How is a Ketogenic Diet Beneficial?

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Why would it be beneficial to follow a Keto Diet? How does ketosis work?  Many people have turned to this diet for fast weight loss, treating Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, and epilepsy (for which it was originally designed for in the 1920’s). Is this something we can follow regularly as a way to eat, or should it be an occasional diet?  Numbered resources can be viewed in Dr. Axe’s original article links below.

The ketogenic diet has emerged over the past several decades as one potential answer to the high rates of obesity now facing most developed nations. (1) While there are some differences in opinion, depending on who you ask, regarding the best approach to very low-carb dieting, studies consistently show that the ketogenic diet (also called the keto diet) produces not only substantial weight loss for a high percentage of people who adhere to it, but also other important health benefits such as reductions in seizures, markers of diabetes and more.

  • The keto diet revolves around eating foods that are high in natural fats, consuming only moderate protein and severely restricting the number of carbs eaten each day. Even if you don’t have much weight to lose, entering into a state of ketosis can be helpful for other reasons — such as for improved energy levels, mental capabilities and mood stabilization.
  • The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet. Typical ketogenic diets consist of limiting carbohydrate intake to just 20–30 net grams per day and following the ket diet food list.
  • Fats should be consumed in high amounts when following a keto diet. Fats will provide 70 percent o 80 percent of all calories, proteins just about 10 percent to 20 percent, and carbs only 5 percent to 10 percent.
  • A “moderate keto diet” is an option that can still encourage substantial weight loss and other improvements in symptoms. A moderate keto diet includes more foods with carbs and therefore more fiber too. Carbs are usually increased to about  30–50 net grams per day, which means foods like more high-fiber veggies, some fruit or some starchy veggies can also be included.

What Is Ketosis? – Ketosis is the result of following the ketogenic diet, which is why it’s also sometimes called “the ketosis diet.” Ketosis takes place when glucose from carbohydrate foods (like grains, all sources of sugar or fruit, for example) is drastically reduced, which forces the body to find an alternative fuel source: fat. Although dietary fat (especially saturated fat) often gets a bad name, provoking fear of weight gain and heart disease, it’s also your body’s second preferred source of energy when carbohydrates are not easily accessible. In the absence of glucose, which is normally used by cells as a quick source of energy, the body starts to burn fat and produces ketones instead. Once ketone levels in the blood rise to a certain point, you enter into a state of ketosis— which usually results in quick and consistent weight loss until you reach a healthy, stable body weight.

To sum up a complex process, ketosis happens when the the liver breaks down fat into fatty acids and glycerol, through a process called beta-oxidation. There are three primary types of ketone bodies that are water-soluble molecules produced in the liver: acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate and acetone. The body then further breaks down these fatty acids into an energy-rich substance called ketones that circulate through the bloodstream. Fatty acid molecules are broken down through the process called ketogenesis, and a specific ketone body called acetoacetate is formed which supplies energy. The end result is staying fueled off of circulating ketones (which are also sometimes called ketone bodies) — which is what’s responsible for altering your metabolism in a way that some people like to say turns you into a “fat-burning machine.”

How Does the Ketogenic Diet Work?Ketogenic diets, like most low carb diets, work through the elimination of glucose. Our bodies normally run on glucose (or sugar) for energy. We cannot make glucose and only have about 24 hours’ worth stored in our muscle tissue and liver. Once glucose is no longer available from food sources, we begin to burn stored fat instead, or fat from our diets. The ketogenic diet, therefore, eliminates glucose and causes the body to burn its own fat quickly.

This process of burning fat provides more benefits than simply helping us to shed extra weight — it also helps control the release of hormones like insulin, which plays a role in development of diabetes and other health problems. When we eat carbohydrates, insulin is released as a reaction to elevated blood glucose (an increase in sugar circulating in our blood). Insulin is a “storage hormone” that signals cells to store as much available energy as possible, initially as glycogen (aka stored carbohydrates in our muscles) and then as body fat. The ketogenic diet works by eliminating carbohydrates from the diet and keeping the body’s carbohydrate stores almost empty, therefore preventing too much insulin from being released following food consumption. This can help reverse “insulin resistance,” which is the underlying problem contributing to diabetes.

While entering into ketosis it’s common to notice certain signs and symptoms of your body changing, which can be both pleasant or uncomfortable. These include reduced appetite/suppressed hunger, weight loss, changes in energy levels and sleep, bad breath, digestive issues or moodiness. The unwanted side effects of ketosis (nicknamed “the keto flu”) usually go away within a couple of weeks and can commonly be managed by eating more fat, drinking enough water, getting more electrolytes, resting and being patient during the transition.

Precautions: Potential Side Effects of Ketosis – Before starting the ketogenic diet, it’s always best to consult with your physician if you have a history of existing health conditions including diabetes, kidney disease or damage, heart problems, a hormonal imbalance, or history with an eating disorder.

What can we eat on the Keto Diet?  Next time we will look at the food list of what to eat as well as what to avoid while bringing our body into a state of ketosis. As shared in the above video, Dr. Axe recommends only staying on this diet for 3-6 months.  How can we maintain our weight loss or improved health after that time frame?  In upcoming articles we will look into eating a healthy ‘diet’ as a way to change our lifestyle for feeding our body nutritious and tasty foods rather than cycling back into our old eating patterns.

Feature Image Source: Pixabay 



1 Comment to How is a Ketogenic Diet Beneficial?

  1. I “discovered” this eating plan way back in the 1990’s. I implemented it and not only lost 80 lbs but ENJOYED it!! I still follow this plan (with a few unfortunate setbacks). I came across it serendipitously by reading “The Type 2 Diabetes Diet Book”.

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