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This Diet Could Stop Colorectal Cancer, New Study Says

Ward off disease with this popular diet.
FACT CHECKED BY Kristen Warfield

When you choose your meals, you might focus on taste or consider how your food helps your memory and benefits your heart. However, you might also be interested in how your diet can help to prevent or even stop cancer.

Indeed, while there are diets—such as sugar-filled or red meat-heavy diets such as the Western diet—that can increase the risk of colorectal cancer, the keto diet may help fight cancer.

In a new study that was published recently in the Nature journal, researchers found that the keto diet resulted in a molecule called beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) that can keep intestinal tumors from increasing in size. Dr. Anton Bilchik, surgical oncologist and chief of medicine at Saint John's Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, told Medical News Today, "BHB is a small molecule produced in the liver in response to starvation or a ketogenic diet."

Woman holding plate of keto foods at a table
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On the other hand, Kimberly Duffy, RDN, LD, CPT, who has been a dietitian in a large hospital-based cancer center in St. Paul, MN, for the past 10 years, tells Eat This, Not That! "the Western diet is high in refined carbohydrates, and sugars increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic illnesses."

Beyond that, the Western diet is known to be "high in animal products and lower in plant-based foods." Duffy explains that "optimum gut/intestinal health relies on a high fiber, high plant foods diet to maintain gut integrity. When gut health breaks down, there is an increased risk of inflammation and chronic disease including cancers like colorectal cancer."

While that may make the keto diet sound like the ideal choice for those who are dealing with cancer, Duffy notes that "any type of restrictive diet is not recommended for patients going through cancer treatment."

Duffy says that those who are going through treatments can experience a range of side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and mouth sores, as well as poor appetite which means they may "struggle to eat anything let alone follow a restrictive diet."

Duffy points out that "sometimes carbohydrates are the only thing they can tolerate," however, "traditional keto diets allow less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day which amounts to three servings of carbohydrates including fruit, bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes."

Finally, Duffy says that "each patient struggles with individual issues related to food," which is why the dietitian they work with should "create personalized diet plans for each patient to maximize good nutrition and keep the patient strong to fight the cancer battle."

To find out more about how your diet can help to prevent and fight cancer, be sure to read The Best Eating Habit to Lower Your Cancer Risk, New Study Says.

Desirée O
Desirée O is a freelance writer who covers lifestyle, food, and nutrition news among other topics. Read more