The ketogenic diet is definitely getting lots of attention from health trendsetters. But does the keto diet really stack up to the hype? Let’s take a look at some of the most recent research to help us discern fact and fiction.
Ethan Weiss, M.D., and Raymond Swanson, M.D., researchers at University of California in San Francisco (UCSF), put the keto diet to the test. They set out to explore the claims that this high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet helps the body shed excess weight and benefits heart health. The researchers also researched the impact that “going keto” has on the brain. Finally, they considered the potential health risks.
What’s Happening When You Eat Keto
The ketogentic diet calls for a reduction of carbohydrates down to five percent or less of your caloric intake. This means no more sweets, grains, fruit, legumes or starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Instead, you replace the calories that you’d typically get from carbs with calories from fat.
This switch from carbs to fat is a drastic change for most people. Most Westerners get more than 50 percent of their calories from carbs!
The near-elimination of carbohydrates requires the body to seek out a different source of energy. Thus, to make up for the loss in carb-derived glucose, the body starts to produce ketones from fat. When a person stops eating carbs for a few days, the ketones become the body’s primary energy source. This is called the ketogenic state.
Researchers Dissect Keto Diet Claims
It’s become common knowledge that the ketogenic diet has been used to help patients with seizures. As such, for decades now doctors have recommended the diet as a treatment for certain types of epilepsy. Swanson and Weiss set out to see if the benefits really go beyond this.
Dr. Swanson specializes in neurology and has examined how the ketogenic diet affects the brain. Some of his research on mice with stroke injuries confirmed that the ketogenic state suppresses inflammation in the brain. (This is the reason why it works so well on seizures.) UCSF reports:
[Swanson] said, “I was overwhelmed by the effect.” Blocking glucose metabolism worked to suppress inflammatory genes, which in turn helped stroke healing.
Dr. Weiss is an associate professor at the Cardiovascular Research Institute. He’s explored how the ketogentic diet impacts heart health and overall wellness. As well, Weiss has been exploring how using the keto diet can help control blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. He states:
It’s incredibly powerful. Cutting back on carbohydrates, there are so many metabolic benefits. The body processes the remaining carbohydrates more efficiently, and so it requires much less insulin.
Finally, another M.D. at the UCSF Center for Integrative Medicine, Frederick Hecht, has also indicated that the ketogenic state may benefit type 2 diabetes patients. In his controlled trails, Hecht was able to show that the human body improves its glucose control function when in a ketogenic state. This may lead to patients needing less medication to manage the disease.
Please keep in mind that the scientists at UCSF conducted all of their trials on mice. Aside from established human clinical trials on seizure patients, very little study has been done on the impact that the keto diet has on people.
Furthermore, the scientists were not able to prove any of the other claims about the effects of the ketogenic state. The common ones include euphoria, improved cognition and cancer treatment.
But of course, there are plenty of anecdotal stories: from weight-loss success among Hollywood stars, to reversal of Weiss’s pre-diabetic state, to using keto diet as a non-toxic approach to cancer. Consequently, even if you aren’t 100% committed, it is very likely that the ketogenic diet will have a substantial impact on your physique and overall health.
There are many free and very low cost resources to help you get started with a keto diet. If you want to try going keto, here’s an offer for a free copy of The Ultimate Ketogenic Diet cookbook.
There are also programs that will help motivate you to stay away from your cravings for carbs. Try a 28 day challenge here.
There’s just one last thing. When you’re ready to to try the keto diet, heed Weiss’s advice below:
If you have any medical condition, if you take any medicine at all – there are lots of things that change how medicines work in our bodies, and nutrition is definitely one of them. If you’re making a real change in your nutrition, you really should talk to your doctor.
Read more articles by Anna Hunt.
About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
Source of all quotes and research findings: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/keto-diet-gains-popularity-scientists-explain-what-we-do-and-don-t-know
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