While most diets are simply fads that change with the weather, the ketogenic diet has been practiced for over nine decades. The success of the diet, and therefore, its longevity, is based on physiology and nutrition science. The health benefits of ketogenic dieting can be reaped throughout your whole body because the science targets several of the key health problems that cause weight gain. High blood sugar, hormonal imbalances, and the negative binge and fasting cycles are all dangerous. Diets tend to ignore these factors. Even when it seems like you have success, the underlying problem is untreated so chances are, the fad diet will ultimately fail.
What is the ketogenic diet good for?
This diet does not involve counting calories, limiting portions or excessive exercise regimens. Instead, the diet provides a change in fuel source, which gives an entirely different approach to weight loss. Sugar, specifically glucose, is the number one energy source from food. When you switch to a keto diet, your energy source becomes fat as you begin a low carbohydrate (and sugar) diet. The switch to fat as a fuel not only helps with weight loss but contributes to an overall healthier you.
The ketogenic diet leads to an automatic reduction in appetite. The more protein and fat you consume each day, the less hungry you feel. Less hunger means you won’t overdo it on the snacks in between meals. It is also the loss of carbohydrates that helps the most with weight loss. People on low-carb diets lose more weight than those on low-fat diets. The number one reason is that a lack of insulin means the kidneys can remove excess sodium from the body quicker. It is important to remember that if you start eating the same foods again, the weight will return so you need to approach the keto diet as a lifestyle rather than a ‘diet’.
The ketogenic plan helps to lower weight by removing fat. The visceral fat that collects around organs is particularly dangerous because it increases inflammation. The fat that gets used for energy in the absence of carbohydrates comes largely from the abdominal cavity and from around the organs. The risk of serious diseases is reduced by the removal of this fat. The fat molecules that travel around in the blood (triglycerides) are increased with high carbohydrate content. The presence of these fat molecules in high numbers contributes to heart disease so following a low-carb diet can mean less chance of heart problems.
Low carbohydrate diets with high fat intake increase your HDL (good cholesterol). HDL is actually a lipoprotein that carries cholesterol away from the body so it can be reused or excreted. Increasing HDL through a diet higher in fat will improve your HDL ratio and the better this ratio is, the healthier your heart will be. Too many carbohydrates causes excess amounts of sugar to reach the blood. These high blood sugar levels can impact your insulin release, as well as the chances of developing Type II diabetes. Not only can ketogenic plans prevent diabetes but it may also be able to reverse the disease.
Your brain, for the most part, requires glucose, which is why your liver will produce glucose even if you are not eating carbohydrates. Some of the brain, however, is able to use ketones and following a ketogenic diet has been linked to improved brain health. Children with epilepsy benefit from the reduced occurrence of seizures and current studies are evaluating the positive effects ketogenic foods have on other brain disorders such as Alzheimer’ and Parkinson’s diseases.
Pros and Cons of a Ketogenic Diet
Burn more fat: When you deprive your body of sugar as a source of fuel, it becomes more efficient at burning off stored fat, which contributes to weight loss and a healthier body.
Protein sparing effect: When you rely on fat as your energy source there is no need for proteins to be changed to glucose, which means they can be used for other valuable functions in the body.
Lower insulin levels: Lower insulin levels promote lipolysis and the release of free glycerol, which is the use of fats for energy production. Low carbohydrates mean less blood glucose and less insulin.
Decreased appetite: You can live a full healthy life following a keto diet. You are less likely to feel hungry and binge when you avoid a heavy carbohydrate load.
Fatigue: The initial switch in energy source can cause fatigue and brain fog. The good news is that as soon as your body is used to manufacturing ketones, you will no longer feel the blood sugar fluctuations that cause the fatigue.
Micronutrient deficiencies: A loss of carbohydrates from the diet can result in micronutrient deficiency. This can be avoided by taking a high quality supplement every day, as well as fiber to keep your digestion on track.
Ketoacidosis: Because ketones are acidic, a high level in your blood can trigger ketoacidosis. This is only a significant problem if you are a diabetic.
The ketogenic diet is a great way to lose weight and improve overall health; however it is not the ideal diet for everyone. Benefits may outweigh the pitfalls but for certain individuals, such as those with diabetes, the dangers may be too high. It is definitely a challenge to switch from sugars to fats as an energy source but once you stick with it, you feel great. Always check with your physician before changing your diet but making the choice to go keto’ may be just the change you have been looking for.