Ketogenic diets are currently all the rage, but very few people know what ketogenesis actually is. While keto is new to the fad diet scene, it has been a mainstay of epilepsy treatment for quite some time. It is also common to see ketogenic diets referred to as a “low carb high fat” (LCHF) diet. However, some organizations make the distinction that LCHF diets are often protein restricted, while keto diets are not. Regardless of the semantics, keto is a low carbohydrate high fat diet.
How does a ketogenic diet work?
Ketogenesis refers to the formation of ketone bodies, which typically only happens during periods of prolonged fasting and starvation. Humans mainly produce three different ketone bodies: acetoacetate, acetone, and beta-hydroxybutyrate. Our bodies prioritize utilizing carbohydrates for energy because they are easier to breakdown, making the energy (glucose) from them available quickly. Upon digestion of carbohydrates insulin is released from beta cells in the pancreas. This stimulates the uptake of glucose by the bodies cells where it can be used for energy or stored. As a result, fats and proteins are stored in the body until they are needed at a later time.
In an LCHF diet, less carbohydrate availability leads to an insufficient supply of glucose to meet the bodies energy needs. When this happens, along with the increased fat intake of the diet, beta-oxidation of fatty acids occurs. This process is influenced by glucagon, which is the yin to insulin’s yang. Glucagon stimulates the breakdown of other molecules to create glucose and other energy sources. Therefore, glucagon is a key player in stimulating ketogenesis.
What are the benefits of keto?
The most studied use of ketogenic diets is the treatment of epilepsy, for which they are known to be useful. However, in recent years many people have had success losing weight with keto. While there is not a large body of evidence available on long term LCHF diets, the results of scientific studies are generally positive.
Ketogenic diets consistently produce weight loss and decreased fat mass. The main concern about long term LCHF diets is potential fatigue due to lack of carbohydrates. However, this is not the case, and studies actually show similar or even increased performance by subjects on keto.
Currently there are many studies being conducted on how keto might have benefits related to a variety of chronic diseases, the most noteworthy being cancer. This theory asserts that because cancer cells do not have the enzymes to utilize ketone bodies for energy, it may stop them from proliferating or at least slow the rate of growth. Multiple studies have shown benefits to an LCHF diet for this purpose, but larger studies are necessary before this is accepted as fact.
What foods do you eat and avoid on keto?
Foods to eat:
- Meats (Chicken, Turkey, Beef, Seafood, etc.)
- Olive Oil
- Leafy green vegetables
Foods to avoid:
- Soda and Alcoholic Beverages
Should I try a ketogenic diet?
As someone that has gone through a significant lifestyle change from not being concerned with health to being health conscious, I believe it is important that the lifestyle modifications we choose are personalized to us. When I began my journey in January of 2007, there were many crash diets out there to try. However, I knew that to make any sort of lasting change it was necessary for me to integrate foods I loved into an overall healthy lifestyle. So many of us have tried or seen people lose large amounts of weight on a fad diet only to gain it all back a year or two later. Like everything in life, healthy living requires a balance.
Many proponents of ketogenic diets make bold claims about its affects on energy, blood pressure, cholesterol, and many other factors. While these benefits exist, they are not specific to ketogenic diets. This same effects are experienced on other diets also. It is essential to choose a diet that works well with your lifestyle. The most important thing is looking at it as a lifestyle change that you will maintain indefinitely. Also, be sure to speak with your health care provider before making any significant changes to your diet.
Are you on a ketogenic/LCHF diet? Have you tried is in the past? Share your experiences in the comments below. Check out our social media and subscribe to the blog using the form below. Have a fantastic weekend, and be well.
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