Some proven benefits of the ketogenic diet, but is it right for everyone?

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I recall when I first started hearing the buzz around going “keto” “ketogenic” ketolife” I was very skeptical. With the roll of my eyes I dismissed it as a soon to be done fad that would blow over. But it didn’t.

After my community talks, I’d have a few people stop by and ask my thoughts on going “keto”. Again, my response would be I thought it was just another fad and would pass away. And oh by the way if you happened to be someone living with type 2 diabetes, this probably was not for you!

How wrong I was on both counts especially the latter.  

Well you know the saying “what you resist persists”?  Keto has persisted. And now it’s becoming mainstream.

The ketogenic diet was developed almost a 100 years ago- in the 1920s- by a faith healer who was trying to help children with epilepsy. There was some success with this diet intevention at the time. However, when drugs were developed for the treatment of epilepsy it fell out of favor.

How does the ketogenic diet work?

The ketogenic diet works by converting the body’s source of predominant fuel from carbohydrates to fats which are the source of ketone bodies predominantly beta hydroxybutyrate. This leads to an increase in the production of energy source -ATP.  

The ketogenic diet is now being used to treat a host of diseases and conditions. In the article below I list some of the benefits of a ketogenic diet.

Improved insulin resistance and reduced inflammation

By utilizing fats as a source of fuel versus carbohydrates there is less need for insulin. This leads to less insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the hallmark of type 2 diabetes. There is research showing the benefits of a ketogenic diet to reverse pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is also associated with more inflammation because of an increase in free radical production. Inflammation is linked to a host of chronic diseases such as auto-immune diseases, arthritis, thyroid disease, bowel disorders, mental and cognitive decline (type 3 diabetes). Less insulin resistance=less inflammation, which allows the body to heal.

Improved Fat Burning leading to weight loss
By definition, being in a state of ketosis means you’re burning fat for energy. If you have excess body fat, you’ll be able to burn it at a much more efficient rate. This trend can lead to weight loss. The advantage of using fat as fuel, is that you do not have as much hunger cravings as when you are using carbohydrates as a main source of fuel.

Mood stabilizing effects
A ketogenic diet changes the energy matrix of the body. In the brain, a ketogenic diet helps to modulate mood by not only a reduction in inflammation but also changes in monoamine oxidase levels, GABA transmission, as well as mitochondrial biogenesis.

Improved Energy
Increased energy from a ketogenic lifestyle is due to a combination of factors including less inflammation, upregulation of mitochondrial biogenesis, more ATP per molecule of ketone and more stable blood sugar.

Improved Mitochondrial Biogenesis &Anti-aging
Our bodies are trained to use glucose (sugar) as a natural source of energy.  Our mitochondria are the energy powerhouse of our bodies. With aging, we tend to have less efficient mitochondria. The ketogenic diet helps to stimulate new and stronger mitochondria. Because mitochondria have such a profound impact on energy production, inflammation levels and gene expression (and therefore an overall function of the body), promoting mitochondrial health can be of great benefit when it comes to anti-aging.

How do you know you’re in ketosis?

There are a number of kits on the market which can help you to detect when you are in ketosis. Kits that measure blood levels are more accurate than urine test strips.

How do you know if keto is right for you?

Despite it’s popularity a ketogenic diet may not be safe for everyone. Despite a plethora of websites offering do it yourself keto plans and diets, I highly recommend that you invest in working closely with a qualified healthcare professional who is well versed on what to look out for if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Very high blood triglycerides
  • Severe depression
  • Older adults
  • Cancer
  • Cognitive decline such as alzheimer’s type dementia
  • Certain gene snps such as ApoE4

The next thing to consider is – how long do you need to be on a ketogenic diet?

The reality is that maintaining ketosis for prolonged periods of time can be a challenge for most.

In summary, a ketogenic diet can be a useful tool for helping to improve metabolic health. Be sure to use it under the supervision of a qualified healthcare practitioner who will be able to customize it to your unique goals as well as determine a safe duration of therapy.

To your health and wellbeing,

Scientific citations

A low carbohydrate ,ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes

Veech RL. The therapeutic implications of ketone bodies: the effects of ketone bodies in pathological conditions: ketosis, ketogenic diet, redox states, insulin resistance, and mitochondrial metabolism.

Peer-reviewed papers from Virta health on ketogenic diet and type 2 diabetes reversal