• Multiple Sclerosis: In a small 2016 study, patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) were put on a ketogenic diet. After six months, they reported improved quality of life, as well as physical and mental health improvements. Before doctors or researchers can make a connection between keto and MS, they need bigger sample sizes and more thorough research. Still, the preliminary findings are exciting.
From the early understanding of the keto research and literature, it looks like we're just scratching the surface understanding some of the potential therapeutic roles of the keto diet. While it's unclear if it's any better or worse than any other diet for weight loss, the reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all model for diets. This doesn't even consider that weight-loss diets, in general, don't really work. While researchers can't agree on a specific statistic, it's commonly accepted that the vast majority of dieters will regain the weight lost (and often pack on extra pounds, as well). The long-term outcome of the keto diet is likely to be no different, especially given how challenging and restrictive it is to maintain.
The average person's diet contain about 55% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and 15% protein. On the keto diet, you eat a whole lot more fat, and a lot less carbs: 80% of the diet is comprised of fat, 15% is protein, and a mere 5% of calories come from carbohydrates. For someone on a 1,500-calorie diet, that translates to 19 grams of carbohydrates per day, which is less than what you find in one medium-sized apple.
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.
At the core of the classic ketogenic diet is severely restricting intake of all or most foods with sugar and starch (carbohydrates). These foods are broken down into sugar (insulin and glucose) in our blood once we eat them, and if these levels become too high, extra calories are much more easily stored as body fat and results in unwanted weight gain. However, when glucose levels are cut off due to low-carb dieting, the body starts to burn fat instead and produces ketones that can be measured in the blood (using urine strips, for example).
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, “The 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.
That said, I think the biggest changes are the result of me dropping the sugars and breads. Tracking my eating and being more conscious about my foods has made a difference. I definitely plan to keep on this track for a while and slowly work towards a fuller keto-adapted diet/body. I’m not going with the “all-in” that some recommend, cutting out all artificial sweeteners and such, though I have limited them. I’m not really tempted to indulge in the sweets that have been tempting in the past.
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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