I’m discouraged to see that nowhere in the article nor in the comments is there a mention of a diet’s best fit to genetics. Consider if someone is an APOE E2 carrier and/or has certain polymorphisms of the APO5 gene. These are quite rare in Okinawa but much more prevalent in the USA (12% of the population). According to a number of well-designed studies, these genetic characteristics point to a higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet as beneficial and even a “moderate” carb diet as problematic.
The keto diet dates back to the 1920s, explains Michelle Hyman, MS, RD, CDN a registered dietitian at Simple Solutions Weight Loss. "The original keto diet was designed for patients with forms of epilepsy that were resistant to standard treatments. The macronutrient breakdown was designed to mimic the fasting state — which seemed to help with relieving seizures — yet provide energy and nutritions to function," Hyman says.
"On a ketogenic diet, your intake of fruits and vegetables is extremely limited, and we all know how important the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds in fruits and veggies are," says Libby Parker, R.D., a dietitian who specializes in treatment and prevention of eating disorders. It's true: There are a lot of healthy but high-carb foods you can't eat on the ketogenic diet. That's one of the reasons keto is usually pretty low in fiber, which isn't so great long-term. "Fiber is not only protective against many gastrointestinal cancers, it is also a big factor in fullness and weight loss," Parker explains. "Furthermore, constipation is very common on low-fiber diets like the keto diet." (That said, These Healthy, High-Fat Foods Can Help You Feel Full Longer.)
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.
“If someone with diabetes is [taking insulin or oral type 2 meds in the sulfonylurea or meglitinide class and is] following this diet, they need to know that their blood sugar can drop really quickly, so it’s critical that they check it more frequently,” says Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, CDE, author of Diabetes Meal Planning & Nutrition for Dummies. “Don’t wait for it to happen. Meet with your doctor or diabetes educator in advance so that you can troubleshoot exactly what to do if your blood sugar drops.” If it’s an infrequent occurrence, you may be advised to treat with fast-acting glucose. But frequent lows may require medication adjustments or the addition of more carbs to your eating plan.
There is exciting research on the role of a keto diet as a form of treatment for cancer. In one study, the use of a keto diet on patients with advanced cancer was deemed safe, and some evidence suggested it played a role in stabilizing the disease or resulting partial remission. In another study, the keto diet was used as a form of therapy for patients with malignant brain cancer. The study found that the keto diet may carry anti-tumor effects when administered in experimental animal and human brain tumors. The researchers believe this may be due to the reduction in calories, which reduces the circulating glucose needed for tumor growth. It is still unsure whether a keto diet per se plays a role in this or simply calorie restriction. All of this is to say that the research is preliminary, however still promising.
We recently published an article documenting the grim long-term effects of low-carbohydrate diets, in which we explain the evidence-based research showing that low-carbohydrate diets high in fat and protein including meat, dairy products, eggs, fish, and oil actually worsen diabetes health, increase cancer risk, increase cholesterol, increase atherosclerosis, harden blood vessels, and increase all-cause mortality.
It’s important to note, however, that most of the research is being done on diseases and disorders, not specifically weight loss. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been evidence of weight loss as a benefit of the eating pattern, just that the studies performed specifically for the benefits for long-term weight loss are limited. There’s anecdotal evidence out there, of course, but there was evidence of weight loss associated with a low-fat diet in the '90s… until that farce came falling down around our collective shoulders as the long-term evidence came rolling in to the contrary.
A second counterintuitive approach to healing the gut for children who are having a hard time gaining is to encourage a nice long ‘fast’ over night. When the gut is less full, and the body can digest the food that’s in there completely and then it can repair an inflamed or leaky gut better. If the gut is inflamed, food may be passing right through without being absorbed. In addition, growth hormone raises during periods of fasting.
Finding keto-friendly foods can be difficult at social gatherings — so consider bringing your own snacks. “If I know the restaurant where I’m meeting my family or friends, I usually look through the menu in advance and see if there’s something I can eat,” says Lele. “Salads are generally safe, with ranch or another low-carb dressing and a non-marinated protein. There are a lot of hidden carbs in restaurant food!”
Some people just won’t do as well as others on a ketogenic diet. In particular, high energy demand athletes often choose to consume more nutritious carbs than advised per keto guidelines. Females with metabolic damage from a history of yo-yo dieting, or thyroid or adrenal dysfunction, also report difficulty with prolonged carb restriction to promote keto.
Earlier in this article, I briefly mentioned how consuming too much sugar can impair brain function and cause plaque build up in the brain. Many studies on Alzheimer’s disease patients agree with the biochemistry as well. In fact, A group of scientists reviewed the literature and concluded that “high carbohydrate intake worsens cognitive performance and behavior in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.” This means that eating more carbohydrates cause more problems in the brain. Will the opposite (eating fewer carbs) improve brain function?
The benefits above are the most common ones. But there are others that are potentially even more surprising and – at least for some people – life changing. Did you know that a keto diet can help treat high blood pressure, may result in less acne, may help control migraine, might help with certain mental health issues and could have a few other potential benefits?
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