Keto: Fad or Fact?
The goal of the keto (ketogenic) diet is simple and can be derived from the name its self. Keto – shortened from ketone is an organic compound containing a carbonyl group =C=O bonded to two hydrocarbon groups. The suffix genetic means to produce or cause. By breaking down the name we know the goal of ketogenic diet is to create carbonyl groups bonded to two hydrogen groups. Examples of these ‘ketone bodies’ particularly the ones produced and used in the body include acetone, acetoacetate and beta hydroxyl butyrate. The reason this diet works is because the body is designed to burn fat, including stored body fat, when glycogen and other sugar stores have been depleted. So by shifting the metabolism to enter a state of ketosis, burning body fat becomes a lot easier.
Without a doubt, the most popularised benefit to the ketogenic diet is weight loss, and there’s good merit to this claim. By being in this fat burning state, your body can easily tap into bodily stores of fat for fuel, but perhaps the biggest factor in weight loss is the blood sugar stability the diet provides. By removing all significant sources of carbohydrates, blood sugar levels don’t spike nearly as high as they usually do. Because this spike is reduced, less insulin is required to control the blood sugar level. This in turn means when the blood sugars stabilise and begin to decreases they don’t crash all the way down to hypoglycaemia, stimulating that ‘hangry’ feeling and leaving you feeling weak, agitated and sluggish. This, in combination with the steady fuel source ketones provide reduce your appetite, and although I don’t advocate calories in = calories out, eating less because you aren’t hungry is going to make you lose weight no matter how you look at it.
Insulin and Blood Sugar
This article demonstrated that nasal insulin spray reduced appetite and therefore food consumption. It’s well documented and understood that your brain is a VERY expensive organ as far as energy is concerned, and having a backup fuel source is not only essential to your survival, but a handy trick you can use to stay sharp and thinking clearly through out the day. Your brain will use glucose for for fuel when its available. Unlike other tissues in the body, energy for the brain is not stored locally in the brain – its fuelled directly via-nutrients in systemic circulation of the blood. There’s one huge problem here, and it’s becoming known as it’s own medical condition ‘Type 3 diabetes’, AKA Alzheimer’s disease. To explain diabetes (type 2) very simply, your cells use glucose for fuel as mentioned earlier, but initially the cells are closed and not accepting any glucose. Along comes insulin and it acts like a key, letting the glucose into the cell to be used for fuel. Unfortunately however when your cells are constantly being bombarded with insulin because you’re eating carbs and carb and carbs, so your cells stop listening to insulin, they become insulin resistant. This is a serious problem for two reasons. Firstly, your cells dont have any fuel any more, this means no energy, and eventually cell death. Secondly, the sugars in your blood stay in your blood. They have no where to go. Elevated blood sugar is very dangerous and if untreated can lead to keto-acidosis, a condition where your body produces ketone bodies excessively in an attempt to keep you alive, as your cells are so resistant to your insulin levels, your body tries to adapt. We can avoid all of this confusing and scary drama very simply by increasing metabolic flexibility – specifically becoming fat adapted.
Our carbohydrate intake would traditionally have fluctuated day to day, season to season. In the summer and autumn there would be berries on bushes, sour apples and peaches in trees (UK seasonal fruit) and we would eat them because they’re a good source of energy and they’re available. But then the winter and the spring would come around. No berries, no fruit, nothing even really resembling a carbohydrate. We would be living on what we had stored, and animal products. Eggs, milk, any animals we could hunt or any fish we could catch. This would likely be a period of sustained ketosis, and this period would reset our insulin sensitivity levels. Mimicking this period of low carb diets, and even fasting are really simple and traditional ways we maintained our insulin sensitivity. In the 1700s the average person consumed less than 10lbs of sugar per year.
Now the average person consumes well over 100lbs of sugar. No wonder your cells are sick of insulin knocking at their door. When we give the body this opportunity to function exclusively on fat we allow it to develop the metabolic flexibility to be adaptive and use the fuels available to it. Having these ketones available provides a great source of fuel, particularly in these diabetic conditions, because insulin isn’t required for the ketone bodies to enter the cell.
Very well established and documented, but poorly understood. The vast majority of those suffering with epilepsy see some improvement by following a ketogenic diet. Whether due to changes in brain excitability, brain energy metabolism or changing neuromodulation circulating factors . We have only begun to speculate, but the results are fairly conclusive. Many have in fact completely stopped having seizures  with strict adherence to a ketogenic diet.
Now its established that the ketogenic diet can seriously impact certain health conditions, people desperate for a solution are trying to apply the diet to themselves in hope that they’ll feel better, and many do! It’s becoming increasingly evident that the ketogenic diet is effective for more than just epilepsy. I believe there are many reasons the ketogenic diet is effective on a broader spectrum that’s because most modern diseases have the same pathologies; oxidative stress and nutritional deficiencies. One of the primary mechanisms that the ketogenic diet is reversing disease is the anti inflammatory and anti oxidative properties ketone bodies have in the body Inflammation and antioxidant properties. Eating a ketogenic diet not only increases endogenous antioxidant production, it’s also significantly reduces the amount of exogenous pro oxidants we consume. With an emphasis on fresh meat, healthy fats, and low carbohydrate vegetables, a large quantity of less than ideal foods are removed from the diet. The foods that are included have a much higher nutrient density than conventional foods, and being a fat based diet particularly increases the quantity of fat soluble vitamins, that the modern ‘low fat’ diet is so deficient in. I have an article about the importance of fat soluble nutrients here.
Applying A Healthy ketogenic Approach
So now you know why, you probably want to know how. The foundation is simple, many beginners track their macronutrients (fat carbs and protein) to ensure they don’t over consume carbs, and consume adequate fat. I have written a book SPECIFICALLY on this topic, with the focus of weight loss, and its available to download for FREE! If you read the book and it helps you I only ask you share the information and donate whatever you think my time and effort was worth. A brief summary is to keep fat macros high (80%) and carbohydrates low (>5%). Consume organ meats, butter and other renders fats, fatty fish and cuts of meat like bacon and eggs, add olive oil to everything and eat until you feel full. Organ meats are so important as they’re the highest source of nutrition. The downside to organ meats is the initial ‘gross’ factor, and that most people don’t know how to cook them. Fortunately for you, our recipe section is developing fast and we have so many low carb and ketogenic dishes, full of health and nutrients to help you stay sexy, lean and healthy