Does the Keto Diet Reduce Inflammation?

Keto diet has numerous health benefits, including reducing and preventing inflammation. This comprehensive article will cover how keto affects inflammation, a list of inflammatory foods to avoid, and a guide on what to eat to boost keto’s anti-inflammatory effects.

Keto Diet and Inflammation: Quick Summary

  • Inflammation is the body’s response to non-self stimuli, causing acute or chronic reactions.
  • Chronic inflammation may result in cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
  • The keto diet helps prevent and reduce inflammation by encouraging anti-inflammatory foods and discouraging inflammatory foods, reducing blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, neuroprotection, and increasing levels of GABA and adenosine.
  • Avoiding refined carbs, added sugar, inflammatory oils, and highly processed foods prevents inflammation.
  • Following Clean Keto is best as it does not allow inflammatory ingredients.

Table of Contents:

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation1 is a biological response that the body initiates in response to injury, infection, or harmful stimuli.

It is a fundamental part of the immune system’s defense mechanism, involving intricate cellular and molecular processes.

At its core, inflammation is characterized by releasing signaling molecules that attract immune cells to the affected site to eliminate the source of harm and facilitate tissue repair.

The process typically results in visible signs like redness, swelling, heat, and pain.

While acute inflammation2 helps the body combat infections and heal injuries, chronic inflammation3 causes prolonged inflammatory responses associated with various health conditions.

Health Conditions Linked to Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation has emerged as a key player in the development and progression of several severe health conditions, including the following:

  • Cardiovascular Diseases: Coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, cardiomyopathy
  • Diabetes
  • Autoimmune Diseases: Type 1 Diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, lupus, asthma, psoriasis, allergies
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases: Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Keto Diet and Inflammation

How a Keto Diet May Reduce Inflammation

Intake of Anti-inflammatory Foods

Scientific studies have consistently demonstrated that incorporating anti-inflammatory foods, as seen in the keto diet, can modulate inflammatory markers.

For instance, fatty fish, abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, have been associated with reduced levels of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP),4 interleukin-6 (IL-6), and TNF levels.5

Leafy greens and nuts, rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, also show anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.6

Discourages Intake of Inflammatory Foods

Research supports that restricting high-carbohydrate and highly processed foods, as in the standard and clean keto diet, aligns with reduced inflammation.

A study published in 2022 indicates that diets high in refined carbohydrates and sugars and mixed processed foods may elevate inflammatory markers,7 aggravating diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Moreover, the clean keto diet discourages the use of inflammatory oils containing omega-6,8 which are scientifically linked to increased risk for coronary artery disease.

Anti-inflammatory Effects of Ketones

Ketones produced during ketosis have shown promise in dampening inflammation. The keto diet’s primary goal is to induce ketosis, a state where the body uses fat for energy.9 During this phase, ketones become the substitute for glucose.

Studies found that beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), a major ketone body, can block a specific inflammasome (NLRP3),10 reducing inflammation.

Furthermore, the keto diet positively impacts other inflammatory factors,11 such as nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-kB) and histone deacetylases (HDACs), leading to neuroprotection.

Decreased Blood Sugar Levels and Insulin Resistance

The keto diet’s impact on reducing blood sugar levels and insulin resistance has been extensively researched, and high blood sugar levels correlate with increased inflammation.

Studies suggest an increased blood sugar level12 is associated with aggravated inflammatory responses and decreased immune cells.

Moreover, insulin resistance results in elevated inflammatory markers13 and causes inflammation in adipose tissues.14 By solving these two, keto can help lower and even prevent inflammation.

Increased Adenosine Levels

Adenosine15 is a cell compound that plays numerous roles in human health, including energy production (ATP, AMP), and immune functions.

Adenosine decreases inflammation by diminishing leukocyte recruitment.16 Adenosine inhibits stimulated neutrophil adhesion to the vascular endothelium. This means that adenosine is an anti-inflammatory mediator, inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory molecules.

While human clinical studies are limited, animal studies suggest that the keto diet enhances adenosine production,17 leading to its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.

Increased GABA Levels

Keto increases Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels.

GABA is a non-protein amino acid found in plants, bacteria, and animals. In the brain, it has multiple functions, including anti-inflammation.18

Animal studies suggest that the keto diet increases levels of GABA,19 without affecting the levels of glutamate,20 another amino acid that may lead to inflammation and neurotoxicity.21

Inflammatory Foods to Avoid

Refined Carbs

Refined carbs cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels,22 leading to increased production of inflammatory molecules like cytokines. With that, refined carbs are one of the major causes of insulin resistance,23 which leads to inflammation.

Here are some foods with refined carbs to avoid:

  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Pastries and baked goods
  • Waffles
  • Instant noodles
  • Pizza
  • Cereal
  • White pasta

Added Sugar

Like refined carbs, excessive sugar consumption triggers a cascade of inflammatory responses. It promotes insulin resistance and encourages the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines.24

Here are foods with added sugar:

  • Candies
  • Sodas and sweetened drinks
  • Desserts with high sugar content
  • Ice cream
  • Fruit-flavored yogurts
  • Flavored syrups

Inflammatory Oils

seed oils promote inflammation on the keto diet

Certain cooking oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids and can disrupt the delicate balance of omega-3 to omega-6 ratios in the body.

Here are some examples:

  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Vegetable oil

Highly Processed Foods

Processed foods often contain artificial additives, preservatives, and trans fats. Additionally, they are frequently high in refined sugars and unhealthy fats, promoting inflammation and negatively impacting overall health.

Here are some examples:

  • Processed meats (hot dogs, sausages)
  • Fast food burgers and fries
  • Frozen pizzas
  • Chips
  • Crackers with trans fats
  • Convenience meals
  • Instant soups
  • Sugary breakfast bars

How to Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Keto Diet

It’s best to follow Clean Keto to gain the anti-inflammatory benefits of keto. Clean Keto prioritizes whole, unprocessed foods, steering away from additives. Here are some foods we recommend:

  • Healthy Fats: Avocados, olives, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, grass-fed butter, ghee, coconut, dark chocolate (90%+, in moderation)
  • Healthy Oils: Extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, ghee, butter.
  • Protein: Grass-fed beef, lamb, venison, bison, poultry (chicken, turkey), wild-caught fish (sardines, anchovies), organ meats (liver, heart), game meats, eggs
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
  • Dairy and Alternatives: Full-fat Greek yogurt, cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, feta), heavy cream, butter, ghee, coconut milk (unsweetened), and almond milk (unsweetened)
  • Low-Carb Vegetables: Spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, celery, radishes, green beans, cabbage
  • Low-Sugar Fruits: Berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries), blackberries, avocados, tomatoes, coconut, lemons, limes, rhubarb, and olives
  • Herbs and Spices: Turmeric, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, cilantro.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Does eating keto reduce inflammation?

Yes, keto reduces inflammation by avoiding high-carb and refined sugar and using ketones as an energy source, causing neuroprotection and regulating immune responses.

Is a low-carb diet anti-inflammatory?

Yes, a low-carb diet prevents inflammation by avoiding the intake of high-carb and sugary foods that cause high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance that leads to inflammation.

Do ketone bodies cause inflammation?

No, ketone bodies do not cause inflammation but prevent it. BHB, one of the ketone bodies, blocks inflammasomes, reducing inflammation.

Is keto good for autoimmune diseases?

Yes, people with autoimmune diseases benefit from the keto diet as it has been shown to regulate the immune system, preventing flare-ups and inflammatory symptoms.


1Stone WL, Basit H, Burns B. Pathology, Inflammation. [Updated 2022 Nov 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

2Hannoodee S, Nasuruddin DN. Acute Inflammatory Response. [Updated 2022 Nov 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

3Pahwa R, Goyal A, Jialal I. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2023 Aug 7]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

4Calder P. C. (2017). Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes: from molecules to man. Biochemical Society transactions, 45(5), 1105–1115.

5Guo, Y., Ma, B., Li, X., Hui, H., Zhou, Y., Li, N., & Xie, X. (2023). n-3 PUFA can reduce IL-6 and TNF levels in patients with cancer. The British journal of nutrition, 129(1), 54–65.

6Morris, M. C., Wang, Y., Barnes, L. L., Bennett, D. A., Dawson-Hughes, B., & Booth, S. L. (2018). Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline: Prospective study. Neurology, 90(3), e214.

7Ma, X., Nan, F., Liang, H., Shu, P., Fan, X., Song, X., Hou, Y., & Zhang, D. (2022). Excessive intake of sugar: An accomplice of inflammation. Frontiers in Immunology, 13.

8DiNicolantonio, J. J. (2018). Omega-6 vegetable oils as a driver of coronary heart disease: The oxidized linoleic acid hypothesis. Open Heart, 5(2).

9Dhillon KK, Gupta S. Biochemistry, Ketogenesis. [Updated 2023 Feb 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

10Youm, H., Nguyen, K. Y., Grant, R. W., Goldberg, E. L., Bodogai, M., Kim, D., Planavsky, N., Lupfer, C., Kanneganti, T. D., Kang, S., Horvath, T. L., Fahmy, T. M., Crawford, P. A., Biragyn, A., Alnemri, E., & Dixit, V. D. (2015). Ketone body β-hydroxybutyrate blocks the NLRP3 inflammasome-mediated inflammatory disease. Nature Medicine, 21(3), 263.

11Pinto, A., Bonucci, A., Maggi, E., Corsi, M., & Businaro, R. (2018). Anti-Oxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Ketogenic Diet: New Perspectives for Neuroprotection in Alzheimer’s Disease. Antioxidants, 7(5).

12Wei, Q., Zhao, J., Wang, H., Liu, C., Hu, C., Zhao, C., Dai, Q., Hui, Z., & Wang, R. (2022). Correlation Analysis of Blood Glucose Level with Inflammatory Response and Immune Indicators in Patients with Sepsis. Disease Markers, 2022.

13Freeman AM, Acevedo LA, Pennings N. Insulin Resistance. [Updated 2023 Aug 17]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

14Shimobayashi, M., Albert, V., Woelnerhanssen, B., Frei, I. C., Weissenberger, D., Meyer-Gerspach, A. C., Clement, N., Moes, S., Colombi, M., Meier, J. A., Swierczynska, M. M., Jenö, P., Beglinger, C., Peterli, R., & Hall, M. N. (2018). Insulin resistance causes inflammation in adipose tissue. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 128(4), 1538-1550.

15Layland, J., Carrick, D., Lee, M., Oldroyd, K., & Berry, C. (2014). Adenosine: physiology, pharmacology, and clinical applications. JACC. Cardiovascular interventions, 7(6), 581–591.

16Haskó, G., & Cronstein, B. (2013). Regulation of Inflammation by Adenosine. Frontiers in Immunology, 4.

17Lusardi, T. A., Akula, K. K., Coffman, S. Q., Ruskin, D. N., Masino, S. A., & Boison, D. (2015). Ketogenic diet prevents epileptogenesis and disease progression in adult mice and rats. Neuropharmacology, 99, 500–509.

18Zheng, L., Lu, X., Yang, S., Zou, Y., Zeng, F., Xiong, S., Cao, Y., & Zhou, W. (2023). The anti-inflammatory activity of GABA-enriched Moringa oleifera leaves produced by fermentation with Lactobacillus plantarum LK-1. Frontiers in Nutrition, 10.

19Calderón, N., Betancourt, L., Hernández, L., & Rada, P. (2017). A ketogenic diet modifies glutamate, gamma-aminobutyric acid and agmatine levels in the hippocampus of rats: A microdialysis study. Neuroscience letters, 642, 158–162.

20Stallard CN, Anoruo MD, Saadabadi A. Biochemistry, Glutamate. [Updated 2022 Dec 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

21Onaolapo, A. Y., & Onaolapo, O. J. (2021). Glutamate and depression: Reflecting a deepening knowledge of the gut and brain effects of a ubiquitous molecule. World Journal of Psychiatry, 11(7), 297-315.

22Holesh JE, Aslam S, Martin A. Physiology, Carbohydrates. [Updated 2023 May 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

23López-Alarcón, M., Perichart-Perera, O., Flores-Huerta, S., Inda-Icaza, P., Rodríguez-Cruz, M., Armenta-Álvarez, A., Bram-Falcón, M. T., & Mayorga-Ochoa, M. (2014). Excessive refined carbohydrates and scarce micronutrients intakes increase inflammatory mediators and insulin resistance in prepubertal and pubertal obese children independently of obesity. Mediators of inflammation, 2014, 849031.

24DiNicolantonio, J. J. (2022). Added Sugars Drive Insulin Resistance, Hyperinsulinemia, Hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes and Coronary Heart Disease. Missouri Medicine, 119(6), 519-523.

Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.

Stephan is a true man of science, having earned multiple diplomas and master's degrees in various fields. He has made it his mission to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom and scientific knowledge. He precisely reviews the content and sources of this blog for currency and accuracy.

Click on the links above to visit his author and about me pages.

Leave a Reply