In part, keto diet weight loss is a real thing because high-fat, low-carb diets can both help diminish hunger and boost weight loss through their hormonal effects. As described above, when we eat very little foods that supply us with carbohydrates, we release less insulin. With lower insulin levels, the body doesn’t store extra energy in the form of fat for later use, and instead is able to reach into existing fat stores for energy.
Lorraine Turcotte, a metabolism researcher at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, said that although it’s less trendy, long-term healthy eating is the tried-and-true solution. She’s not sure why people prefer “difficult dietary manipulations than to say ‘I’m just going to eat moderately — a well balanced diet, lots of fruits and vegetables.’”
Once the medical community acknowledged the keto diet’s effectiveness in reducing seizure episodes, they decided to look further and study its impact on neurological diseases in general. Neurological diseases share a common problem – a deficiency in energy production. Ketones provide that energy for normal brain cell metabolism, and may even be a more efficient when the body is in starvation mode. When patients were put on the keto diet, the number of mitochondria (energy powerhouse) in brain cells increased. Ketones may also act as an antioxidant by inhibiting the formation of reactive oxidant species, which is why they may have promising effects in the treatment of certain cancers in conjunction with chemotherapy.
The research on how diet affects PCOS is minimal, but there is one compelling study on the ketogenic diet and women with PCOS. In this study, five overweight women ate a ketogenic diet (20 grams of carbohydrates or less per day) for 24 weeks. The results were astounding — average weight loss was 12%, free testosterone decreased by 22%, and fasting insulin levels dropped by 54%. What’s even more impressive is that two of the women became pregnant despite previous infertility problems.
The counter-argument is that diabetes is not reversed because it will come back soon after starting to eat lots of sugar and refined carbs. How much time is soon? It is difficult to say how “soon” diabetes will come back, and the time it takes depends on many factors. It is, however, true that the ketogenic diet does not set the body back to zero and allows for another few decades of unhealthy eating. On the other hand: every adult with a high sugar/high carb history has a high risk of becoming diabetic. It is just a matter of time.
“If someone with diabetes is [taking insulin or oral type 2 meds in the sulfonylurea or meglitinide class and is] following this diet, they need to know that their blood sugar can drop really quickly, so it’s critical that they check it more frequently,” says Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, CDE, author of Diabetes Meal Planning & Nutrition for Dummies. “Don’t wait for it to happen. Meet with your doctor or diabetes educator in advance so that you can troubleshoot exactly what to do if your blood sugar drops.” If it’s an infrequent occurrence, you may be advised to treat with fast-acting glucose. But frequent lows may require medication adjustments or the addition of more carbs to your eating plan.
Despite its explosive popularity, there’s a lot of confusion about what the ketogenic (keto) diet really is. “Many people think they’re following a keto diet when they’re really just consuming a low-carbohydrate diet,” says Patti Urbanski, MEd, RD, CDE, a certified diabetes educator with St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. “So one person’s ‘keto diet’ may look very different than another’s.”
If you’re on a very high fat, very low carb diet – like a traditional Inuit diet – your brain will eventually be able to use fat-derived ketones for about 50-75% of its energy requirements. Most ketones are produced in the liver, but astrocytes in the brain also generate ketones themselves for use by neurons. You think we’d have that kind of set up in our brains if ketones weren’t useful to have around? If all we could do was burn glucose up there, what would be the point of even having localized ketone factories?
A second counterintuitive approach to healing the gut for children who are having a hard time gaining is to encourage a nice long ‘fast’ over night. When the gut is less full, and the body can digest the food that’s in there completely and then it can repair an inflamed or leaky gut better. If the gut is inflamed, food may be passing right through without being absorbed. In addition, growth hormone raises during periods of fasting.
The benefits of a ketogenic diet have been well documented for those living with Type 2 diabetes. Not only does the diet help manage blood sugar but it promotes weight loss as well. The results for those living with Type 1 are less conclusive. Many studies tend to address low carb diets like paleo and Atkins, which focus more on types of low carb food to eat, unlike a keto diet, which pays close attention to macronutrients and staying in ketosis. There seem to be fewer studies exploring the latter, but there is observational information that seems to indicate the diet offers a way to manage A1C levels and glycemic control. Many people with diabetes who abide by the keto diet have found that they significantly reduce their use of insulin.