Because weight loss can have such a dramatic positive impact for those struggling with type 2 diabetes, most of the diets prescribed to diabetics focus on weight loss. The ketogenic diet is no exception, and often leads to substantial weight loss and improved body composition. It’s also interesting to note that the ketogenic diet may contribute to a greater preservation of muscle mass during weight loss than other diets.
A great long-term benefit of the ketogenic diet is reduced cravings for sugar and other unhealthy foods. However, you might initially have stronger cravings for carbs during the transition period. This can last anywhere from one to two days to around three weeks. But stick it out! At the end, you’ll be pleased with the reduced, and often eliminated, cravings.
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.
The high-fat intake required for ketosis may change the structure of LDL ("bad") cholesterol and lipoproteins, which could induce inflammation over time. Chronic inflammation is a biological state in which your body's cells work overtime to get their regular job done. Healthcare professionals can ID inflammation through blood work by looking for signs of oxidative stress (a.k.a. the damage done by free radicals to organ tissues).
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.
OK, so this is the one most people probably actually care about. The great thing about the keto diet is that most dieters report not feeling hungry at all, likely because ketosis tends to suppress the hunger hormone, ghrelin, which helps tame our hangry monster within. So when you combine a satiating diet with the fact that you’re just cutting out a lot of foods, it makes perfect sense then that you’ll lose weight. One meta-analysis found that participants lost more weight on a very low-carb diet (like keto) compared with those on a low-fat diet.
My biggest beef with this diet is that it focuses on how much and what you can eat and less about the quality of the food you eat. A recent 2018 study found that people who focused on eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods and less on counting calories and limiting food groups, lost a significant amount of weight over the course of a year. This continues to echo the notion that the key to successful weight loss is diet QUALITY and not QUANTITY. And now, there’s research that actually supports that!
It builds mitochondria. Mitochondria are the power plants of our cells, transforming incoming nutrients into ATP. The more mitochondria we have, the more energy we can utilize and extract from the food we eat—and the more performance we can wring out of our bodies. Ketosis places new demands on our mitochondria, who adapt to the new energy environment by increasing in number.
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.
In order to reach true ketosis, you need to switch to a different metabolic state where you use body fat as a fuel source instead of glucose. Running out of glucose means nutritionally starving as far as your body is concerned, and ketosis is the response. While using excess adipose tissue is generally seen as a good thing, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. In addition to breaking down fat cells, your body also breaks down muscle in the form of protein to create glucose. As a long-term side effect, this means that the keto diet eventually decreases lean body mass, which can make it harder to lose weight once the diet has ended.
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-
For some, ketosis can cause more negative than positive side effects. Dorena Rode, a 52-year-old author, and speaker from Occidental, California, tried the diet for a month and experienced heart palpitations and dizziness. Unlike Drew, Rode says her cholesterol increased from 192 to 250 mg/dL after she introduced more fat into her diet. (Less than 200 mg/dL is considered desirable, while anything over 240 mg/dL is considered high.)
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.
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