Molecule Produced in Keto Diets Could Reduce Colorectal Cancer Risk

Colorectal cancer  (CRC) is the 3rd most common cancer diagnosed in the United States. Studies have shown that the Western diet, high-sugar diets, and excessive consumption of animal protein, especially red meat, increase CRC risk. 

In a recently published study, researchers found a molecule produced on keto diets suppresses tumor growth and think that these results may translate over to humans. The results appear in the journal Nature. 

Potential Prevention and Treatment for CRC 

The molecule found is called beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), produced in response to low carbohydrate diets. The team found that it can suppress intestinal tumor growth. 

For the study, the team designed six diets with varying fat-to-carbohydrate ratios, including 2 ketogenic diets with 90% fat-to-carbohydrate rations from plant or animal sources.

They induced CRC in a mice model via chemical procedures and noted tumor numbers and sizes reduced when fat-to-carbohydrate ratios increased. Also, they noticed that mice on keto diets had a better survival rate and that the diets inhibit tumor development. To prove this, they ceased the keto diet, which led to tumor regrowth. 

According to the team, BHB inhibits the growth and proliferation of intestinal epithelial cells by activating transcriptional regulator Hopx, which in turn, reduces the expression of genes involved in cell division. 

The team also evaluated their results in human cells and found that BHB levels correlated positively with Hopx levels and negatively with cell cycle progression, which suggests that BHB might increase Hopx levels and reduce CRC tumor growth in people. 

This molecule could be used as a prevention and treatment strategy for CRC in the future. 


Annie Lennon. (2022, May 12). Keto molecule may help reverse colorectal cancer. Medical News Today. Retrieved from:

Image from: 

Photo by Travis Yewell on Unsplash