Is A Ketogenic Diet Healthy ? (Part 2: The Benefits)

If you haven’t already read Part 1 of this blog series CLICK HERE to do so. Part 1  provides a lot of the necessary information to understand today’s blog post fully.

Even though ketogenic diets have been around for ages, there’s  been a resurgence in the diets popularity lately alongside the paleo and primal movement. 

Ketosis is recognized as an effective way to lose fat, and has therapeutic uses for metabolic and neurological disorders.  

In last week’s blog post we defined what a ketogenic diets is, and how people enter ketosis through fasting or carbohydrate restriction.

When fasting or restricting carbohydrates the body will metabolize fat. Ketones are a byproduct of fat metabolism that are produced and used as an alternative source of energy in the body.

The main benefit of ketones is that the capacity for them to be used as a source of fuel by any tissue in the body.

This is a huge benefit because certain tissues in the body such as the brain and nervous system can’t use fats as fuel, but can use ketones.

In Part 1 of this blog series we also discussed what the evolutionary advantage of using ketones would be during times of famine, and how it helped us to survive.

The history and use of ketogenic diets goes back to the 1920’s when it was used for drug resistant seizures. A cyclical ketogenic diet has also been used by bodybuilders for ages as well to help them get lean and spare muscle.  

This week in Part 2 we’re going to take closer look at the benefits of a ketogenic diet, and next week in Part 3 we’ll be covering the risks and drawbacks.

Everyone’s mileage will vary on a diet like this. For some it won’t be the right fit, and others will do really well.

Keep in mind your individual context, activity level, stress, sleep habits  and goals dictate what will be an effective approach for you.

Also know that because a diet worked in the past does not mean it will be as effective for you today.  

Everything from someone’s hormonal status to their stress and sleep habits can shift and cause a different response to the same diet.

Any dietary approach will have benefits and drawbacks to weigh in on. Experiment and find what works for you, and more importantly what doesn’t work.


Benefits of A Ketogenic Diet

Appetite Control  

Feeling hungry and deprived is one of the worst enemies of those who are dieting to lose body fat. Being in a calorie deficit eating the wrong foods can leave you very hungry.

Feeling hungry and having food cravings all the time is a prime reason that many people can’t stick with a diet, and eventually go off the plan.

Ketogenic diets are effective at helping people to reduce hunger because of the  increased consumption of both protein and fat.  

Fat and protein are both very high satiety macronutrients that help reduce hunger, and keep people feeling fuller for longer.

Carbohydrates can stimulate hunger, and by replacing those carbs with more fat and protein people will naturally feel much more satiated.

With higher satiety due to a ketogenic diet many people find themselves eating in a caloric deficit without even thinking about it and achieving  fat loss.

Fat Loss

When we eat carbohydrates or protein blood sugar levels elevate which stimulates the release of the hormone insulin.  

Insulin is our main storage hormone that communicates with our cells telling them to store as much available energy as possible.

These carbohydrates that were consumed are stored in our muscles and liver as glycogen. Glucose and calories that exceeds the body’s immediate energy needs and storage capacity is directed to fat storage.  

When someone goes on a ketogenic diet and removes denser sources of carbohydrates from the diet this keeps insulin levels low.

High levels of insulin promote fat storage, and hinder fat oxidation (burning fat) while lower levels of insulin encourage fat being released from fat cells and used as energy.

As mentioned above a ketogenic diet will leave you feeling fuller for longer and controls hunger and cravings which helps to prevent over eating and allows people to feel fuller for longer.

A huge contributor to metabolic problems including obesity is insulin resistance which caused by overeating. Ketogenic diets are effective at preventing overeating because of their high satiety effect.


Decreased Inflammation and Diabetes Risk

By controlling the glycemic load with ketogenic approach you can lower inflammation and see vast improvements in metabolic dysfunction, and insulin sensitivity.

A ketogenic diet is naturally going to help suppress appetite which prevents consuming excess calories and can lead to insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance when unaddressed leads to metabolic problems and is a significant risk factor for diabetes, obesity and a host of other health problems.

Poor insulin function actually promotes inflammation, while proper insulin function combats inflammation in the body.

By using a ketogenic approach people can see great improvements, and in some cases fully restore their insulin sensitivity.

Neurological Health

There have been animal and clinical trials that suggest ketogenic diets can be used therapeutically in a number of neurological disorders including alzheimer's,dementia, parkinson's and traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

The brain is responsible for roughly 20% of our total energy expenditure throughout the day. Our brain is reliant on glucose, but can also use ketones, and some would say uses ketones preferentially to glucose.

Because ketones are water soluble unlike fats they have ability to cross the blood brain barrier and be used as energy by our brains.

Most of the neurological disorders listed above have the common problem of deficient energy utilization in the brain leading to dysfunction.

Ketones can be provide more energy per unit than glucose, and provides an alternate fuel source for damaged neurons in the brain to use.

Ketogenic diets also increase the amount of mitochondria (engine of cells) in the brain allowing for greater energy use.

Ketosis also balances calcium homeostasis in the brain which is an important factor for mitigating the oxidative stress associated with neurological disorders.

Next week in Part 3 of this series we are going to cover the risks and drawbacks of a ketogenic diet, because it’s not all roses and sunshine when it comes to eating keto for a long period of time.

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