The Ketogenic Diet
What do I need to know about the Keto Diet?
History Part 1
The role of fasting to treat disease has been known to man since about 500BC. Extensive studies found that fasting in the diet played in role in epilepsy management.
In 1916, fasting became a mainstream therapy for epilepsy, linked to a diet free of starches and sugars.
One study believed that epileptic seizures were caused by a toxin in the intestines and that an extended fast (18-25 days) would remove these toxins. A group of epileptic patients were placed on an extended fast, drinking only water, and it was reported that 90% of children and 50% of adults were cured.
History Part 2
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors went long periods of quasi-starvation as they searched for food. This meant their body burned fat, producing ketones which was used for fuel. This was called ketosis.
In 1921, Russell Wilder from the Mayo Clinic reported that the effects of ketosis could be mimicked with a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. Because this diet caused ketosis, it became known as the ketogenic diet. Unfortunately, physicians of today have found it easier* to prescribe a pill for conditions such as Epilepsy than to teach their patients all that was required was a dietary change. Consequently few physicians recommended the diet and not many dieticians are aware of the benefits or trained in the appropriate management.
What is Ketosis?
You will come across ketosis in a number of other diets such as Atkins, Dukan or VLCD’s, however, the rations of fat, protein and carbohydrates will vary in each. To understand ketosis we need to understand how the body uses insulin.
In a standard western high carbohydrate diet, the following occurs:
Glucose levels rise = pancreas secretes insulin. Insulin takes glucose to each cell and uses it for energy. Any excess is stored as fat on the body.
Glucose levels fall = lipase released stored triglycerides. Fatty acids travel to the liver. Liver produces ketones which the body then uses as energy.
To summarise: The absence of glucose from dietary carbohyrdates means ketosis occurs. The body burns fat instead of carbohydrates as its primary fuel source.
Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss
To get your body into ketosis and to lower your insulin levels, your sugars and refined carbohydrates need to be lowered to within 5% of your daily calories. Once in ketosis the amount can be 5-10% but it doesnt take much carbohydrate food to ‘knock’ you out of ketosis.
Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar that is made in the pancreas. Our bodies are not designed to cope with the number of sugars we consume daily. Anything more than 2 tsps of sugar is actually toxic to the body.
When we consume too many carbohydrates insulin is produced in an effort to remove it from the blood and place it in the liver. The liver is thus overloaded and with regular ‘overload’ our body will develop a fatty liver. It is not the fats* in our diet that cause this, it is actually the SUGAR in our diet.
If you are trying to lose weight, then a ketogenic diet is one of the most effective ways to do it as it helps your body access its fat stores (your body fat) for energy.
The Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
The human body uses glucose and ketones as fuel sources. Ketones are preferred by the body as it is a cleaner, healthier fuel and releases less free radicals. By decreasing the amount of carbohydrates in the body, you’re decreasing the risk of developing choronic inflammation throughout your body caused by these free radicals.
Increase muscle mass
In a study by Registered Dietician Jeff Volek PhD, he states that ketones have a similar structure to branched chain amino acids that are useful for building muscle mass.
A constant hunger may cause you to consume more calories than your body to burn which will lead to weight gain. Following a ketogenic diet will avoid this problem because reducing carbohydrates reduces hunger symptoms. This only works for the physical hunger signs. Emotional hunger will still be a factor and must be challenged for long term weight management success.
Every time you consume carbohydrates, Insulin is produced. Over time you may develop insulin resistance which may progress into Type 2 Diabetes. Studies are now showing that a ketogenic diet can significantly reduced the reliance on diabetes medication and is actually reversing the condition in many cases.
Improves insulin resistance
Having high insulin levels, or insulin resistance, may develop into diabetes type 2, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), high blood pressure, a fatty liver, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimers, Strokes and many other medical conditions. The ketogenic diet improves blood sugar levels, reduces insulin resistance, reduces cravings and increases willpower as you are burning a sustainable energy source therefore your likelihood of getting these conditions is reduced.
Other advantages include:
Reduced cancer risk
Lowers bad cholesterol
Improves memory and other cognitive disorders
Improves symptoms of epilepsy
Improves overall mood and mood stability
Aids with digestive problems
The Importance of Fats
There are many sources of healthy fats but it is important to note that saturated fats are not unhealthy. Fat is not harmful to the body; it is the choices we make and the amounts we eat that have the effect.
Fat does not clog your arteries. Sugar does. Dietary sugar is metabolised into triglycerides which leads to the increased production of LDL (bad cholesterol) which clogs the arteries, leading to plaque build-up called atherosclerosis.
Further information about which fats to use when can be found here.
When to Chose a Ketogenic Diet
Types of Ketogenic Diets
The Ketogenic Diet and Specific conditions
Contra-indications of the Ketogenic Diet
How to get started
If you continue to include sugar in your diet along with bad fats, your bad cholesterol will go up and you wont get all the fat-burning benefits of the ketogenic programme. Choosing the ketogenic diet requires you to cut out sugar.
The Ingredients of the Ketogenic Diet
Easier* – Subjective opinion based on experience and research
Fats* = I refer here to healthy fats and not transfats (damaged fats)