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Keto Diet for Mesothelioma Not Advised Despite New Research

keto diet for mesothelioma

New research suggests a diet low in carbs and sugar may slow the growth of certain kinds of cancer cells. The news may have mesothelioma patients wondering about the value of the keto diet for mesothelioma, too. 

The new study appears in the most recent issue of the journal Cell Reports. Researchers fed a restrictive ketogenic diet to mice with a certain kind of lung cancer. They also gave them a drug to keep the kidneys from absorbing extra glucose.

The trial was not focused specifically on the keto diet for mesothelioma. But the findings do show that sugar and certain cancers do not mix. 

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic – or “keto” – diet is very low in sugar and carbs and high in fat. It is similar to the Atkins diet and other low-carb eating plans but it is even more restrictive. 

The lower carb level throws the body into a metabolic state called ketosis. While some people use the keto diet to lose weight, some studies have suggested that it may also help fight diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. 

The new research is based on the idea that many types of cancer, including malignant mesothelioma, rely on sugar for energy. The keto diet keeps sugar levels very low. 

Even so, cancer experts do not routinely recommend the keto diet for mesothelioma or any other type of cancer. 

Results of the Keto Diet Study

There is no data on the keto diet for mesothelioma. In fact, the weight loss and nutritional imbalances that it can cause may be dangerous for patients going through mesothelioma treatment.

But the new multinational study shows that squamous cell carcinoma is highly susceptible to this eating plan. 

“Both the ketogenic diet and the pharmacological restriction of blood glucose by themselves inhibited the further growth of squamous cell carcinoma tumors in mice with lung cancer,” says study author Dr. Jung-Whan Kim. 

Neither the keto diet nor the blood sugar drug shrunk the mouse tumors. They only kept them from growing bigger. 

Testing the Connection Between Blood Sugar and Cancer

To see what kind of impact blood sugar levels had on human cancers, researchers tested the blood of 192 patients. They found that squamous cell carcinoma patients with the lowest blood sugar levels had the longest cancer survival.

The results are potentially exciting for patients with that type of cancer. But they do not suggest that the keto diet for mesothelioma or other types of cancer is a good idea. There was no sugar-linked survival difference in patients with non-squamous cell lung cancer. 

“Our results suggest that this approach is cancer-cell-type specific. We cannot generalize to all types of cancer,” says Dr. Kim.

While the keto diet for mesothelioma may not be advisable, the study contains another lesson. Dr. Kim says it may open the door to new ways to fight cancer by working with the body’s own systems. 

“Maybe we can manipulate our own biological system a little bit or activate something we already have in place in order to more effectively combat cancer,” he says. 

The world’s longest-living mesothelioma patient, Paul Kraus, is an excellent example of how diet may impact mesothelioma survival. To read about his eating and lifestyle plan for survival, read his book, Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers

Every mesothelioma patient is different. Patients should consult their doctor before making any changes to their diet, especially during mesothelioma treatment.


“Biologists’ Preclinical Work Suggests Keto Diet Has Anti-Cancer Effect”, August 15, 2019, University of Texas at Dallas news release, https://www.utdallas.edu/news/research/preclinical-research-suggests-keto-diet-has-anti-cancer-effect/?WT.mc_id=NewsHomePage

Hsieh, MH, et al, “p63 and SOX2 Dictate Glucose Reliance and Metabolic Vulnerabilities in Squamous Cell Carcinomas”, August 13, 2019, Cell Reports, https://www.cell.com/cell-reports/fulltext/S2211-1247(19)30924-6?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS2211124719309246%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

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