This concept was previously unthinkable as modern nutritional science was led to believe that the body’s metabolism relied on gluconeogenesis to create ATP as energy for the body’s metabolic processes. Glycogen derives from dietary carbohydrate intake, so by removing it from the diet, nutritionists expected devastating health results to emerge in practitioners of the diet.
I’ve been eating LCHF for almost a year. I’ve lost 40 lbs, feel hungry less often, reversed my insulin resistance, have lots more energy but my cholesterol keeps jumping up, not just creeping, but taking huge leaps! It’s in the mid 300’s now and my Dr wants me to go on statin drugs of which I’m very resistant, I don’t feel comfortable taking drugs. I read so often how this diet lowers cholesterol, not me! Any clue as to “why me?”
With more people enthusiastic about the ketogenic diet comes more talk about potential adverse side effects. Upon closer examination, almost all of the complaints can be traced to a flawed approach. Granted, if you are coming to the game with significant metabolic damage from decades of carbohydrate dependency, or not paying attention to some common sense best practices, such as choosing healthy foods instead of blindly focusing on macros, you will likely struggle with something as stringent as keto.
That doesn’t mean keto causes diabetes; it’s amazing for most diabetics. However, if your cells are great at processing fat, but suck at processing glucose or carbohydrates, you won’t be able to run at full power, and parts of your body that prefer glucose over fat — like the glial cells in your brain that handle immune function and synaptic pruning — don’t work as well over time.
Diabetes, whether type 1 or 2, are diseases extremely susceptible to the therapeutic level effects of diets that lower insulin. If those diets are also nutrient dense, evolutionarily matched to humans and produce a more generally preferable shift in metabolism, then all the better. This sort of dietary treatment for diabetes holds great promise in their potential for helping out in other diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
The ADA has recommended since 2013 we use our best clinical judgement in recommending a low carbohydrate diet for people with diabetes, recognizing it needs to be individualized. 60-75 grams is the carbohydrate amount I would give to a very tall, large boned man or perhaps an active teen or young adult. I would never recommend that many carbohydrates for an average size man who was trying to lose weight; he would get 45-60 grams of carbohydrates per meal and 15-30 grams for snacks. A women trying to lose weight would get 30-45 grams of carbohydrates per meal and 15 grams for snacks.
But the question remains, can you keep it off? Aside from the fact that it’s a pretty hard diet to keep up (ah, no birthday cake!), one large meta-analysis found that while low-carb dieters tended to lose more weight than low-fat dieters at first, the differences disappeared by the one-year mark. This may be because cutting carbs tends to reduce bloating and water weight, which may level out over time. But the bottom line on weight loss? Calorie restriction is calorie restriction. You just have to find what works best for you, and slashing carbs for fat might or might not work.
We have solid evidence showing that a ketogenic diet reduces seizures in children, sometimes as effectively as medication. Because of these neuroprotective effects, questions have been raised about the possible benefits for other brain disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, sleep disorders, autism, and even brain cancer. However, there are no human studies to support recommending ketosis to treat these conditions.
This article is a perfect example of the misinformation regarding diabetes and insulin resistance. The authors stance against the ketogenic diet is a simple, “its just too hard, I cant live without fruit.” She projects her lack of willpower to her audience. Ketogenic diets are a great way to reduce insulin levels and get to the root of the problem.
All of our cells need fuel to function. This fuel comes from three sources: fat, carbohydrates and protein, called macronutrients. Too much protein without fat puts us at risk for a handful of complications, so protein can never healthily serve as a primary source of fuel. We are left then with fat and carbohydrates as the main providers of energy – the energy that allow us to do everything from breathing and blinking as we veg out on the couch to swimming the English Channel. Our cells’ preferred fuel comes from carbohydrates, which are easily converted to glucose, which, in turn, is readily converted to energy. This is why athletes “carb load” before they compete. Peak performance occurs when the body has plenty of glucose and glycogen stores available at hand. When glycogen runs out, that’s when the body turns to fat. When there is no more blood sugar for our cells to consume, they seek an alternative form of energy. This energy comes from ketones, which are compounds our body produces from stored fat. So a ketogenic diet is one that is high in fat and very low in carbohydrates, resulting in the production of ketones to be used for fuel instead of glucose.
The main limitations of our study are its small sample size, short duration, and lack of control group. That the main outcome, hemoglobin A1c, improved significantly despite the small sample size and short duration of follow-up speaks to the dramatic and consistent effect of the LCKD on glycemia. For other effects, however, such as the rises in serum LDL and HDL cholesterol, the small sample size might be the reason statistical significance was not reached. Future studies of larger samples and containing a control group are needed to better address questions about the effect of the LCKD on serum lipids in patients with type 2 diabetes.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you have a history of irregular periods, any type of eating disorder, or a thyroid disorder than it may be best to begin this type of dietary program only while being guided by your doctor or a nutritionist. Pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding should not start the keto diet to be safe. A professional can help you ease into an alkaline keto diet in a moderate, safe way if you’re unsure of how to do this on your way, giving you feedback so the diet won’t negatively interfere with normal hormone production, appetite, sleep or mental focus.
A recent pilot study put five patients on the ketogenic diet (less than 20 grams per day of carbohydrate). At the end of six months, the average weight loss was 28 pounds (but this wasn’t the most surprising finding). Each patient underwent a liver biopsy, and four of the five patients had a reduction in liver fat, inflammation, and fibrosis. However, this is a small pilot study that also used supplements, so the results are not conclusive. What does the rest of the research say?
For people with Type 1 Diabetes, you probably have heard of their diabetic emergency, diabetic ketoacidosis, also referred to as DKA. This can be life threatening condition for people with Type 1 diabetes and Certified Diabetes Educators spend many hours teaching preventive care for DKA. This condition should not be confused with nutritional ketosis, the fat burning state reached when following the Ketogenic diet. The two conditions are quite different.
“When I was taught about biochemical fuel-burning, I was taught that glucose was “clean” and ketones were “smokey.” That glucose was clearly the preferred fuel for our muscles for exercise and definitely the key fuel for the brain. Except here’s the dirty little secret about glucose – when you look at the amount of garbage leftover in the mitochondria, it is actually less efficient to make ATP from glucose than it is to make ATP from ketone bodies! A more efficient energy supply makes it easier to restore membranes in the brain to their normal states after a depolarizing electrical energy spike occurs, and means that energy is produced with fewer destructive free radicals leftover.”
I have been working more seriously on my health after a major health crash 5 years ago, possible Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever/Lyme. Organ functions are getting better including heart, liver and gallbladder. Pancreas is at stage 3 insufficiency. I’m concerned about a high fat, protein diet. Still have IBS and gut infections. Thinking that just bone broth and easy to digest foods might be good at this point for healing?
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder resulting from many things, with the greatest risk factors being weight, lifestyle and dietary habits contributing to its onset. Since the disease typically starts with a sedentary lifestyle paired with a poor diet, it makes sense to approach treatment with lifestyle changes. One effective strategy is adopting a ketogenic diet, a diet that’s proven to stabilize blood glucose and promote weight loss.
But wait, there’s one loophole. Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)? Then the keto diet may help regulate your periods. “Women with PCOS have high insulin levels, which cause sex hormone imbalances,” notes Yawitz. In a small study published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, subjects with PCOS following a ketogenic diet for six months noted improvements in their menstrual cycles — and a small number of women became pregnant, overcoming previous infertility obstacles. “This study was very small, so we can’t make recommendations for all women with PCOS based on its findings,” says Yawitz. “And really, any diet that leads to weight loss should help in PCOS.”
John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.