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.
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The basis of the muscle wasting argument stems from a misunderstanding of the brains glucose requirements. If ketones didn’t exist the brain would require much more glucose than it does in the presence of ketones. During a low carb diet the brain would be forced to break down protein to obtain this glucose. It would do this through either dietary protein or in the absence of sufficient dietary protein, it would go after body muscle. Fortunately, once ketosis kicks in the brain is able to obtain 70-75% of its energy requirements from ketones. The remaining 25% is much more easily obtained from dietary protein and thus body muscle is spared.
Thanks for posting this Edward. While I agree that the thought of a lifetime without any sweets or any grains sounds miserable, it’s even more miserable every time I see a number above 120 on my meter, which is guaranteed to happen every time I eat even a few bites of one of those foods. Yeah, it’s stressful (and cortisol is just as much of a pain as T2D), but I want a better life and a life off of drugs. I was on three orals and two shots of insulin daily.
The original therapeutic diet for paediatric epilepsy provides just enough protein for body growth and repair, and sufficient calories[Note 1] to maintain the correct weight for age and height. The classic therapeutic ketogenic diet was developed for treatment of paediatric epilepsy in the 1920s and was widely used into the next decade, but its popularity waned with the introduction of effective anticonvulsant medications. This classic ketogenic diet contains a 4:1 ratio by weight of fat to combined protein and carbohydrate. This is achieved by excluding high-carbohydrate foods such as starchy fruits and vegetables, bread, pasta, grains, and sugar, while increasing the consumption of foods high in fat such as nuts, cream, and butter. Most dietary fat is made of molecules called long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). However, medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)—made from fatty acids with shorter carbon chains than LCTs—are more ketogenic. A variant of the classic diet known as the MCT ketogenic diet uses a form of coconut oil, which is rich in MCTs, to provide around half the calories. As less overall fat is needed in this variant of the diet, a greater proportion of carbohydrate and protein can be consumed, allowing a greater variety of food choices.
At the first visit, participants were instructed how to follow the LCKD as individuals or in small groups, with an initial goal of ≤20 g carbohydrate per day. Participants were taught the specific types and amounts of foods they could eat, as well as foods to avoid. Initially, participants were allowed unlimited amounts of meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, and eggs; 2 cups of salad vegetables per day; 1 cup of low-carbohydrate vegetables per day; 4 ounces of hard cheese; and limited amounts of cream, avocado, olives, and lemon juice. Fats and oils were not restricted except that intake of trans fats was to be minimized. Participants were provided a 3-page handout and a handbook  detailing these recommendations. Participants prepared or bought all of their own meals and snacks following these guidelines.
Type 1 diabetes is not caused by insulin resistance, but it still makes sense to lower the need for insulin. Because type 1 diabetics hardly produce any insulin, they rely on external insulin when following a standard high-carb diet. Through carb restriction, a ketogenic diet decreases the need for insulin. In some type 1 diabetics, their insulin production is sufficient when following a ketogenic diet. Others still need to inject insulin, but much less than on a high-carb diet. Overall, it is much easier to control blood sugar levels with injected insulin on a ketogenic diet because blood glucose raises only mildly after meals.
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.
You’re transitioning. Your body is equipped to process a high intake of carbs and a lower intake of fat. Your body needs to create enzymes to be able to do this. In the transitional period, the brain may run low on energy which can lead to grogginess, nausea, and headaches. If you’re having a large problem with this, you can choose to reduce carb intake gradually.
To be on the safe side, be sure to discuss with your doctor whether the keto diet is right for you before you drastically change your eating habits. While the diet has roots in medicine, its widespread use is still new, and not every doctor understands the keto diet. For more information, you can look to national programs that are gaining steam. Two examples: Virta Health, where they are studying the diet’s role in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes treatment, and the Cleveland Clinic’s Functional Ketogenics Program.
The bottom line? If you’re thinking about trying the ketogenic diet, run it by your doctor first — regardless of any preexisting health conditions. And consult a registered dietitian nutritionist (find one at EatRight.org) to find a nutrition professional who can work with you to create a meal plan you can stick to. People with kidney disease or a history of disordered eating should avoid the diet, and people with type 1 diabetes may want to avoid it, as well. If you have risk factors for heart disease, you’ll want to speak with your doctor before considering the diet.
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And while some fats can be healthy, there’s a risk that in following a high-fat diet, you’ll increase your intake of unhealthy trans and saturated fats. These “bad” fats are found in things like red meat, poultry skin, cheese, and butter, and can lead to an increase in LDL, or “bad” cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease. (14) This is a controversial issue, as some experts do recommend adopting a low-carbohydrate diet to lower heart disease risk. If you’re at risk or have heart disease, it’s important to speak with your doctor first about your health needs.
The fact is that compared to many vegetables, fruit is actually a pretty poor source of vitamins and minerals. And grains? Not only can the trace vitamins and minerals in grains be found more richly in meats, dairy and other keto friendly foods–there is speculation that phytates and tannins found in grains can block absorption of some vitamins and minerals.
When you restrict carbohydrates, the body begins to process electrolytes in a different way. This is because, under conditions of low insulin, the kidneys excrete more sodium. Since there is a delicate balance between sodium and other electrolytes in the body, this increase in sodium excretion can have a knock-on effect and disrupt other electrolytes as well.
As both study groups acknowledge, additional research is needed to tease out any and all of the factors that may be producing the weight loss and decrease in HbA1c, says Dr. Gonzalez-Campoy, for example there may be other mechanisms of action that are helping these individuals to achieve weight loss, including changes in the gut microbiome, increased insulin sensitivity, enhanced leptin response, and decreased ghrelin levels, each of which contribute to weight loss.
Having said that, there are also studies suggesting that long term carbohydrate restriction diets (aka. the keto diet) may result in fast short term weight loss but people gain it all back in the long term. An RCT put 63 individuals on a low-fat diet or a low carb diet, and the study found the low carb dieters lost more weight compared to the low fat group by month 3 and 6, but that the weight loss evened out by month 12. This was confirmed by a Meta-analysis which found that while low-carbers lost more weight than low-fat dieters but the differences disappeared by the one year mark.
I suffered through a year on 20 grams of carbs per day and it was the worst year of my life. Yep, I lost weight, but at my current weight of 130 lbs and eating 30 carbs per meal and remaining in a prediabetes state for 15 years, I am healthy AND happy now. None of us know the long term effects of most of what is offered to us…medications, diet drinks, processed foods, restrictive diets. The point I was trying to make was eating healthier, more natural foods will be better in the long run, I believe we all have the common sense to agree on that, even if we can’t agree on how many carbs we will eat!
Mild ketosis is a natural phenomenon that occurs in humans during fasting and lactation (19,20). Postexercise ketosis is a well-known phenomenon in mammals. Although most of the changes in the physiological parameters induced following exercise revert back to their normal values rapidly, the level of circulating ketone bodies increases for a few hours after muscular activity ceases (21). It has been found that in trained individuals, a low blood ketone level protects against the development of hypoglycemia during prolonged intermittent exercise (22). In addition, ketosis has a significant influence on suppressing hunger. Thus, a ketogenic diet is a good regulator of the body’s calorie intake and mimics the effect of starvation in the body.
Adequate food records were available for analysis in a proportion of participants at each of the 4 timepoints (Table (Table2).2). Participants completed food records at a mean of 2.5 and a median of 3 timepoints. In general, comparing baseline to subsequent timepoints, mean carbohydrate intake decreased substantially and energy intake decreased moderately while protein and fat intake remained fairly constant.
Is the keto diet safe for diabetics? Most research shows that yes, it is. However, even though the KD can help reduce insulin resistance while someone adheres to the diet’s principles and strictly limits their carb intake, these positive effects may be short-lasting. Results from some animal studies show that insulin resistence/glucose intolerance may potentially be increased once carbs are reintroduced back into the diet.
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.
In a study of 51 obese people using an extremely low fat low calorie diet (just one gram of fat a day!) the gallbladder was examined by ultrasound before the diet and after one and two months. After one month four of the 51 participants had developed new gallstones. After two months more than one in four (13 people) had new gallstones! This on an almost fat free diet. Three participants needed to have their gallbladder removed during the study.
Thank you for your objective review of the Keto Diet. I am not overweight but decided to try the Keto lifestyle because I have a lot of inflammation issues, including asthma and osteoarthritis. I had also been experiencing uncomfortable intestinal issues. I have been following the Keto lifestyle for 4 1/2 weeks, and I feel so much better- especially my stomach! I am eating a ton of leafy greens, broccoli and cauliflower. I am also enjoying Brussel sprouts, whole avacados and zucchini. I think the reason this is working well for me is because my body chemistry loves all the vegetables, good fats and protein. I also think that taking away sugar has had a big impact on how I feel. I’m just not eating grains and sugar. lots more veggies, berries, and consciously incorporating healthy fat. My stomach is flat again, and I have no more bloating or constipation. I have only lost 5 pounds, but I think my system is clean and operating better than it has in years. My point is that every person’s body chemistry is different. The Keto lifestyle seems to be what My body needed to feel my best. I did experience “the Keto flu” about a week into it, but it was short lived. I think that to be successful it is really important to eat a wide variety of veggies and good fats every day.
Depending on how you choose your fats, the keto diet can contain an abundance of saturated fat, which raises levels of dangerous LDL cholesterol and causes atherosclerosis, the buildup of fats and cholesterol in the arteries. If you decide to go keto, have a doctor monitor your cholesterol levels monthly to ensure you remain within a healthy range.
I know a few people who struggle with keeping on the low carb diet and staying in ketosis. They introduced me to a exogenous drink called keto/os that is a natural energy drink that contains ketones. It gets you into ketosis within an hour!!! This can be tested in the blood and they showed me the results and it works!!! Not only that but it dropped their blood sugars as well. I am now on the product myself for other reasons but just thought I would share it. Let me know if you want more info.
My son started the Keto Diet (not perfectly) with the ok of his Dr and a Different Oral Chemo at the same time. Last Tuesday an MRI indicated no new growth or no new tumors. We don’t know if the new Chemo, Keto diet, lots of prays or what has stopped the tumors from growing.I found your site after looking for possible adverse reactions to Keto Diets, and appreciate your research. His platelets are low now and never have been low before. This is stopping the next Chemo treatment. I understand that being on Chemo for 12 months could have created the low platelets and now the possibility that the Keto Diet could also be causing low platelets is frustrating. They will do a new blood test Tuesday to see if the platelets have increased. Any suggestions about how if possible to increase the platelets on the Keto Diet would be helpful.
This means that instead of generating tons of ketones from the very beginning, most people experience hypoglycemia for a period of time. With hypoglycemia comes a disruption in cortisol signaling which is what accounts for the HPA axis dysfunction. Finally, HPA axis dysfunction leads to an increase in secretion of minerals from the body in the urine.
Keto breath, on the other hand, is less of a side-effect and more of a harmless inconvenience (your breath literally smells like nail polish remover). Basically, when your body breaks down all that extra fat on the keto diet, it produces ketones—one of which is the chemical acetone, Keatley previously told WomensHealthMag.com. (Yes, the same stuff that's in nail polish remover.)
"Most people who wind up trying a ketogenic diet and then deciding not to continue do so because of the emotional and lifestyle consequences," Turoff says. To put it simply, people miss eating carbohydrates. "That doesn't mean that you should be eating pizza or cupcakes every day, but what about having a sweet potato with a meal, or beans in a chili? Or fresh watermelon in the summer?" Turoff asks. "Whether or not we want to admit it, food plays much more than just a physical role in our lives and having such restrictions on the types of foods you can and can't eat can really take a toll. It might be easy in the short-term to go for carb-free foods but at a certain point, the thought of not being able to eat your favorite foods again can become daunting."
A related clinical diet for drug-resistant epilepsy is called the medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diet, in which MCT oil is extensively used because it’s more ketogenic than long-chain triglycerides. (13) Another dietary therapy for epilepsy called Low Glycemic Index Treatment (LGIT) was developed in 2002 as an alternative to the keto diet. LGIT monitors the total amount of carbohydrates consumed daily, and focuses on carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index.) (14)
Type 1 diabetics, for now, nearly always need some insulin. How much they need and how effective the exogenous insulin is at controlling their blood sugars largely depends on how well they followed a well-formulated low-carb or ketogenic diet. What it comes down to is that the diet allows you to deal with the easier task: covering your basal insulin needs. Off the diet, people are faced with the harder task: covering basal insulin needs + those arising from carby foods.
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.
There are different reasons people might want to achieve ketosis. For certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy, it might be necessary to see the benefits of the diet. For everyday dieters, it might be for the more anecdotal side effects, such as a clearer head. But it can be risky for certain folks, like those with kidney issues, according to experts at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
Experts are split on whether the keto diet is a good idea. On the one hand, Lori Chang, registered dietitian and a supervisor at the Center for Healthy Living at Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles, says using a “cleaner” source of energy—ketones rather than quick-burning carbohydrates—can improve mood and energy levels. When you eat refined carbohydrates or just too many carbs in general, the blood is flooded with excess insulin, Chang says. "This can lead to a blood sugar rollercoaster that stresses the body and negatively impacts energy levels and mood. When you’re in a state of ketosis, however, ketone bodies don’t require insulin to cross the blood-brain barrier, which wards off unfavorable blood sugar levels."
I had 3 medical stents inserted for clogged arteries 11 years ago and I currently take a statin to keep my cholesterol at a healthy level and I also take a low dose diuretic to help keep my blood pressure at a good level. I am very much interested in the Keto Diet but I have some fears that eating foods which are high in saturated fats such as animal fats, butter, heavy cream and cheeses which I believe raise triglyceride levels which I have heard are a major contributor to blockages in the arteries. I would like to see more input from those who share a similar health history as mine and are on a Keto Diet. I was wondering if I can be on a Keto Diet and limit my fats to Olive Oil, Avocados, and the oils we get from fish such as Salmon, Sardines etc. or is it just a myth about saturated fats from butted, cheese and animal fats being bad for you?
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.
Another earlier study published in the journal, Nutrition and Metabolism, finds that both a low-glycemic index, reduced-calorie diet and a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet can improve glycemic control, encourage weight loss, and reduce or eliminate the need for diabetic medication over a 24-week period with the lower carbohydrate keto diet being “most effective for improving glycemic control.”
Another thing we know about diets and weight loss is that the results are not easily maintained. I’ve written about this in depth with regards to the participants on the Biggest Loser. This was evident in a study analyzing 31 long term studies on dieting, which found 2/3 of dieters put back the weight they lost. Other research has reported the failure rate may be as high as 95%. This isn’t specific to the keto diet but rather, any diet that is restrictive and unrealistic may be nearly impossible to sustain.
Fresh fruits supply only a small fraction of the fructose Americans consume (the biggest source is sugary beverages). Sugar in fruit is accompanied by healthful nutrients and antioxidants, as well as fiber, which slows absorption of fructose so it’s highly unlikely that the fructose in even very sweet fruit could have any undesirable health effects.
Weight loss often means feeling hungrier and fighting off more cravings, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case when you go keto. People report less hunger and a diminished desire to eat after adopting a ketogenic diet, according to an analysis of 26 studies. Experts don’t fully understand why, but it’s thought that very low carb diets could suppress the production of hunger hormones like ghrelin.
Those issues can be part of what's known as the “keto flu,” Warren says. Other side effects of the keto diet, all of which are tied to carb withdrawal, can include lightheadedness, nausea, mental fog, cramps, and headaches, in addition to tiredness. Luckily, the keto flu doesn't usually last more than a week—which is coincidentally about when people start to see the number on the scale go down, says Warren.
Thank you so much for this article! My husband and I have been following keto for a little over a month now and we love it! I did a lot of research before starting, and am still doing lots of research because I like to be armed with the best information I can have when friends question my choices. Just yesterday I had a friend tell me that our brains need carbs to function (more than what we get from veggies). I hadn’t heard that before so I didn’t know what to answer. Thanks to your article now I know, and I have lots more answers in case more points come up. 😉
No Pete, this is not true. What you have mentioned is based on the seven country epidemiological study done by Ancel Keys in the 1970s. This entire study was based on flawed science. Ancel Keys cherry picked the data that supported his argument for the foundation for his hypothesis. Although this hypothesis was never backed by scientific evidence the mainstream medical system took it as gospel in creating standards for the health professionals.
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