Y. Wady Aude, MD; Arthur S. Agatston, MD; Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, MD, MSc; Eric H. Lieberman, MD; Marie Almon, MS, RD; Melinda Hansen, ARNP; Gerardo Rojas, MD; Gervasio A. Lamas, MD; Charles H. Hennekens, MD, DrPH, œThe National Cholesterol Education Program Diet vs a Diet Lower in Carbohydrates and Higher in Protein and Monounsaturated Fat, Arch Intern Med. 2004;164(19):2141-2146. http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=217514.
Ketogenic diets, like most low carb diets, work through the elimination of glucose. Because most folks live on a high carb diet, our bodies normally run on glucose (or sugar) for energy. We cannot make glucose and only have about 24 hours' worth stored in our muscle tissue and liver. Once glucose is no longer available from food sources, we begin to burn stored fat instead, or fat from our diets.
When carbs go missing from a person's diet, the body uses up its glucose reserves and then breaks down stored fat into fatty acids, which, when they reach the liver, are converted into an organic substance called ketones. The brain and other organs feed on ketones in a process called ketosis, which gives the diet its name. Keto dieters eat lots of fat to maintain this state.
Clinical improvement was observed in Alzheimer's patients fed a ketogenic diet, and this was marked by improved mitochondrial function. (14a) In fact, a European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study pointed to emerging data that suggested the therapeutic use of ketogenic diets for multiple neurological disorders beyond epilepsy and Alzheimer's, including headaches, neurotrauma, Parkinson's disease, sleep disorders, brain cancer, autism and multiple sclerosis. (14b)
If this diet is so tough, then why has it been around since the 1920s? For starters, there's some evidence to suggest that ketogenic diets help regulate epilepsy, according to research in ISRN Pediatrics.Redox Biology reports the diet may benefit cancer patients. While it may be helpful for short-term weight loss, that wasn't the diet's original intention, and the jury's still out on its long-term effects.
Can't you take ketone supplements? No. While it is possible to elevate ketones by taking them, œwithout the low-carb stimulus, there is no net increase in ketone production, no decrease in insulin, and no net increase in fat oxidation, says Volek. Don't trust trainers or œbody hackers who say you can induce ketosis quickly without changing your diet.
On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat, burning fat 24-7. Insulin levels become very low, and fat burning increases dramatically. It becomes easy to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is great if you're trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, such as less hunger and a steady supply of energy. This may help keep you alert and focused.
Before we discuss how to measure ketone levels, let's set some guidelines for optimal ketone levels. Nutritional ketosis is detected when levels begin to read at 0.5 mmol/L of ketones in the blood, but your optimal ketone level will depend on your personal goals. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, your target ketone level will be lower than someone who wants to improve mental performance. The following table provides some general guidelines based on your goal.
The ketogenic diet ” a high-fat and very low-carb eating plan ” can be tough to start. After all, it's likely a radical departure from the way you're eating now (a typical standard American diet is high in carbohydrates and processed foods). But many people are trying the keto diet, which puts your body in a state of ketosis. That's what happens when your body's carb-burning switch flips to a fat-burning one, a change that can cause weight loss and has even been credited with controlling diabetes. (1)
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