Calm down there. Don’t stress yourself out. This isn’t another fad diet to hook you into. A ketogenic diet isn’t one of those. In recent years, the ketogenic diet has gained a lot of mainstream popularity compared to other diets. A huge part of this is attributed to the medical community accepting the soon to be established fact that carbohydrates, and NOT fat (especially saturated fat) are responsible for diseases that cause inflammation and weight gain.
A ketogenic diet gets you eating foods high in fat (including the sort of fat found in butter, coconut oil and on meat) with moderate amounts of protein, and eliminating foods rich in carbohydrates (sugars, grains, starches and some fruit and vegetables). It’s best simplified in percentages: 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbohydrates.
A ketogenic diet isn’t something new. The earliest records indicate that it has been around since 500 B.C., as a form of treatment for epilepsy. At that time, a ketogenic diet was likened to or even known as fasting. It was during the 1920’s that it was formally used as a form of therapy for people with epilepsy. When the drugs for epilepsy came, most medical authorities forgot about it. It’s only in recent years that it has begun to re-emerge.
What is it used for? How does this type of diet work for certain medical conditions?
From a medical standpoint, a ketogenic type of diet is indicated and may provide relief (or even prevention and decrease in severity and frequency of symptoms) in the following medical conditions:
Cancer.Cancer cells prefer glucose (blood sugar) as fuel to increase their cell numbers and cause disease. If you have some form of cancer (or as a preventative measure), you may opt for a ketogenic type of diet. By reducing the amount of carbohydrate a person consumes, you reduce blood glucose levels.
When you deprive cancer cells of glucose, the body will increase its use of fats as fuel, instead providing ketones to fuel normal tissue cells. The cancer cells will not be able to multiply and cause disease. They have proven this in numerous studies in mice. Studies in humans are now being formulated and conducted. People who have cancer and have started on the ketogenic diet have reported slowed progression of their cancers and even regression.
Alzheimer’s disease and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These two diseases commonly have opposite age of onsets (Alzheimer’s in the old, ADHD in the young), but a significant contributor to both diseases is believed to be inflammation caused by insulin spikes in your blood. A ketogenic diet prevents insulin spikes in your blood, keeping it well within the range that still offers optimal functioning.
A diet high in carbohydrates (which is converted to glucose) stimulates your pancreas to release an enormous amount of insulin to promote entry of the glucose molecules into your cells. This ultimately leads to inflammation.
Diabetes and Metabolic syndrome.Similar to Alzheimer’s disease and ADHD, diabetes and metabolic syndrome are diseases also associated with inflammation brought about by high sugar blood levels and insulin spikes. A ketogenic diet keeps your glucose levels within the normal range.
Intractable epilepsy. Children with intractable epilepsy (the type where the drugs can’t control the seizures) benefit greatly when placed on a ketogenic diet. Most of them report a more than 50 percent reduction in the number of seizure episodes. Exactly how this happens remains a mystery to the medical experts. More studies are being conducted. A study has also shown that medical costs are significantly lower when children with epilepsy are placed on a ketogenic diet compared to prior to being on the diet.
Hypertension. Another irritating and chronic condition common these days. Research studies have demonstrated that a low carbohydrate diet like a ketogenic diet reduces high blood pressure. This is good news since high blood pressure can lead to a stroke or a heart attack. Also, a ketogenic diet can help raise the levels of your good cholesterol (high density lipoproteins or HDL).
From a personal (curious) standpoint, a ketogenic type of diet is usually utilised by people who want to lose weight or people who want to be healthier. Hmmm…intrigued? Let me explain how…
Numerous studies have documented that your appetite decreases when you’re on a low carbohydrate or ketogenic diet. They found that you eat fewer calories and feel more full, so with your appetite curbed this contributes to weight loss. You do realise that you have to stick to this diet. It’s more of a lifestyle rather than just a diet. Otherwise, if you revert back to your sweet old self, you can watch your weight creep back up.
The Difference between a restricted ketogenic diet and a regular ketogenic diet
A restricted ketogenic diet uses the same concept when it comes to fat, protein, and carbohydrates. The only difference from a regular ketogenic diet is the amount of calories. As the term implies, the amount of calories consumed is restricted or calculated at a lower requirement. Both diets restrict carbohydrates, but a restricted ketogenic diet also limits the amount of TOTAL calories you get will get per day. This Restricted Ketogenic diet applies to people with certain types of cancer like glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a form of brain cancer.
In GBM, the ketones metabolised from the high fat contents of your diet have a neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effect. These properties protect the remainder of your brain cells from the invading cancer cells. Some of the ketone bodies are even toxic to the cancer cells.
Before you judge and label a ketogenic diet as just a fad, you may want to reconsider. If you have one of the medical conditions described above, you may seriously benefit from it and feel good about yourself – the evidence is mounting! You can also use it for weight loss. Think of it more as a lifestyle change rather than just a diet you’re going to experience before summer so you can squeeze into that bathing suit. A ketogenic diet cuts out most processed foods, as the majority of processed foods are high in carbohydrates.
So consider this a lifestyle change – to healthier, more natural food choices, with numerous benefits.