Ketogenic Diet Benefits
Brain Function: Did you know that before medications were created, the main treatment for epilepsy was a ketogenic diet? There was one study done in The Lancet Neurology Journal that showed children who were put on a ketogenic diet had greater than a 50% reduction in seizures and 16% of them actually became seizure free. There is now a foundation called The Charlie Foundation name after a boy, Charlie, who after only 4 days following a ketogenic diet that his father put him on, became seizure free.
The destruction of brain cells and brain atrophy leads to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Sjorgens disease, and almost every neurodegenerative condition that we are aware of. These diseases mainly occur due to mitochondrial dysfunction. The mitochondria are known as the “powerhouse” of our cells because they produce most of the energy within our body. The amount of energy you have is based on how well your mitochondria are working and guess what macronutrient/energy our mitochondria are designed to use? You guessed it: fat. When we begin to have problems with our mitochondria, things go wrong because the byproducts of mitochondria dysfunction are free radical production and oxidative stress, which damage our tissues, cells, organs, muscles, and DNA. Dementia and Autism are diseases highly affected by oxidative stress.
Diseases known to be caused by oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction? Autism, depression, bipolar disease, brain aging, Parkinson’s, ADHD, congestive heart failure, autoimmune disorders, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Ketogenic diets have been closely researched and proven to slow or even prevent these diseases from occurring.
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Insulin Sensitivity: Think of it this way: less sugar (carbs) coming in, less sugar driving up insulin levels. Here is what happens when we eat carbohydrates: the carbs are broken down into simple sugars (mostly in the form of glucose) in the digestive tract and then they enter the bloodstream, which elevates blood sugar levels. We know that high blood sugar levels are toxic for our body, and since our body also knows that, it releases insulin, a hormone that transports circulating glucose into our cells to either burn it for energy or store it for later use. When your body fails to secrete enough insulin to lower your blood sugar levels after a meal containing carbohydrate, you develop type II diabetes. A simple solution to improve insulin sensitivity? A low-carb/ketogenic diet. By decreasing carbohydrate intake to a very minimal amount and replacing them with healthy fats, you remove the need for all of that insulin, since fats have a very minimal impact on blood sugar levels. In one study that was done on type II diabetics, 95.2% had managed to reduce or eliminate their glucose- lowering medication within 6 months after going on a low-carb/ketogenic diet. It still amazes me that my fiancé (she’s an RN) tells me that some of her patients who are type II diabetics are eating pancakes and oatmeal for breakfast. Doesn’t anyone else see a problem with this?
Anti-inflammatory: This is one of the best benefits for athletes and intense trainers who lift weights on a daily/weekly basis. A high carbohydrate diet is the main reason for chronic inflammation. High insulin levels, which are caused by an influx of carbohydrate, lead to the inflammation cascade. By cutting carbohydrate intake, you negate this effect. By reducing inflammation, your body is able to recover from workout sessions much quicker and more efficiently, and you are able to perform at a higher level, while decreasing your risk of injury. When our bodies are burning glucose, they are producing a high amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS, or oxygen free radicals, are highly reactive molecules that are produced by the mitochondria, which end up causing damage to proteins and membrane polyunsaturated fats. Reactive oxygen species are also highly linked to inflammation and aging. A well-formulated low-carb/ketogenic diet reduces inflammation, since the burning of ketones, our body’s primary fuel source once keto-adapted, results in less production of ROS and an increase in antioxidant defenses.
Many people also experience inflammation due to their excessive intake of omega-6 fats in comparison to their omega-3 fat intake. Omega-6 fats are highly correlated with inflammation, so the more omega- 6 fat you eat, the more inflammation you will experience within your body. The other problem with this is that a higher intake of omega -6 fats can collide with omega-3 fat metabolism, throwing off the balance between the two. Increasing omega-3 fat intake has consistently shown to be beneficial for reducing inflammation, decreasing blood triglycerides, and aiding in the recovery from workout sessions.
Muscle-sparing: What I really mean is protein-sparing, but that is what our muscles are made up of, specifically amino acids. By adopting a ketogenic diet, you naturally increase the production of ketones, which increases the production or circulating branched-chain amino acids, which then leads to protein being protected from oxidation and breakdown. Also remember, research has shown that blood leucine, which is an amino acid known for regulating protein synthesis and the rebuilding of lean tissue, increases on a ketogenic diet.
Increased Fat Oxidation: Eating carbohydrates will raise insulin levels. Insulin blunts fat oxidation. Even if you are eating “complex” carbohydrates and those considered healthy that don’t produce a dramatic spike in insulin, insulin will still be released. With the slightest changes in insulin, big changes in fat breakdown occur, and these changes happen almost immediately. There are many hormones that play a role in lipolysis (fat breakdown), but it is clear that insulin is the “boss” that will determine if fat mobilization will be slowed or stopped completely. Think of it this way: if insulin levels are high, burning fat for energy is drastically low. If insulin levels are low, fat is being oxidized to a high degree. With a low-carb/ketogenic diet, you keep insulin levels low, which results in significant changes in fat metabolism, leading to better fat oxidation and less of a chance of storing fat.
Body Composition: Without even weighing or measuring portions, a low-carb/high-fat diet consistently beats the competition in terms of losing overall weight. Dr. Jeff Volek’s study also proves that gaining lean mass, while simultaneously losing fat mass, is no longer a miracle; it can and does happen while on a low- carb/ketogenic diet. When people say they want to “tone”, they really just want to lose body fat so that they can see their muscles more. A low -carb/high-fat approach to your nutrition will be the sure- fire way of doing so. By decreasing your overall weight, especially body fat, everything about your life improves: your health, self- image, daily tasks and functions such as walking up the stairs, playing with your children, and doing chores around the house, your thinking, mood, and energy levels, all contributing to a better quality of life.
Time to Fatigue: Especially in marathon runners and endurance athletes. We only have so much glucose available in the form of glycogen (~600 grams), no matter how much you “carb-load”. Once you use up this glucose, you experience a fuel crisis because your body does not know how to start efficiently burning fat for fuel, even though you literally have hundreds of thousands of calories available for energy in the form of fat! By becoming keto-adapted (2-4 weeks in ketosis), you never have to worry about fuel crisis or running out of energy because your body is now efficient at mobilizing fat for energy, leading to better performance, enhanced cognitive function, and better recovery from exercise.
Overall Health: Literally everything about your health is improved while on a low-carb/ketogenic diet. Lower blood pressure, lower total cholesterol (in most people) with increases in HDL, lower blood triglycerides, better gut and immune health, lower fasting blood sugar levels, decreased body fat – especially visceral fat which decreases inflammation, insulin resistance, and risk of heart disease, longevity and aging, decreased risk of cancer, diabetes, and obesity, improved cardiovascular function and heart health, and decreased stress, to name a FEW. There was a study done in 2010 that took a look at the effects of a high- fat diet on markers of aging. Participants who were given a low- carb/high-fat diet showed health improvements across the board: Serum leptin decreased by an average of 8 percent, blood triglycerides decreased by almost 80 percent, insulin dropped by 48 percent, fasting glucose decreased by 40 percent, and thyroid hormone improved by almost 6 percent.
Download Top Ketogenic Diet eBook. Click here to download it.