Benefits of Keto Diet
In Part III of this series, I will introduce the main effects of the ketogenic diet on hunger, metabolism, and inflammation as well as how the diet should be implemented.
The modern-day normalization of three whole meals, plus snacks, every day is far removed from humans’ evolutionary eating patterns.
In the previous section, the ketogenic diet was broken down into the detailed physiological processes of ketosis. The body essentially switches to catabolism, in which it breaks down its own fat and muscle tissue when a person eats little to no carbohydrates. Then through anabolism, liver cell mitochondria build this tissue into ketone bodies to fuel the brain and body since it doesn’t have enough glucose from food.
A scientific study1 conducted in 2007 indicates that a ketogenic diet increases the metabolism of body fat, meaning that individuals looking to reduce body fat and increase metabolism will likely be satisfied with the primary results of a ketogenic diet.
However, studies have not yet been conducted for a long enough time to show whether a long-term ketogenic diet has a positive impact on metabolism. For this reason, a person considering the diet must consult with their physician to determine how it may uniquely affect their specific metabolism, body, and overall health.
A correctly implemented ketogenic diet leads to weight loss. It enables new means by which the body generates and processes energy, subsequently resulting in a multitude of health benefits.
Further results of this study showed a correlation between the ketogenic diet and the reduction of insulin secretion. Since the ketogenic diet causes the body to use ketone bodies rather than carbohydrates for energy, the body accommodates this change by adjusting the release of insulin, a hormone that helps the body process and store glucose.
Although decreased insulin may initially appear dangerous for individuals with diabetes, a ketogenic diet can actually help2 because it not only triggers healthy weight loss and an increase in metabolism, but it significantly decreases blood sugar and decreases the person’s overall need for insulin. This process must be closely monitored and balanced to keep the diet safe, especially since those with diabetes have issues processing and/or producing insulin in the first place.
It’s also important to mention that when unmonitored, the ketogenic diet can lead to a potentially fatal condition called ketoacidosis in which there are too many ketones in the blood for the body to manage. Usually, people produce sufficient amounts of insulin to control excess ketone bodies. Still, those with diabetes are unable to do so. Individuals with health conditions should, thus, be especially careful and well-informed when considering this diet with the advice of a licensed physician.
For people interested in triggering weight loss and improving their relationships with food, the ketogenic diet can be a helpful way to accomplish their goals. The diet’s initial result of fat loss can benefit individuals struggling with weight loss. The strict regimen required for success introduces healthy habits of monitoring food intake and helps one become more intentional about the foods that are eaten daily. Whether someone incorporates the ketogenic diet temporarily or adopts it as a long-term lifestyle change, they will likely experience a shift in their mentality about diet and come away with improved awareness about their own physical and mental relationship with food.
Among discussions about the ketogenic diet and its benefits, reducing inflammation and triggering neuroprotective properties are some of the most prominent features. Throughout the past decade, scientific research on the effect of ketones has shown that ketone bodies inhibit NF-kB and NLRP33 , proteins that trigger an inflammatory response in the cells in which they’re activated. In Parkinson’s disease, these proteins are released into the brain and lead to neuronal death. Furthermore, ketone bodies inhibit the effect of HDACs, proteins associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. A state of ketosis thus shows promise for reducing the types of inflammation4 associated with memory loss and progression of neurodegenerative disease5 . Whether people are looking for a way to prevent disease and cancer in the future or to reduce their current inflammation levels, the ketogenic diet is a potential option to help them achieve these goals.
Protecting/improving mitochondrial function:
Additionally, ketosis is correlated with lower levels of oxidative stress in the body. During “normal” metabolism, carbohydrates are broken down through glycolysis, a process that occurs in mitochondria and results in the release of reactive oxygen species (ROS). This oxidative stress is dangerous to cells, particularly as it damages mitochondria, and it often leads to the progression of cancer and neurodegeneration. The metabolism of ketones, however, produces significantly less ROS than glycolysis and decreases the accumulation of metabolites associated with the progression of neurological diseases. As ketone bodies have also been shown to stimulate the growth of new mitochondria6 , the ketogenic diet shows promise for preventing the development of neurological diseases and cancer.
On Intermittent Fasting…
One additional way to reap the benefits of ketone bodies is through intermittent fasting.
This style of eating entails a planned fasting period among set eating periods and can be approached in different ways.
- The 16/8 method is accomplished by setting an 8-hour eating window each day and fasting during the remaining 16 hours; most people simply skip breakfast or refrain from eating after dinner to implement this diet.
- Other methods include the 5:2 diet, eating normally 5 days a week and reducing calories to 500-600 for 2 days, and “eat-stop-eat” in which a 24-hour fast is completed once or twice per week.
- After 8-12 hours of fasting (long-term fasting), ketone levels in the blood start rising and as a result, cellular pathways are activated that reduce oxidative stress & inflammation, increase mitochondrial regulation, and improve the body’s resilience to cancer and injury.
The modern-day normalization of three whole meals, plus snacks, every day is far removed from humans’ evolutionary eating patterns. Many of the impressive and significant benefits of fasting come from intrinsic cellular pathways activated during fasting periods, but they remain untapped because of the excessive and constant style of eating seen today. For this reason, intermittent fasting is an additional means by which people can improve their short- and long-term health by making simple alterations not only in what they eat, but how and when they enjoy meals.
With the myriad of benefits resulting from the ketogenic diet7 , many people may decide to try it or incorporate it as a lifestyle of eating. Prior to choosing the diet, it’s important to consider the types of foods you’ll be eating and remember that including a healthy variety of food sources is critical to maintaining your health. Eating keto isn’t just about eating steak and butter – when focusing on incorporating healthy fats and proteins into your diet, also consider the types of nutrients you may be eliminating along with your typical carbohydrate sources. As the ketogenic diet is strict and only effective when properly followed, intermittent fasting is an additional way to achieve some of the benefits resulting from the body’s use of ketones for energy.
Furthermore, the ketogenic diet can easily leave out many vitamins found in fruits and whole grains, so pay careful attention to the supplements you may need to include to provide your body with the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that it needs.
Additionally, you should consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet so that they can make recommendations based on your unique metabolism and dietary requirements.
With the correct information and approach, a ketogenic diet and/or intermittent fasting could significantly improve your current health and future wellbeing, helping you achieve your goals and optimize your quality of life.
Further reading and ongoing studies
2Keto can help diabetes: https://paleoleap.com/insulin-and-keto-what-you-need-to-know/
4Antioxidant/anti-inflammatory effect, neuroprotection: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5981249/
5Neurological diseases & neuroprotection: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fneur.2019.00585/full
Ketosis protects mt and inc. mt biosynthesis:
7Keto diet, detailed overview: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/
8Intermittent fasting, studies: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1905136
Intermittent fasting, styles: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-ways-to-do-intermittent-fasting#section3
Long term fasting: https://www.marksdailyapple.com/keto/long-term-keto/