Then in 1994, Dateline ran a story about Charlie Abrahams, a toddler with severe epilepsy whose parents turned to the ketogenic diet in desperation. It worked so well that Charlie was reportedly seizure-free (and drug-free) within a month. In 1997, Charlie’s father, Hollywood producer Jim Abrahams, adapted their story into the TV movie ...First Do No Harm, starring Meryl Streep. The saga of the Abrahams reignited interest in a ketogenic diet as a possible treatment for everything from migraines and sleep disorders to autism and Alzheimer's disease. In more recent years, with growing interest in the similar Atkins diet, keto started being touted as a weight-loss strategy, too.
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.
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A ketogenic diet also has been shown to improve blood sugar control for patients with type 2 diabetes, at least in the short term. There is even more controversy when we consider the effect on cholesterol levels. A few studies show some patients have increase in cholesterol levels in the beginning, only to see cholesterol fall a few months later. However, there is no long-term research analyzing its effects over time on diabetes and high cholesterol.
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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.

Inadequate calories: Keto’s satiating qualities are a double-edged blade. They help us eat less and lose body fat without really even trying, but they can also sometimes lead us to eat too little. This can cause a reaction in your body to slow down metabolic function and make you feel generally less energetic at rest. One solution is to cycle periods of generally increased caloric intake, and increased intake of nutritious carbs by default. This suggestion is totally different from the suggestion to engage in purposeful carb refeeds, where you binge on nutrient-devoid carbs in the name of a cheat day. This is never advised for any reason.


To ensure you are getting enough potassium, include avocados and leafy greens like spinach in your daily diet. Sprinkle some unrefined salt on every meal and in your water to replenish your sodium levels as well. Some ketogenic dieters suggest getting at least 5 to 7 grams of salt per day (one teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half per day) during your first week on the ketogenic diet.

While many of the problems that develop with prolonged ketosis may be addressed simply by minding intake of prebiotic fibers, not all are, such as selenium deficiency and stunted growth. (Note that the ideal intake of prebiotic fibers, the level we aim for in Wheat Belly and Undoctored programs, is 20 or more grams per day.) Some have argued that higher beta-hydroxybutyrate ketone levels that develop with a ketogenic diet is all you need to do to maintain healthy bowel flora, but this is a huge extrapolation that does not make sense in light of the newest insights into the microbiome and its metabolites. It ignores the role of hundreds of other microbial metabolites that are required and/or produced that are changed with prolonged deprivation of prebiotic fibers. Also, some have blamed the adverse long-term effects in kids on the seizure medications they take, but the side-effects of, say, drugs such as tegretol, valproic acid, or topiramate do not include the above phenomena.
A: The most common ways to track your carbs is through MyFitnessPal and their mobile app. You cannot track net carbs on the app, although you can track your total carb intake and your total fiber intake. To get your net carbs, just subtract your total fiber intake from your total carb intake. I have written an article on How to Track Carbs on MyFitnessPal.
Truly Dr. Colbert is also a reputable source for more thorough science and modification of previous Keto extremes. The statements about Keto diets with dairy everyday are not true…I am a 66 year old professional (University trained) and have found medical people often very unknowledgable or partially knowledgeable which may be worse. I ask you Abbey to dig deeper…meet Dr. Colbert-not a quack and more in depth than your overview. Personally I am finding switch to more green’s and low glycemic vegetables and fruits with healthy fats, occasional dairy and healthy protein; a way of life that is helping our whole family. Please watch The Magic Pill…the help for family’s caught in old thinking from poor science (ie. Alex Keys) and with autism etc. and so much modern disease is in itself, motivation to search out more truth.
Your body uses the carbohydrates you eat for energy, so if we restrict how many carbohydrates we eat, the body has to get its fuel source from fat. A byproduct of this fat burning state are ketones which are produced; this is called nutritional ketosis. You can determine if you are in this fat burning state by purchasing urine ketone testing strips from your local pharmacy.

A ketone body (KB) is a byproduct formed during the conversion of fatty acids to fuel. Some fatty acids are oxidized by the liver for energy production. Others can be partially oxidized to form the substrate acetoacetate, which is then converted to beta-hydroxybutyric acid; collectively, these are termed ketone bodies. Ketones can be used by all tissue containing mitochondria, which includes muscle and the brain.


He has been on keto diet for at least 3 years now. I think that he is some proof that yes, it does work. And it may be that some people do need keto. However, I don’t believe that everyone needs keto diet to get reversal. I have had reversal with regular ADA diet in my clinic. Not just a few! Many have reversed. However, I just want for keto dieters to find a clinical trial. We do need more information. We must understand what happens in the long term on keto diet. I personally did Atkins years ago, which was 20 grams. I had a very hard time to stay on it. I lost 20 pounds, and then I did gain it back. I just could not live without some more carbohydrates than this allowed. I don’t know about being on 60 to 70 carbs, and staying in ketosis. It seemed I was out of it at 22 carbs. Anyway, this was not for me. Maybe it is for you. No one is saying that one should never go on a keto diet, but we are wary of it. We need more science behind it. Therefore, I am just going to put this out here now. I will paste it down the page so that others may see it. They are taking participants. If you fit the criteria, please help us to get more than people’s opinion about this diet. Then we can be more positive about it, and recommend it if the science is there. Here is the link to the clinical trial. Thanks for your comments:
But your heart health might depend on what you actually eat. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that low-carb diets based mostly on plant sources of fat and protein (like avocados or nuts) can lower heart disease risk by 30 percent. But those benefits didn’t hold for people who ate mostly animal-based proteins and fats. (Think: bacon, butter, and steak.)
There is nothing inherently difficult about following a ketogenic diet. We have many patients who do this very easily over many years. The metabolic benefits significantly outway any perceived challenges from limiting particular food types. Uptake would be far more widespread if nutrition professionals left their predujical opinions of SFA’s behind. Finally, given the expertise in Ketogenic Diets at Harvard, Dr David Ludwig, for one springs to mind, I am surprised the author did not avail themselves of the local expertise.
In fact, the diet first gained popularity in the 1920s when it was discovered to have benefits for children suffering from extreme epilepsy. Now, researchers are conducting studies to determine whether it could have benefits for any number of disorders, including the treatment of ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumors, traumatic brain injury, diabetes, weight loss, polycystic ovary syndrome, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, narcolepsy, and some cancers.
An extensive review published in 2013 looked at the research and evidence of ketogenic diets enhancing fertility (long story short, it looks promising). Studies also show that Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can be treated effectively with low-carb dieting, which reduces or eliminates symptoms such as infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods, acne, and obesity.
thank you Dr. Jockers for the informative article. I have hypothyroidism from 3 parathyroid cysts being removed along with 80% of my thyroid. It is under control with Levothyroxine and liathyronine. I have been on the keto diet for almost 4 weeks and am still experiencing heart palpatations, dizzyness and low energy. I have been quite strict and feel disappointed. I have Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and my oncologist was ok with me going on it. I feel like this diet would help me have more energy and help my overall health. Any advise would be appreciated. thank you, Inika
Click here to join my newsletter and I’ll keep you posted when I get new articles up (FYI: as a heads up, I also write about entrepreneurship and web development. I started writing about fat metabolism and ketogenic dieting here at KetoSchool out of pure hobby interest, as there are relatively few resources out there that teach the underlying science).
"Keto is not a great long-term diet, as it is not a balanced diet," Nancy Rahnama, M.D., M.S., an internal medicine and bariatric specialist, told Reader's Digest. "A diet that is devoid of fruit and vegetables will result in long-term micronutrient deficiencies that can have other consequences. The keto diet can be used for short-term fat loss, as long as it is under medical supervision."
Twenty-one of the 28 participants who were enrolled completed the study. Twenty participants were men; 13 were White, 8 were African-American. The mean [± SD] age was 56.0 ± 7.9 years and BMI was 42.2 ± 5.8 kg/m2. Hemoglobin A1c decreased by 16% from 7.5 ± 1.4% to 6.3 ± 1.0% (p < 0.001) from baseline to week 16. Diabetes medications were discontinued in 7 participants, reduced in 10 participants, and unchanged in 4 participants. The mean body weight decreased by 6.6% from 131.4 ± 18.3 kg to 122.7 ± 18.9 kg (p < 0.001). In linear regression analyses, weight change at 16 weeks did not predict change in hemoglobin A1c. Fasting serum triglyceride decreased 42% from 2.69 ± 2.87 mmol/L to 1.57 ± 1.38 mmol/L (p = 0.001) while other serum lipid measurements did not change significantly.
Cancer cells express an abnormal metabolism characterized by increased glucose consumption owing to genetic mutations and mitochondrial dysfunction. Previous studies indicate that unlike healthy tissues, cancer cells are unable to effectively use ketone bodies for energy. Furthermore, ketones inhibit the proliferation and viability of cultured tumor cells.
Carbs are still the primary fuel for the body during high-intensity exercise. A ketogenic diet may be better suited to athletes performing endurance sports (like marathon running or cycling). Athletes engaged in more intense cardio (like sprinting, hockey, football) may perform better with a higher percentage of carbohydrates. These athletes may experience a decrease in high-intensity output while following a ketogenic diet, but ultimately, a lowered carbohydrate intake as isn’t “dangerous” for athletes.
As per heartburn, studies done have shown that a ketogenic diet can have beneficial effects for those who have Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. A 2006 paper published in the Journal of Digestive Diseases and Sciences found that ‘Six months of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet led to significant weight loss and histologic improvement of fatty liver disease’
I am with you! I have been a WW member and been years without going outside of my suggested guidelines. I would lose weight, plateau, go on one of their plateau breaking diets for two weeks then have to go off and slowly gained weight again. I was teaching my body to live on less. I have been down as low as 800 kcal a day and not losing. Eat more fiber so you feel full was what I was told. Try eating 800 kcal, high fiber and see how balanced your diet is. I am eating between 1800 – 2000 kcal now and dropping 10 – 15 lbs a month on Keto. Long term diuretic user, I no longer have water retention. I am salting and using fat and I am off my blood pressure medicine. I am not hungry so I am wondering why is this not sustainable? I eat mostly carbs from vegetables, I eat a variety of meats, I eat a variety of vegetables, I feel great and my blood tests are better than they have been in 2 decades. I am starting to feel that the carb revolution is because we are told by the government what is good to eat. We all know that vegetables are good to eat but the government subsidizes corn, wheat and soy, not spinach, kale and cucumbers. Do your research, follow your hearts, do what works for you.
If you experience symptoms like fatigue, intense hunger and cravings, light-headedness, or heart palpitations, this may be a sign your blood sugar has dropped too low. Use a blood glucose monitor to track your body’s response to the diet change and make sure your body is adapting properly. If necessary consult your physician for necessary medication changes.
Studies are emerging that ketogenic diets (in conjunction with other treatments) can either reverse progressive brain disorders or help repair the damage. These include traumatic brain injuries and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The Wahl’s Protocol also utilizes this benefit of the ketogenic diet to help repair neurological damage from multiple sclerosis.
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