A so-called Ketogenic Diet (very low carb, very high fat) diet is currently being studied to treat various disorders. And the best known therapeutic application of this diet is treating drug-resistant epilepsy in children.
This diet involves eating very few carbohydrates and large amounts of fat, leading to greatly increased concentrations of ketones in the blood. For some reason, the diet dramatically reduces the rate of seizures in epileptic children. Yes! Of course, even those who haven’t had success with multiple different types of drugs.
As an example, the fatty acids in Coconut Oil get shipped to the liver and are basically turned into ketones. Whereby, they are often used in epileptic patients to induce ketosis. While at the same time, allowing for a bit more carbs in the diet.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
By definition, Ketogenic Diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low-carb diets. It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain. Ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has numerous health benefits.
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
- A standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein, and only 5% carbs.
- The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
- A targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
- High-protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.
However, only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.
What are ketones?
Everyone has ketones, whether you have diabetes or not. Ketones are chemicals made in your liver. You produce them when you don’t have enough insulin in your body to turn sugar (or glucose) into energy. You need another source, so your body uses fat instead.
Your liver turns this fat into ketones, a type of acid, and sends them into your bloodstream. Your muscles and other tissues can then use them for fuel. For a person without diabetes, this process doesn’t become an issue. When you have diabetes, however, you can build up too many ketones in your blood — and too many ketones can become life-threatening.
You might need a ketone test if you have type 1 diabetes. In this type, your immune system attacks and destroys cells in your pancreas that make insulin. Without it, your blood sugar rises. People with type 2 diabetes can also get excessive ketones, but it isn’t as common as it is with type 1.
Tests can show you when your level gets high so you can treat it before you get sick.
Excessive ketone bodies can produce a dangerously toxic level of acid in the blood, called ketoacidosis. During ketoacidosis, the kidneys begin to excrete ketone bodies along with body water in the urine, causing some fluid-related weight loss.
Ketoacidosis most often occurs in individuals with type 1 diabetes because they do not produce insulin, a hormone that prevents the overproduction of ketones. However, in a few rare cases, ketoacidosis has been reported to occur in nondiabetic individuals following a prolonged very low carbohydrate diet.
Many versions of ketogenic diets exist, but all ban carb-rich foods. Some of these foods may be obvious: starches from both refined and whole grains like bread, cereals, pasta, rice, and cookies; potatoes, corn, and other starchy vegetables; and fruit juices. Some that may not be so obvious are beans, legumes, and most fruits.
Most ketogenic plans allow foods high in saturated fat, such as fatty cuts of meat, processed meats, lard, and butter, as well as sources of unsaturated fats, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, plant oils, and oily fish. Depending on your source of information, ketogenic food lists may vary and even conflict.
How does Ketogenic Diet Work?
People use a ketogenic diet most often to lose weight, but it can help manage certain medical conditions, like epilepsy, too.
It also may help people with heart disease, certain brain diseases, and even acne, but there needs to be more research in those areas. Talk with your doctor first to find out if it’s safe for you to try a ketogenic diet, especially if you have type 1 diabetes.
When you eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day, your body eventually runs out of fuel (blood sugar) it can use quickly. This typically takes 3 to 4 days.
Then you’ll start to break down protein and fat for energy, which can make you lose weight. This is called ketosis. It’s important to note that the ketogenic diet is a short term diet that’s focussed on weight loss rather than the pursuit of health benefits.
Here are the Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet;
1. Epilepsy Control
Ketogenic diets have helped control seizures caused by this condition since the 1920s. But again, it’s important to work with your doctor to figure out what’s right for you or your child.
These affect your brain and spine, as well as the nerves that link them together. Epilepsy is one, but others may be helped by a ketogenic diet as well. Including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and sleep disorders.
Scientists aren’t sure why, but it may be that the ketones your body makes when it breaks down fat for energy help protect your brain cells from damage.
2. Cancer Protection
Insulin is a hormone that lets your body use or store sugar as fuel. Ketogenic diets make you burn through this fuel quickly, so you don’t need to store it.
This means your body needs — and makes — less insulin. Those lower levels may help protect you against some kinds of cancer or even slow the growth of cancer cells. More research is needed on this, though.
3. Heart Disease
It seems strange that a diet that calls for more fat can raise “good” cholesterol and lower “bad” cholesterol, but ketogenic diets are linked to just that.
It may be because the lower levels of insulin that result from these diets can stop your body from making more cholesterol. That means you’re less likely to have high blood pressure, hardened arteries, heart failure, and other heart conditions. It’s unclear, however; how long these effects last.
4. Weight Loss
A ketogenic diet may help you lose more weight in the first 3 to 6 months than some other diets.
This may be because it takes more calories to change fat into energy than it does to change carbs into energy. It’s also possible that a high-fat, high-protein diet satisfies you more, so you eat less, but that hasn’t been proved yet.
5. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
This is when a woman’s ovaries get larger than they should be and small fluid-filled sacs form around the eggs. High levels of insulin can cause it.
Ketogenic diets, which lower both the amount of insulin you make and the amount you need, may help treat it, along with other lifestyle changes, like exercise and weight loss.
6. Skin Care
Carbohydrates have been linked to this skin condition, so cutting down on them may help. And the drop in insulin that a ketogenic diet can trigger may also help stop acne breakouts.
Important to realize, insulin can cause your body to make other hormones that bring on outbreaks. Still, more research is needed to determine exactly how much effect, if any, the diet actually has on acne.
7. Diabetes Control
Low-carb diets seem to help keep your blood sugar lower and more predictable than other diets. But when your body burns fat for energy, it makes compounds called ketones.
If you have diabetes, particularly type 1, too many ketones in your blood can make you sick. So it’s very important to work with your doctor on any changes in your diet.
8. Exercise Endurance
A ketogenic diet may help endurance athletes — runners and cyclists, for example — when they train.
Over time, it helps your muscle-to-fat ratio and raises the amount of oxygen your body is able to use when it’s working hard. But while it might help in training, it may not work as well as other diets for peak performance.
The more common side effects of the dietary plan aren’t usually serious: You might have constipation, mild low blood sugar, or indigestion.
Much less often, low-carb diets can lead to kidney stones or high levels of acid in your body (acidosis). Other side effects can include the “keto flu,” which may include headache, weakness, and irritability; bad breath; and fatigue.
When your body burns its stores of fat, it can be hard on your kidneys. And starting a ketogenic diet — or going back to a normal diet afterward — can be tricky if you’re obese because of other health issues you’re likely to have, like diabetes, a heart condition, or high blood pressure. If you have any of these conditions, make diet changes slowly and only with the guidance of your doctor.
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