Although the ketogenic diet was designed as a treatment for epilepsy in 1921 by Dr. Russel Wilder, MD. It’s use declined with the modern era of antiepileptic drug treatment. However, the Ketogenic diet has had a massive resurgence and has gained mainstream popularity in recent years due to its ability to assist in significant weight loss. By now, we’ve all heard that you can lose weight while following the “keto” diet. But, what is the ketogenic diet and what are the health benefits?
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet consists of consuming 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbohydrates. When eating like this it results in your body switching from burning carbohydrates (glucose) to burning fat (ketones) for energy instead. Having ketones in your body, and using fat as fuel over sugar, does have various benefits.
Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
- Weight Loss:
Multiple studies show that the ketogenic diet helps facilitate (often significant) weight loss (1). One study found that people on a ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more weight than those on a calorie-restricted low-fat diet(2). Another study found that people on the ketogenic diet lost 3 times more weight than those on the diet recommended by Diabetes UK (3).
One of the reasons for this is that fat helps us feel satiated, it fills us up and it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. As a result it helps to reduce cravings, reduce appetite, and reduce caloric intake (4, 5).
- May help to Prevent and Address Diabetes:
Because of the ketogenic diet’s effect on blood sugars research has been done on its effect utility in addressing diabetes. One study found that the ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by a whopping 75% (6). Another study in people with type 2 diabetes found that 7 of the 21 participants were able to stop using all diabetes medications (7). Please remember, it is advised that if you have diabetes and want to embark on the ketogenic diet that you speak with a qualified health care professional first and that you are monitored throughout the diet so any necessary medication adjustments can be made for your safety.
- Help Manage Neurodegenerative Diseases:
Research suggest the ketones that are generated while following the ketogenic diet can provide neuroprotective benefits, which means they can strengthen and protect brain and nerve cells (11). Not only does the ketogenic diet help to reduce seizures, but it has also been shown to slow the progression and improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, (9) as well as reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (8). In one animal study it was shown that the ketogenic diet boosted the clearance of beta-amyloid protein in the brain — the “building blocks” that, in Alzheimer’s, stick together, forming toxic plaques which interfere with neuronal signaling (10).
Research also shows improved cognitive function and improved mood. One study showed lower levels of anxiety and mood-disturbed behavior and children were rated as more productive. Cognitive test results also showed improvements (12).
For more information on Spinal Cord Injury and the ketogenic diet, click here
- Cancer Prevention
Research shows many cancers thrive on sugar, and therefore, that restricting sugar intake might help combat certain cancerous tumor growths by creating an unfavorable metabolic environment for the cancer cells (13). In addition to helping regulate blood sugar levels, a ketogenic diet could help create metabolic oxidative stress in cancer cells. This could also help make the cells more sensitive to treatments like chemotherapy and radiation (14). Research in this area is still in the early phases.
- Reducing Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
The ketogenic diet may be associated with some improvements in certain cardiovascular risk factors, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and HDL cholesterol levels (16). Research has shown that total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol often decrease while on a ketogenic diet, while “good” protective HDL cholesterol increases. Blood sugar and HbA1C (which is a blood marker that indicates a two- to three-month average of blood sugar levels) also tend to go down. Both are positive steps at reducing cardiovascular disease (15).
These are just some of the benefits of the ketogenic diet. However, the diet is difficult to implement and is often done incorrectly. It is recommended that you seek nutritional support if you want to undertake a ketogenic diet, especially if you have a health condition. Please reach out to Koru Nutrition if you would like this support, and please follow us on Facebook and Instagram for some great keto recipes!