What Is Keto?
The ketogenic diet is a low carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet. The goal of the diet is to get your body into a metabolic state known as ketosis.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis occurs when your body has run out of its glycogen (basically sugar) stores so it needs to find another fuel source. When this occurs your liver begins to process fat into ketones which become your body’s main fuel source.
So to recap fat -> ketones = energy.
With that quick summary out of the way let’s explore the benefits of the ketogenic diet.
Many other diets suffer from only having a single benefit and that is weight loss. The problem with this being the only benefit is that it becomes a lot easier to fall off the wagon.
Keto has numerous benefits due to how it changes your body’s chemistry. Your body is much more efficient when it has ketones as a fuel source.
This, of course, is the main benefit that people look for. Because fat becomes a source of energy your body actively burns fat when it needs more energy instead of looking for glucose.
But how does the actual process work?
When your body enters ketosis, both your blood sugar and insulin levels drop. This actually gives the fat cells the ability to release the water they’ve been retaining and this is why initially, most people see a big drop in weight loss due to losing water.
After that occurs the fat cells are small enough to enter the bloodstream and enter the liver where they can be converted into ketones.
The process continues as you move along the keto journey as long as you put yourself in a caloric deficit.
Low-Carb Diets Lead to More Weight Loss at First
Cutting carbs is one of the simplest and most effective ways to lose weight.
Studies illustrate that people on low-carb diets lose more weight, faster, than those on low-fat diets — even when the latter are actively restricting calories.
This is because low-carb diets act to rid excess water from your body, lowering insulin levels and leading to rapid weight loss in the first week or two (2, 3).
In studies comparing low-carb and low-fat diets, people restricting their carbs sometimes lose 2–3 times as much weight — without being hungry (4, 5).
One study in obese adults found a low-carb diet particularly effective for up to six months, compared to a conventional weight loss diet. After that, the difference in weight loss between diets was insignificant (6).
In a year-long study in 609 overweight adults on low-fat or low-carb diets, both groups lost similar amounts of weight (7).
2 Improving Blood Pressure With the Ketogenic Diet
According to the World Health Organization, high blood pressure is estimated to cause about 12.8% of the total of all deaths. Luckily, The ketogenic diet may be the solution, according to a 2007 study.
In this study, researchers compared the impact of a low-carbohydrate diet and three other diets on blood pressure and other measures of cardiovascular fitness in women. After the 12 month trial, all subjects who successfully completed their respective diet experienced notable reductions in body mass, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol. Those in the low-carbohydrate diet group, however, had the best results.
These participants decreased their systolic blood pressure by an average of 7.6 mm Hg — twice more than any other group. Their diastolic pressure also decreased by 2.93% from 75 mm Hg to 72.8 mm Hg.
These findings were confirmed in another interesting study. Researchers compared the effects of the low-carbohydrate diet to the effects of a combination of a low-fat diet and orlistat (a weight-loss and blood pressure lowering medication) on blood pressure. The researchers stated that the low-carbohydrate dietary intervention “was more effective for lowering blood pressure.”
Does this mean that you should throw away your blood pressure medication and dive into the ketogenic diet? Not just yet — you should first consult with your dietitian or doctor to see if cutting some carbs is a suitable strategy for you
The Takeaway: A low-carbohydrate diet is more effective than a low-fat and moderate-fat diet at reducing blood pressure. Limiting carbohydrates even produces better results than the combination of a low-fat diet and a weight-loss/blood pressure drug.
Recommendations: If you are interested in lowering blood pressure, a diet with 50 or fewer grams of carbohydrates per day might be an effective method. Consult with your doctor and dietitian to see if it’s a suitable choice based on your medical history.
3 Clearer Skin
Skin conditions like eczema, acne, and psoriasis are often rooted in chronic inflammation or autoimmunity. Often, inflammatory processes unnecessarily attack different structures of the skin which results in various conditions. For example, acne is associated with inflammation of the sebaceous glands in the skin whereas eczema is generalized inflammation of the skin cells.
Things like chemical exposure, environmental allergies, chronic stress, hormone imbalance, and imbalances in gut bacteria can all contribute to these skin conditions. While the factors should also be addressed, following a ketogenic diet can also help to quickly lower inflammation and accelerate healing.
4. More Energy
Your body can only store so much glycogen and because of this, you need to constantly refuel if you want to maintain your energy levels.
However, your body already has plenty of fat to work with and it can store more fat so that means in ketosis it has an energy source that will never run out.
This means that you’ll find yourself with more energy throughout the day.
Can you imagine a world where you don’t feel like you need to take a nap after lunch?
That is the lifestyle of ketogenic.
5 Helps Fight Type II Diabetes
People that suffer from Type II Diabetes suffer from an increased production of insulin. Because the ketogenic diet removes sugars from the diet, it helps to lower the HbA1c count and can effectively reverse Type II diabetes.
Studies have shown that adhering to a ketogenic diet can reduce key markers that are related to type II diabetes.
6 Increases levels of HDL Cholesterol
When people hear this one they usually panic but there are two types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL.
HDL is the good cholesterol that carries cholesterol away from the body and to the liver where it can be reused or excreted. LDL, on the other hand, carries cholesterol from the liver and to the rest of the body.
On keto, the level of triglycerides in your body decreases, while the HDL levels increase. The Triglycerides:HDL ratio is a strong indicator of heart disease. The higher it is, the greater your risk of heart disease.
There are many theories about what causes aging. The commonly held belief up until recently was that it solely depended on the rate at which your telomeres shorten. What we are beginning to understand is that mitochondrial health may be more foundational.
Because mitochondria have such a profound impact on energy production, inflammation levels, and gene expression (and therefore overall function of the body), the mitochondrial theory of aging has emerged (5).
In fact, it is thought that other anti-aging strategies like prolonged fasting work by promoting mitochondrial health and biogenesis.
8 Reverse Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease with the Ketogenic Diet
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is associated with type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and hyperlipidemia, and it probably will not develop unless one or more of these issues are present as well.
We’ve already explored how the ketogenic diet helps with diabetes, heart disease, and hyperlipidemia, does this mean it helps with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease as well?
A recent pilot study put five patients on the ketogenic diet (less than 20 grams per day of carbohydrate). At the end of six months, the average weight loss was 28 pounds (but this wasn’t the most surprising finding). Each patient underwent a liver biopsy, and four of the five patients had a reduction in liver fat, inflammation, and fibrosis. However, this is a small pilot study that also used supplements, so the results are not conclusive. What does the rest of the research say?
In a 2016 meta-analysis and systematic review, the researchers found that the low carbohydrate diet decreased fat in the liver significantly, but liver function tests did not improve significantly. When we look closely at the studies in the meta-analysis, they either found no effect on liver enzyme levels or a significant effect. In other words, the liver function of some people stayed the same on the low-carbohydrate diet while others improved significantly. Why the difference?
My guess is that if subjects were required to eat more fibrous foods (like low-carbohydrate vegetables), then they probably would have had results similar to the small pilot study.
The Takeaway: A whole food based ketogenic diet may be the best diet for reversing fatty liver disease.
Recommendations: If you have fatty liver disease, then start restricting carbohydrates and eating low-carb vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli with every meal.