Ketogenic Diet: Health Benefits And Possible Side Effects

How Does the Ketogenic Diet Work?

Ketogenic diet or keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein diet. So, you basically replace carbohydrates with good fat. Macro-nutrients intake is 55-60% of fat, 30-35% of protein, and 5-10% of carbohydrates or fewer than 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day. The goal of this diet is to reach ketosis. Our body normally runs on sugar or glucose for energy. When sugar is no longer available, the body begins to burn stored fat instead. In ketogenic diet, the premise is to change the fuel source (sugar/glucose) the body utilizes to stay energized. Keto works because there is a significant decrease of carbohydrates. Because of this, the body runs out of glucose, demanding the body to burn fats instead. When the stored fat in the body is burned, ketones are produced. Ketosis results in constant and quick weight loss. In other words, ketogenic diet is a fat burner rather than sugar burner kind of diet.

Keto Diet

The Benefits Of The Keto Diet

Weight Loss, Decreased Level of Triglycerides, LDL, and Increased level of HDL

Weight loss is the primary benefit people get from the ketogenic diet. Additionally, a dramatic decrease in triglycerides and LDL and increase in HDL happens with it. A study conducted by Dashti et al. (2004) concluded that long-term ketogenic diet significantly reduced the body weight and body mass index of the patients. Furthermore, it decreased the level of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and blood glucose, and increased the level of HDL cholesterol.

Epilepsy in children

The ketogenic diet has been widely and successfully used to treat children with drug-resistant epilepsy since the 1920s. Neal et al (2008) conducted a study that aimed to test the efficacy of the ketogenic diet and results support its use in children with treatment-intractable epilepsy.

Management of Type 2 Diabetes

A research published by Journal of Obesity & Eating Disorders in 2016 tells us that the benefits of carbohydrates restriction in diabetes are immediate and well documented (but the concern is about the long term safety and efficacy).

Bipolar Disorder

Neurocase published a journal online in 2012 and the journal supports the idea that prolonged ketosis stabilizes mood better than that achieved with medication.

Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia

In February 2013, Neurobiol Aging published a manuscript entitled Dietary ketosis enhances memory in mild cognitive impairment” which suggested that very low carbohydrate consumption, even in the short-term, can improve memory function in older adults with increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Cancer

Ketogenic diet may have utility in certain individuals, especially in combination with other conventional therapies for cancer treatment according to an article published by CancerNetwork.

Increased Energy

Dr. Carrie Burrows of Reader’s Digest said that we are able to do more without hitting ‘the wall’ when we use fat as fuel, our endurance improves and is more sustainable.

Inflammation markers fall

Another study cited by Reader’s Digest in their article published in Dr. Phinney’s study where he said that patients experienced a high sensitivity CReactive Proteins (inflammation marker) reduction of 39 percent, and white blood cells were reduced by 9 percent. “Similar results were demonstrated in a two-year study, which showed a 29 percent decrease in hsCRP following a low-carbohydrate diet.” Inflammation, Dr. Phinney notes, is directly associated with many different health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and autoimmune conditions. “It is very possible that reducing inflammation through nutritional ketosis could improve a whole host of conditions,” he says. 

Other benefits also include (but not limited to) management of Parkinson’s disease, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Anxiety and Depression.

Keto Diet Side Effects

Keto flu” is very common to people on ketogenic diet. This means that your body is adapting to the low-carbohydrate state and your diet is effective. But this does not feel good as much as it sounds. Symptoms of keto flu may include muscle cramps, brain fog, dizziness, irritability, headache, nausea and vomiting.

Other side effects can include bad breath, rashes, decreased physical performance, low blood sugar, palpitations, weakness, constipation and diarrhea, irregular menstrual cycles, decreased bone density, electrolyte imbalance, and insomnia.

Ketogenic Diet Mimics Carbohydrate Restriction

Szalay (2017) mentioned in her article published by Live Science what Paige Smathers, a Utah-based registered dietitian said that carbohydrates are macro-nutrients, meaning they are one of the three main ways the body obtains energy, or calories. She also said that according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the recommended daily amount (RDA) of carbs for adults is 135 grams. However, in keto diet, the goal is to restrict carbohydrates intake to fewer than 20-50 grams per day. Mayo Clinic stressed in an article published in 2017 that the idea behind the low-carb diet is that decreasing carbs lowers insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy and ultimately leads to weight loss. “Severely restricting carbohydrates to less than 0.7 ounces (20 grams) a day can result in a process called ketosis. Ketosis occurs when you don’t have enough sugar (glucose) for energy, so your body breaks down stored fat, causing ketones to build up in your body.” Mayo Clinic added, which is the premise in ketogenic diet.

Ketogenic Diet and Human Growth Hormone

As above mentioned, ketogenic diet reduces blood sugar levels. Low blood sugar and insulin levels boost human growth hormone (HGH) production. HGH is a natural compound that stimulates tissue and bone growth in our body. The pituitary gland (where HGH is produced) does not sense calorie intake but rather senses glucose and insulin. Diet Doctor published an article and they cited the study conducted by Kerndt et al in 1982 where a patient decided to undergo a 40-day fast for religious purposes. Glucose went down.  Insulin went way, way down, but HGH rose.  It started at 0.73 and peaked at 9.86. That is a 1,250% increase in growth hormone. A shorter 5 day fast gives a 300% increase. All this HGH increase without drugs.

Diet Doctor also mentioned that other studies have shown the same increase in growth hormone. In 1988, Ho KY et al studied fasting and HGH. On the control (fed) day, meals very effectively suppress HGH secretion. This is to be expected. Like cortisol, HGH increases glucose and thus is suppressed during feeding. Fasting is a great stimulus to HGH secretion. During fasting, there are the spikes in early mornings, but there are regular secretions throughout the day as well.

Furthermore, Hartman et al also showed that serum HGH concentrations are increased in fasted or malnourished human subjects. 

References

Azar, S. T., Beydoun, H. M., Albadri, M. R. (2016, September 19). Benefits of Ketogenic Diet for Management of Type Two Diabetes: A Review. Retrieved from http://obesity.imedpub.com/benefits-of-ketogenic-diet-for-management-of-type-two-diabetes-a-review.php?aid=14629

Dashti, H. M., Matthew, T. C., Hussein, T., Asfar, S. K., Behnahani, A., Khoursheed, M. A., Al-Saver, H. M., Bo-Abbas, Y. Y., & Al-Zaid, N. S. (2004). Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/

Fung, J., (2016, October 24). Fasting and Growth Hormone. Retrieved from https://www.dietdoctor.com/fasting-and-growth-hormone

Harvard Health Publishing. (2018, October). Should you try the keto diet? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-you-try-the-keto-diet

Krikorian, R., Shidler, M. D., Dangelo, K., Couch, S. C., Benoit, S. C., Clegg, D. J. (2013, February 1). Dietary ketosis enhances memory in mild cognitive impairment. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116949/

Phelps, J. R., Siemers, S. V., El-Mallakh, R. S. ( 2012, October 3). The ketogenic diet for type II bipolar disorder. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13554794.2012.690421?scroll=top&needAccess=true

Reader’s Digest. 10 Unexpected Health Benefits of the Keto Diet. Retrieved from https://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/benefits-keto-diet/

Szalay, J. (2017, July 14). What Are Carbohydrates? Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/51976-carbohydrates.html

Scher, Bret. (2019, May 7). A ketogenic diet for beginners. Retrieved from https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto

WedMD. (2019, February 26). What’s a Ketogenic Diet? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-ketogenic-diet

Zick, S. M., Snyder, D., Abrams, D. I. (2018, November 15). Pros and Cons of Dietary Strategies Popular Among Cancer Patients. Retrieved from https://www.cancernetwork.com/dietary-strategies-cancer

 

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