Nutrition

The Health Benefits of the Keto Diet

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The Ketogenic diet is a newer trend that has taken the diet world by storm. It has become especially popular with cross fitters, and diabetics, but the most promising thing about the Ketogenic diet (Keto) is the implications of the diet for health and fighting disease. Here is a look at how the diet works, and what the research is finding.

Many have heard of the Paleo Diet and the Atkins Diet. The Keto Diet is sort of a hybrid of the two. Paleo diets claim to be close to what paleolithic people ate, and keto follows in that vain by eliminating processed foods, grains, and sugars. The major differences between Paleo and Keto is that Keto reduces the carbohydrate intake as much as possible while upping the fat intake. The idea behind these diets is that for most of homo-sapien evolution we have not had access to cultivated grains, and limited access to the sugars in fruits (mostly). We lived on vegetables, tubers, and meat. Large game was the Paleolithic man’s common food source, and when they killed an animal, they ate every part. That means fat, marrow (fat), brains (fat), and all of the animal protein that they could. The idea here is that the body has developed to consume more fat that our modern diets suggest.

The trend in nutrition has been low fat for the last few decades. The “low-fat diet” was a result of science that has now been shown to be an incorrect generalization. Certain fats are bad, but others are good and necessary for the body to function correctly. The bad fats that lead to heart issues are generally hydrogenated fats and trans fats, that are the result of human processing. The reduction of fat in products made them taste bad, so food producers found that the addition of sugars made low-fat foods more palatable. Combine all of this with a food pyramid with recommended daily consumption having a solid foundation of carbs, and you have the making of an obesity epidemic.

This is where we find ourselves. Fat is demonized, and the foods that make us sick, obese, and inflamed are praised and affordable. This is where the Keto Diet comes in. Several researchers have found that eating a low-carb/high-fat diet has helped to reverse and prevent certain diseases, reduce weight, reduce bad cholesterol, and regulate certain hormones. More studies are being done all of the time that are showing promising findings surrounding this diet. Aside from reversing insulin resistance and diabetes, the diet has been shown to reduce inflammation, provide greater pain tolerance, cardiovascular benefits, reduce stroke, reduced Epileptic symptoms, Parkinson’s Symptoms, Alzheimers symptoms, dementia, and reduced risk of Hormonal cancers, to name a few.

First, there needs to be a disclaimer. The Ketogenic diet is “new-er”, and because it goes against conventional (or traditional) “wisdom”, there are a lot of skeptics. However, the research seems to come down on the side of Keto almost always. Also, Ketogenesis and Ketoacidosis ARE NOT THE SAME THING! Ketogenesis is when the body starts using fat for energy, and finds that there are ample stores to be had on the body. Hunger drops and less food is necessary. Weight begins to drop, and hormone levels stabilize. Ketoacidosis is the result of hyperactive ketogenesis when the body produces toxic levels of ketones. This condition can be caused by alcoholism, starvation, and diabetes. Further, it is important to do some research, and speak with your doctor before committing to a diet regime.

The Keto diet has been shown to ease certain common ailments and conditions. First, Keto has been shown to help ease migraine headaches and cluster headaches. Keto has also had promising results in helping diverse neurological disorders, including Epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. The Keto Diet has been shown to improve cognitive function in rats and elderly people. Further, studies have shown that a ketogenic diet can reduce inflammation while increasing pain tolerance.

The Ketogenic diet may be used in short-term bursts to regulate insulin and increase weight loss, but there is not a lot of clinical information of its long term effects. The Keto Diet is a useful tool in a fitness setting, and is especially useful for people who suffer from diabetes, epilepsy, and other neurological disorders.

For further reading and research:

Scientific studies related to Ketogenic Diet

NYT “Big Fat Lie” article

Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint 101

Robb Wolf’s “Origin (and Future) of the Ketogenic Diet