The Budwig Diet is often used as a complementary or alternative treatment for cancer.
It involves several dietary modifications intended to slow the spread of cancer cells in your body. While proponents claim that it’s an effective way to fight cancer, it’s highly controversial and backed by little to no scientific research.
This article examines the potential benefits and side effects of the Budwig Diet to determine whether it combats cancer.
The Budwig Diet was developed in the 1950s by German researcher Dr. Johanna Budwig. It was intended to improve cell function to reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells.
The plan involves eating multiple servings of cottage cheese and flaxseed oil per day, along with other foods like fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, it eliminates added sugars, refined grains, processed meats, and other processed foods (
Although the diet was originally geared toward cancer prevention, its advocates assert that it improves other aspects of health, including immune function, arthritis, and heart health.
Yet, a lack of research means that its effects on cancer are largely unknown.
Originally developed in the 1950s, the Budwig Diet has you eat multiple servings of flaxseed oil and cottage cheese per day. You’re also meant to limit your intake of processed and refined foods.
According to Budwig, eating high amounts of polyunsaturated fats from foods like flaxseed oil and cottage cheese could help slow the growth and spread of cancer cells (
Therefore, people on the diet eat a mixture of flaxseed oil, cottage cheese, and honey multiple times per day. Typically, this “Budwig mixture” is made by combining cottage cheese and flaxseed oil in a 2:1 ratio, alongside a small amount of honey.
You’re encouraged to eat at least 2 ounces (60 mL) of flaxseed oil and 4 ounces (113 grams) of cottage cheese per day. This concoction should be prepared fresh at each meal and eaten within 20 minutes.
High fiber foods are also recommended, including fruits and vegetables.
Conversely, you should avoid sugar, refined grains, processed meat, and other processed foods.
In addition to adjusting your diet, you should spend at least 20 minutes outside each day, which is believed to help stimulate immune function and increase levels of vitamin D.
Furthermore, you’re told to follow the diet for at least 5 years to maximize its potential benefits.
The Budwig Diet claims to help slow the growth of cancer cells by increasing your intake of polyunsaturated fats and high fiber fruits and vegetables.
The Budwig Diet prioritizes unprocessed whole foods like fruits and vegetables, which are rich in important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
For example, a 40-day study in mice found that administering 0.3 mL of flaxseed oil reduced the formation of lung tumors (
Furthermore, the Budwig Diet eliminates processed foods, including convenience meals, refined grains, and junk foods.
Notably, one study linked a 10% increase in ultra-processed food intake to a 10% increase in overall cancer risk — and breast cancer risk specifically (
Moreover, processed meats have been tied to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers (
The Budwig Diet eliminates processed foods and meats while encouraging fruits, vegetables, and flaxseed oil, all of which may aid cancer prevention and overall health.
You should consider the Budwig Diet’s many potential downsides before starting this eating plan.
The biggest drawback of the Budwig Diet is the absence of clinical trials to evaluate its effectiveness.
In fact, most available evidence on the Budwig Diet is purely anecdotal. Therefore, it’s difficult to determine whether this eating pattern has any effect on cancer.
While certain aspects of the diet may help reduce the risk of this disease and improve your overall health, you should never consider it — or any other diet — as a cancer treatment.
Furthermore, some variations include unsafe practices like coffee enemas, which involve injecting coffee into the rectum.
Coffee enemas are associated with several serious adverse side effects, including skin burns, electrolyte imbalances, and rectum and colon inflammation (
May cause nutrient deficiencies
The Budwig Diet is a restrictive eating plan that eliminates many food groups.
Although meat is not banned entirely, certain types are only permitted in limited amounts.
Meat, fish, and poultry are rich in several important nutrients, including protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. If you don’t get these nutrients from other sources, you may raise your risk of nutritional deficiencies (
In fact, studies show that vegans and vegetarians may have a higher risk of iron, vitamin B12, protein, and calcium deficiencies (
Additionally, because the diet is highly restrictive, it may contribute to weight loss, which may be dangerous for people with cancer.
People with cancer are in a hypermetabolic state, meaning their overall calorie and protein needs are increased. If proper nutrient intake isn’t maintained, which is common on restrictive diets like the Budwig diet, it may result in weight loss and muscle wasting, or cachexia (
Additionally, people who have cancer may lose their appetite and only be able to tolerate certain foods, which is why restrictive diets aren’t typically recommended for cancer treatment, unless they’re prescribed and monitored by a cancer treatment team (
Although this diet isn’t recommended for cancer treatment, if you decide to follow it or any other diet, it’s important to ensure that you enjoy a variety of nutrient-dense foods and consider taking supplemental nutrients to fill any gaps in your diet.
Contains high amounts of flaxseed oil
The Budwig Diet stipulates eating large amounts of flaxseed oil.
For some people, this oil may cause digestive issues and diarrhea (16).
Consuming lots of flaxseed oil is likewise discouraged if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking blood sugar medication (
Flax seeds may also interact with other medications, so it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before increasing your intake of this oil if you’re taking any medications or have any underlying health conditions (
The Budwig Diet hasn’t been studied in any clinical trials and is based on anecdotal evidence. It also contains high amounts of flaxseed oil and is very restrictive, which may cause nutrient deficiencies.
The Budwig Diet restricts numerous foods while encouraging others.
Foods to eat
The “Budwig mixture,” which consists of flaxseed oil, cottage cheese, and honey, is a key component of the diet.
Although other types of dairy like yogurt or quark — a strained, curdled dairy product — are sometimes swapped in for cottage cheese, the flaxseed oil in this mixture is essential.
Other foods encouraged on the Budwig Diet include:
- Fruits: apples, oranges, bananas, berries, kiwi, mango, peaches, and plums
- Vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, kale, and spinach
- Legumes: lentils, beans, chickpeas, and peas
- Fruit juices: grape, apple, grapefruit, and pineapple juice
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds
- Dairy products: yogurt, cottage cheese, goat’s milk, and raw cow’s milk
- Oils: flaxseed and olive oil
- Beverages: herbal tea, green tea, and water
Foods to avoid
Processed foods, added sugars (apart from honey), refined grains, and hydrogenated fats are all off-limits on the Budwig Diet.
Although many types of meat, fish, poultry, and free-range eggs are permitted in small amounts, pork, shellfish, and processed meats are banned.
The main foods to avoid on the Budwig Diet include:
- Meats and seafood: pork and shellfish
- Processed meats: bacon, bologna, salami, and hot dogs
- Refined grains: pasta, white bread, crackers, chips, and white rice
- Sugars: table sugar, brown sugar, molasses, agave, and corn syrup
- Soy products: tofu, tempeh, soy milk, edamame, and soybeans
- Fats and oils: margarine, butter, and hydrogenated vegetable oil
- Processed foods: cookies, convenience meals, baked goods, french fries, pretzels, and candy
The Budwig Diet instructs you to eat several servings of flaxseed oil and cottage cheese, alongside high fiber foods like fruits and vegetables. Processed foods, sugars, and refined grains are banned.
Here is a 3-day sample menu for the Budwig Diet.
- Breakfast: quark with flaxseed oil, fresh fruit, chopped nuts, and honey
- Lunch: a carrot and beetroot salad with cottage cheese and flaxseed oil dressing
- Dinner: a vegetable stir-fry with herbed brown rice pilaf
- Snacks: fresh-pressed juice and cucumbers with hummus
- Breakfast: cottage cheese oatmeal with flaxseed oil, honey, nut butter, and berries
- Lunch: a cranberry kale salad with cottage cheese and flaxseed oil dressing
- Dinner: lentils with steamed spinach and buckwheat
- Snacks: sliced pears and celery with guacamole
- Breakfast: an apple cinnamon quark breakfast bowl with flaxseed oil
- Lunch: a cucumber tomato salad with cottage cheese and flaxseed oil dressing
- Dinner: boiled potatoes with garlic-roasted broccoli and chickpeas
- Snacks: a fruit salad and roasted almonds
The 3-day meal plan above provides some meal and snack ideas for the Budwig Diet.
The Budwig Diet is intended to slow the growth of cancer cells in your body. However, it’s very restrictive and not backed by scientific research.
All the same, it promotes several healthy food groups. You’re meant to eat a mixture of flaxseed oil and cottage cheese routinely, as well as high fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
If you’re interested in trying the Budwig Diet, know that it shouldn’t be considered a cancer treatment. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider to ensure that you’ll meet your nutritional needs.