Nearly 2 million Americans will receive a cancer diagnosis by the end of the year, according to the American Cancer Society and cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US. Now a new study has found decisive evidence that when it comes to choosing a diet that minimizes your cancer risk, a whole food plant-based approach is significantly healthier than keto.

Keto has been linked to a higher risk of markers for heart disease, including cholesterol and blood pressure, but this latest review study, published in JAMA Oncology, also found that when choosing the best diet to prevent or lower your lifetime risk of cancer, a whole food plant-based diet is best.

The researchers compared the two popular diets and their potential impact on cancer prevention to determine the most effective diet for Americans. Conducted by hematologic oncologist Urvi Shah, MD, and Neil Iyengar, MD, also an oncologist, the study examined evidence that linked diet, weight loss, and cancer prevention.

The researchers concluded that the reason a whole food plant-based diet is better as a weapon against cancer growth is that it is a nutrient-dense diet filled with antioxidants from vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. In contrast, the typical keto diet consists of primarily animal protein high in saturated fat, and very few fruits or vegetables.

Both diets are effective against weight loss, Iyengar said in a statement, but a whole food plant-based diet also delivers important phytochemicals, such as flavonoids that provide the body with cancer-fighting antioxidants.


“There is growing evidence that weight loss is helpful for reducing cancer risk, particularly for obese and older people, including the postmenopausal age group,” Iyengar said in a statement. “Both keto and plant-based diets have proven effective for weight loss.

'Most of the available data support whole food, plant-based diet over a ketogenic diet for reducing the risk of cancer. After a cancer diagnosis, a plant-based diet appears to be superior.”

Weighing the Benefits of Keto and Plant-Based Diets

The researchers concluded that the plant-based diet was more likely to reduce cancer risk factors, including inflammation, excess insulin (which leads to insulin resistance), and higher levels of body fat. Insulin is a growth hormone that tells cells to grow and multiply, which can accelerate the growth of tumor cells as well as healthy cells.

The study authors also noted that their conclusion about a plant-based diet helping reduce cancer risk is also true when you look at the larger population. In larger-scale studies conducted in the US and UK, as well as France, people following a plant-centered diet developed less cancer than those who ate more meat and dairy.

“There are many biologic processes in the body that are impacted by diet and energy balance in general," Iyengar said. "Many of these processes are involved in the growth of cancer, such as obesity and inflammation, hormones, insulin, the microbiome, and more. We examine several of these processes in our review. The bottom line for people looking to reduce their risk of cancer is that the current evidence supports a plant-based diet over a keto diet.”

Plant-Based Diet Improves Outcome of Cancer Patients

The study notes that a plant-based diet also helps improve the health of cancer patients. The two researchers emphasize that a broader diet such as plant-based is healthier than a fad diet like keto. Patients following a plant-based diet showed signs of alleviated symptoms that minimized the effects of joint pain or gastrointestinal toxicity from chemotherapy.

“We know that a plant-based diet can help reduce the risk of these metabolic disorders, which is why I typically recommend this diet to my patients,” Iyengar said. “We don’t want to just cure a person’s cancer; we want to also improve health overall.”

How Plant-Based Can Help Prevent or Alleviate Cancer

The new study resolves any lingering questions that consumers might have about which diet works best for their health, joining a growing portfolio of evidence encouraging the plant-based diet. Another study from this March claims that giving up meat lowers your risk of cancer by 14 percent. This was the first study that examined how diet directly increases cancer risk as well as the first time that plant-centered diets have been proven to be associated with lower cancer risk when compared to meat-eaters.

This June, a study examined how dairy consumption impacts cancer development in men, specifically focused on the hormonal dangers concerning prostate cancer. The Loma Linda research showed that men who drink milk regularly showed a 60 percent increased risk of prostate cancer.

Plant-Based Diet Controls Blood Sugar

Dieters who are motivated by keto's potential ability to help lower or control blood sugar levels should know that a plant-based or Mediterranean diet is a better choice. A recent Stanford study found that the high-fiber and mostly plant-based Mediterranean diet proved better for blood sugar control and weight loss. Overall, the study revealed that for long-term weight loss, the ketogenic low-carb diet helped less than a diet filled with legumes, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.

"Keto’s more severe carb restrictions did not provide additional overall health benefits," the study found, "making the Mediterranean diet just as effective and more easily sustained," according to Methodology CEO, Julie Nguyen.

Bottom Line: Plant-Based Diet Lowers Cancer Risk Better than Keto, Study Finds

A new review study finds that people on a plant-based diet had less cancer and lost weight, making it a better choice for overall health and long-term disease prevention than a keto diet.

Still want to try keto? Check out the Vegan Keto Diet: The Smarter, Healthier Way To Go Keto.

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