few rare cases, and 16% had never prescribed the diet. Several possible explanations exist for this gap between evidence and clinical practice.[34] One major factor may be the lack of adequately trained dietitians, who are needed to administer a ketogenic diet programme.[31]
This is a wealth of information. My husband and I are starting the keto diet tomorrow and I knew nothing about it. When I sat down to look up information about it, I found this. Thank you! This is everything I need to know in one place. We are not as healthy as we’d like to be and I am optimistic this will help us obtain our goals, along with an exercise plan.
When your body burns its stores of fat, it can be hard on your kidneys. And starting a ketogenic diet -- or going back to a normal diet afterward -- can be tricky if you’re obese because of other health issues you’re likely to have, like diabetes, a heart condition, or high blood pressure. If you have any of these conditions, make diet changes slowly and only with the guidance of your doctor.
I’m discouraged to see that nowhere in the article nor in the comments is there a mention of a diet’s best fit to genetics. Consider if someone is an APOE E2 carrier and/or has certain polymorphisms of the APO5 gene. These are quite rare in Okinawa but much more prevalent in the USA (12% of the population). According to a number of well-designed studies, these genetic characteristics point to a higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet as beneficial and even a “moderate” carb diet as problematic.
Overall- there will be a need to learn how to prepare meals differently, which takes time and work. There also may be some difficult adapting to the new meals. However with creative meal planning and sensitivity to your difficulties, some of these obstacles can be overcome. Many families cope with the challenges and would agree that the hard work is worth it if the diet achieves seizure freedom or significantly reduces seizures.
Anticonvulsants suppress epileptic seizures, but they neither cure nor prevent the development of seizure susceptibility. The development of epilepsy (epileptogenesis) is a process that is poorly understood. A few anticonvulsants (valproate, levetiracetam and benzodiazepines) have shown antiepileptogenic properties in animal models of epileptogenesis. However, no anticonvulsant has ever achieved this in a clinical trial in humans. The ketogenic diet has been found to have antiepileptogenic properties in rats.[56]
There are several studies where researchers implanted human gliomas into the bodies of rats (a completely unrealistic scenario) and reported that the rats put on a ketogenic diet lived longer. In one study, rats with human brain cancer implanted in their bodies lived 56% longer on a ketogenic diet combined with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. “56% longer” sounds huge until you learn that the mean keto/oxygen therapy survival was 55 days compared to the control rats who lived 31 days. And all the rats still died of cancer.
Hi Stacey, I can’t give medical advice and definitely recommend following your doctor’s recommendations. You can ask him/her if low carb would be better suited for you. Also, you may want to double check with him/her if the kidney concern was related to high protein, because that is a common misconception about keto – it is not a high protein diet/lifestyle.
Over one-third of Americans have metabolic syndrome, a constellation of complications including increased blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, excess abdominal fat, and abnormal triglyceride and cholesterol levels that significantly increase one’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. (8) The conventional treatment of metabolic syndrome typically involves cholesterol-, blood sugar-, and blood pressure-lowering medications, along with vague advice to “eat better.” Given that heart disease is still the number one cause of death in the United States, that diabetes is considered to be at epidemic proportions, and that strokes disable or kill someone every 40 seconds on average, this treatment paradigm leaves much to be desired. (9)
Cancer cells need to carefully maintain their “redox status”. Redox status is the balance between oxidants and antioxidants. Oxidants, including free radicals and other “reactive” chemical species, are made continuously in every living cell as a byproduct of metabolic activities. Several antioxidant systems have evolved in our body to specifically counter the harmful actions of these oxidants.

The Keto diet emphasizes weight loss through fat-burning. The goal is to quickly lose weight and ultimately feel fuller with fewer cravings, while boosting your mood, mental focus and energy. According to Keto proponents, by slashing the carbs you consume and instead filling up on fats, you safely enter a state of ketosis. That’s when the body breaks down both dietary and stored body fat into substances called ketones. Your fat-burning system now relies mainly on fat – instead of sugar – for energy. While similar in some ways to familiar low-carb diets, the Keto diet’s extreme carb restrictions – about 20 net carbs a day or less, depending on the version – and the deliberate shift into ketosis are what set this increasingly popular diet apart.


The ketone bodies are possibly anticonvulsant; in animal models, acetoacetate and acetone protect against seizures. The ketogenic diet results in adaptive changes to brain energy metabolism that increase the energy reserves; ketone bodies are a more efficient fuel than glucose, and the number of mitochondria is increased. This may help the neurons to remain stable in the face of increased energy demand during a seizure, and may confer a neuroprotective effect.[56]


But no fear, there’s always a new miracle around the corner, and in 1998 the newspaper reporters and TV newscasters, having effortlessly drifted away from interferon and interleukin-2 and the bone marrow transplant craze, were all in a tizzy over the newest “final” solution to cancer, anti-angiogenesis, based on the pioneering work of the late Dr. Judah Folkman of Harvard. Dr. Folkman had spent decades studying the process of angiogenesis in cancer tissues, the formation of new blood vessels that allow tumors to grow quickly and invade through normal tissues and organs with deadly effect.
×