Do remember the Atkins Diet…yes the one that consisted of eating steak, butter and cream all day long?  Well, this is a newer version of that diet called the ketogenic/modified Atkins diet.

     Although some people are using this diet for quick weight loss diabetes and migraines, it has been used for many years for those with seizure disorders. Recently, ketogenic diets have been studied as an adjuvant to cancer therapy. When a recent patient of mine battling cancer started following a ketogenic diet, and her cancer markers decreased significantly,  I felt compelled to look into it.

     The ketogenic diet is similar to the Atkins diet as it is very low in carbohydrates, and very high in fat, but also restricts protein. Over half of the calories in standard diets come from carbohydrates. Carbohydrate digestion produces spikes in blood glucose, which in turn spikes insulin. Insulin’s job is to move glucose from the blood into the cells. With a low carbohydrate and protein intake the brain uses fat for fuel and produces ketones. Following this diet, an individual would consume 60-75% of their total calories in fat, 15-35% in protein and 5-10% in carbohydrates. The carbohydrate intake would not go above 50 grams, which is very low. This results in a few things; insulin is reduced helping those with diabetes lower their blood sugars, the bodies’ fat stores are accessed helping in weight loss, and there seems to be reduction in the size and growth of tumor cells.

     Because tumor cells typically have many more insulin receptors than normal cells do, limiting carbs restricts the movement of glucose into cancer cells. When glucose is in short supply, the body will increase its use of fats as fuel. Unlike healthy tissues, cancer cells are not able to use fatty acids or ketones for energy; therefore ketones inhibit the growth of tumor cells.

     But getting the body into ketosis can be difficult and keeping it there can be even harder, because so many of the foods we eat contain carbohydrates. A ketogenic diet is a metabolic therapy and requires medical supervision for safety, as there can be adverse effects if not appropriately managed and monitored. It is important to work with a professional, especially since this approach can lead to a significant amount of weight loss and malnutrition if not monitored carefully.

     This therapy could be a promising alternative approach for many, as some recent clinical trials have shown the benefits of this diet for slowing the progression of tumor cells. Despite recent advances in cancer treatments, the prognosis for these patients still remains poor. There is a great need for complimentary approaches offering patients less toxic adverse reactions and possible better outcomes.

     Below is an example of what a ketogenic diet may look like for one day:


Butter – salted, 1 tbsp.

Eggs- 2 whole

Classic cut bacon, four pan-fried slices (15g)

Heavy cream- 2 tbsp.

Onions – raw, 1 oz.


Chicken breast strips- grilled, 3 oz.

Olive oil – 2 tbsp.

Ranch dressing – regular, 2 oz.

Celery – 1 stalk, medium (7.5-8’ long)

Mixed green – salad, 3 cups


Rib eye steak- grilled, 4 oz.

Mushrooms – 1 cup

Butter – salted, 2 tbsp.

Heavy cream – 2 tbsp.

Broccoli – 1 cup

Written With Simone Weingarten, Dietetic Student

Allen, B.G., Bhatia, S.K., Anderson, C.M., Eichenberger-Gilmore, J.M., Sibenaller, Z.A., Mapuskar, K.A., Schoenfeld, J.D. , Buatti, J.M., Spitz, D.R., Fath, M.A. (2014) Ketogenic diets as an adjuvant cancer therapy: History and potential mechanism. Redox Biology, 2, 963-970

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