Recently, many of my patients have been asking about a ketogenic diet. Is a ketogenic diet safe? Would you recommend it? Despite the recent hype, a ketogenic diet is not something new. In medicine, we have been using it for almost 100 years to treat drug-resistant epilepsy, especially in children. In the 1970s, Dr. Atkins popularized his very-low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss that began with a very strict two-week ketogenic phase. Over the years, other fad diets incorporated a similar approach for weight loss.
Technically speaking, you're in ketosis when your blood ketones are higher than 0.5 mmol/L, but the optimal level for fat-burning purposes is 1.5 to 3 mmol/L. Nisevich Bede says that seasoned keto dieters report that they can actually feel a difference in this state, citing that they're less hungry and experience mental clarity once they reach ketosis.
Another organ that plays an essential role in blood sugar regulation is the liver. It stores excess glucose as glycogen, and when glucose levels are low, glycogen is broken down to provide glucose . This process is regulated by two hormones: insulin and glucagon. Insulin normally promotes glycogen synthesis and interferes with glucose release from the liver.
Researchers believe that the ketogenic diet can also help patients with schizophrenia to normalize the pathophysiological processes that are causing symptoms like delusions, hallucinations, lack of restraint and unpredictable behavior. One study found that the keto diet lead to elevated concentrations of kynurenic acid (KYNA) in the hippocampus and striatum, which promotes neuroactive activity. Some studies even point to the elimination of gluten as a possible reason for improved symptoms, as researchers observed that patients with schizophrenia tended to eat more carbohydrates immediately before a psychotic episode. (19)
"Many of the richest sources of fiber, like beans, fruit, and whole grains are restricted on the ketogenic diet," registered dietician Edwina Clark told Everyday Health. "As a result, ketogenic eaters miss out on the benefits of fiber-rich diet such as regular laxation and microbiome support. The microbiome has been implicated in everything from immune function to mental health."
The keto diet also appears to help induce autophagy, which helps clear damaged cells from the body, including senescent cells that serve no functional purpose but still linger inside tissues and organs. In animal studies when rats are put on the ketogenic diet, autophagic pathways are created that reduce brain injury during and after seizures. (21)
Con: Results can vary depending on how much fluid you drink. By drinking more water, you dilute the concentration of ketones in the urine and thus a lower level of ketones will be detected on the strips. The strips don’t show a precise ketone level. Finally, and most importantly, as you become increasingly keto-adapted and your body reabsorbs ketones from the urine, urine strips may become unreliable, even if you’re in ketosis.
The ketogenic diet typically reduces carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams per day — and calls for increased protein and fat intake, according to a review published in August 2013 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Roughly speaking, on keto you’ll get 70 to 80 percent of your calories from fat, about 20 percent from protein, and as little as 5 percent from carbs.
When ever-increasing amounts of insulin aggravate insulin resistance, it only makes sense to keep insulin levels as low as possible. Does this make sense? You may notice that this is the exact opposite of the standard treatment for diabetics. They receive external insulin to overcome the inability of the pancreas to produce sufficient amounts of the hormone.
Ketosis has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties while also assisting with pain relief. Reducing glucose metabolism influences pain, so this could be one potential mechanism of action. In the review The Nervous System and Metabolic Dysregulation: Emerging Evidence Converges on Ketogenic Diet Therapy the authors look at numerous ways that a ketogenic diet can assist with pain and inflammation.
“What many diabetics aren’t aware of, is that it is the fat that is the problem when it comes to type 2 diabetes. Nearly 100 years ago, healthy volunteers were split into two groups – half were fed a fat-rich diet, and the other half on a carb-rich diet. Within just two days, the fatty diet groups’ glucose intolerance skyrocketed to amounts twice as high as those fed a carbohydrate-rich diet (9).
Increases in cholesterol levels need discussion too. We do see temporary increases in cholesterol levels often as individuals transition onto a ketogenic diet. However, when you examine lipid particle size (a more important way to look at the cardiovascular risks), the risk pattern doesn’t seem to increase with a ketogenic diet. Harvard Health has written about lipid particle size here before: http://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/should-you-seek-advanced-cholesterol-testing-
I’m in ketogenesis now – 3 weeks in. Lost over 10kg. Protein shakes. Great. But what I wanted to add was that i’m Diabetic (2) and quite badly so. I was Injecting insulin twice a day – Novomix (part immediate, part slow acting). But since I went into keto, my blood sugar has been steady between 5-9, normal range. No injections needed. And no hypo attacks either – that occurs below a reading of 4, for me. This is NOT a cure of course – it’s directly related to low carb intake. But I do wonder if discontinuing insulin is partly responsible for my improvement in alertness, activity level and so on. Magnesium tabs, 1000 units twice a day, have also been helpful – I suffer leg and foot cramps due to spinal arthritis – but they had worsened until I upped the dose.
In order to transition and remain in this state, aiming for about 30–50 net grams is typically the recommended amount of total carbs to start with. This is considered a more moderate or flexible approach but can be less overwhelming to begin with. Once you’re more accustomed to “eating keto,” you can choose to lower carbs even more if you’d like (perhaps only from time to time), down to about 20 grams of net carbs daily. This is considered the standard, “strict” amount that many keto dieters aim to adhere to for best results, but remember that everyone is a bit different.
In a recent study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, Weiss and his colleagues found that participants performed worse on high-intensity cycling and running tasks after four days on a ketogenic diet, compared to those who’d spent four days on a high-carb diet. Weiss says that the body is in a more acidic state when it’s in ketosis, which may limit its ability to perform at peak levels.
Thank you for posting Julie Martin. Abbey, have you ever been forced to loose a significant amount of weight? It is unfair to minimize the challenges that come along with consistent weight loss over a long period of time. Please provide information about any diet that has high success statistics when it comes to significant weight loss. Julie I plan to join your Facebook group and would absolutely love to have someone with your positive outlook to support my weight loss challenges.
"The keto diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, and very low-carb way of eating that leads to ketosis, which is a metabolic process that shifts the body to utilize a different power source," says Pamela M. Nisevich Bede, MS, RD, a registered dietitian at Abbott who specializes in sports nutrition, weight loss, and diet trends. It's similar to the Atkins diet, but is even lower in protein and higher in fat. In short: "Your body turns fat into fuel instead of running on easy-to-access carbs, which are its energy fuel source," says Nisevich Bede.
It should be noted that the concept that fat can be eaten ad libitum and still induce weight loss in obese subjects is not a recent one (13–33). Ketosis occurs as a result of the change in the body’s fuel from carbohydrate to fat. Incomplete oxidation of fatty acids by the liver results in the accumulation of ketone bodies in the body. A ketogenic diet maintains the body in a state of ketosis, which is characterized by an elevation of D-b-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate.
Researchers who set out to review the current state of research as it relates to the ketogenic diet published their results in the highly respected European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Their comprehensive evaluation showed that the ketogenic diet held promise in a vast array of medical conditions and is promising results in other conditions, such as:
It's important to note that the drop-out rate was substantial and reports of symptomatic hypoglycemia 1-5 episodes) were experienced by 69% of those in the study. The mean carbohydrate intake was 35 grams (+/- 15) daily. Based on self-reported results, the change in HbA1c was -1.45% (+/- 1.04, P < 0.001) with an average HbA1c of 7.2% associated with greater hypoglycemia; yet, these results are comparable to other study findings. The average blood glucose levels were 104 mg/dL (+/- 16). 2 Final lipid profiles were mixed. The results were similar for adults and children.
Prior to the advent of exogenous insulin for the treatment of diabetes mellitus in the 1920's, the mainstay of therapy was dietary modification. Diet recommendations in that era were aimed at controlling glycemia (actually, glycosuria) and were dramatically different from current low-fat, high-carbohydrate dietary recommendations for patients with diabetes [1,2]. For example, the Dr. Elliot Joslin Diabetic Diet in 1923 consisted of "meats, poultry, game, fish, clear soups, gelatin, eggs, butter, olive oil, coffee, tea" and contained approximately 5% of energy from carbohydrates, 20% from protein, and 75% from fat . A similar diet was advocated by Dr. Frederick Allen of the same era .
The present study shows the beneficial effects of a long-term ketogenic diet. It significantly reduced the body weight and body mass index of the patients. Furthermore, it decreased the level of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and blood glucose, and increased the level of HDL cholesterol. Administering a ketogenic diet for a relatively longer period of time did not produce any significant side effects in the patients. Therefore, the present study confirms that it is safe to use a ketogenic diet for a longer period of time than previously demonstrated.
When Steve contacted TheDiabetesCouncil, he wanted to know where to find information on meal plans for the Ketogenic Diet. There are many resources online where you can search for meal plans for the Ketogenic Diet. There are also many books you can purchase at your local bookstore. The Atkins Diet is the most well- known Ketogenic Diet in its Induction Phase which is the first 2 weeks in this diet.
Every reduced-calorie diet is catabolic, meaning the diet can cause you to lose muscle. 'This is largely due to the fact that you are consuming less energy, so your body relies on other tissue (i.e., protein) to serve as an energy source. Added to that, some dieters do copious amounts of aerobic exercise when dieting, which can cause further breakdown of muscle. The brain can also call on protein to create more glucose for energy needs—a process called gluconeogenesis.
"That being said, using this diet as a kick start for two weeks and then following it with a healthier way of eating is not a bad thing," Amselem says. "For example, one can start on the ketogenic diet for a two-week period and then follow a plan that is healthy and sustainable for life by limiting the high-fat red meat and dairy and adding fish, olive oil, fruit, and healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains, sweet potato, brown rice and quinoa."
What happens is that fats get stored in your body if you do not have enough physical activity every day to break them up. As they get stored, they show in the form of belly fat. As a result of that, you appear obese. To make the body slim, you have to use up the daily fat as soon as you ingest it. Otherwise, it accumulates in the body and makes you obese.
Ketogenesis has existed as long as humans have. If you eat a very low amount of carbohydrates, you starve your brain of glucose, its main fuel source. Your body still needs fuel to function, so it taps into your reserve of ketones, which are compounds the liver creates from fat when blood insulin is low. This process is known as ketosis: It’s like when a hybrid car runs out of gas and reverts to pure electricity.
At some point, the pancreas is literally burned out and can’t produce enough insulin to keep even basic blood sugar under control, let alone after a high-carb meal. This state is end-stage of type 2 diabetes where insulin injections become necessary . Type 2 diabetics do not produce less insulin than normal, but the insulin resistance increases the need for insulin. A diabetic pancreas is eventually unable to supply this increased demand.
The recommendations I made in the Grain Brain Whole Life plan favor a mild state of ketosis, which may be the natural state of human metabolism. To be clear, our ancestors didn’t have access to such rich and unlimited sources of sugars and carbohydrates like we do. So, if you are going to adopt the ketogenic diet, as I have, here are three quick tips for ensuring you’re doing it the right way.
On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat, burning fat 24-7. When insulin levels become very low, fat burning can increase dramatically. It becomes easier to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, such as less hunger and a steady supply of energy. This may help keep you alert and focused.
To say that the keto diet has become one of the most popular diets of recent years is a complete understatement. Case in point: There are more than one million searches on Google every month for the keto diet. It’s unique because the fad diet has captured the interest of people who want to lose weight — and there’s no shortage of reported success stories to be found.
One reason it's hard to determine the exact health effects of diets is that it's often unclear whether any observed effects come from the diet or from a combination of other factors, like stress, environment or genetics. Still, that doesn't mean all the bold claims about the keto diet are wrong, but rather that you should approach them with a healthy degree of skepticism.
Ketones are more beneficial to the brain than glucose is. This is great news for patients with Type 1 Diabetes, because it will not affect the brain function when you are running low in glucose. Ketosis prevent raising blood glucose levels, since you are not introducing large amounts of carbs into your system. They help in stimulating the growth of healthy brain cells.
What about fruits and vegetables? All fruits are rich in carbs, but you can have certain fruits (usually berries) in small portions. Vegetables (also rich in carbs) are restricted to leafy greens (such as kale, Swiss chard, spinach), cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, bell peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms, cucumber, celery, and summer squashes. A cup of chopped broccoli has about six carbs.
Imagine your body is a home with a fireplace in the middle and the heat required to keep it at a comfortable\livable temp is keeping the fireplace burning at a manageable and constant pace. To do this you have two fuel-types at your disposal: Kerosene and Charcoal. (in this analogy Kerosene is carbohydrates and coal is fat). American diets are high in carbs, which is like throwing a bucket full of kerosene on that fire. Will it keep the house warm? Sure, but it burns down fast so you have to keep throwing bucket after bucket on it to keep it going, consuming tons of kerosene, and you get these huge spikes in heat. It is much harder to control the strength of the flame, and thus much harder to keep the house at a constant, comfortable temp.
By cutting carbs, you’ll also cut sugar and simple, refined carbohydrates, which means a steadier supply of energy. (No more sugar highs and crashes!) Once their bodies are used to the diet, “The first thing people report is, ‘Oh my gosh, I have this steady energy and I don’t have the need to snack at 3 p.m. because my energy is waning,’” Nisevich Bede says. Research published in January 2015 in the journal Obesity Review showed that the keto diet may lead to fewer hunger pangs and a lower desire to eat. (3)
One of the boldest claims about the keto diet is that it can help combat cancer by effectively "starving" cancer cells. It's a claim based on a phenomenon dubbed the "Warburg effect", which, in simple terms, describes how cancer cells are more reliant on sugar than healthy cells. So, the idea is that sticking to a low-carbohydrate diet will make it harder for cancer cells to thrive.
More and more studies show that low-carb diets are an effective way to lose weight: A 2018 report out of Framingham State University found that after five months on a low-carb, high-fat diet, overweight adults burned about 250 more calories daily than people who ate a high-carb, low-fat diet. The keto diet in particular has a number of famous adherents, including Halle Berry, Katie Couric and Gwyneth Paltrow. Kourtney Kardashian blogged about doing keto, calling it “a really positive experience.” And keto-friendly recipes, snacks and meal plans have proliferated in the past few years.
The low-carb, high-fat approach to the keto diet limits the types of foods you can have, and entire food groups are eliminated entirely. Beans, legumes, and whole grains are out, as are many fruits and vegetables. Many of these foods carry vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you can’t get from any other source, and without them, you may start to experience nutritional deficiencies.
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Well… what are many people on a Keto diet trying to do? Lose weight right? I would guess that prior to discovering the Keto diet many of these people were caught in the trap of low fat dieting. This lead to months or years of low fat intake and consequentially low gallbladder activity. The gallbladder wasn’t needed to digest fat and so it sat idle and stones were more likely to form. Once they made the shift to a ketogenic lifestyle and their fat consumption increased upwards of 1000%, the gallbladder kicked into high gear. If the previous period of low fat dieting had caused stone formation they are going to have to deal with flushing those stones out now while on a high fat Keto diet.