Viewpoint From Our Lead Nutritionist Beth Zupec
In my 33 years of working with nutrition therapies, none comes close to the remarkable results Ive seen achieved with ketogenic diets. Ive had the honor of working with hundreds of people on the diet, which has taken me all over the world where together with The Charlie Foundation we have trained over 200 hospitals in ten countries.
The ketogenic diet was used in several major U.S. medical centers as an epilepsy treatment until post-World War II development of new anti-seizure medications became standard protocol. The ketogenic diet was almost extinct in 1994 when a little boy named Charlie Abrahams developed difficult-to-control epilepsy. His parents learned about the diet in a medical textbook and took him to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md. His seizures stopped within days of starting the diet and he remained on it for five years. He is now 21, remains seizure-free, lives on his own and attends college.
The family shared their story with the media and answered thousands of letters that followed. Charlies father, Jim Abrahams, wrote, directed and produced First Do No Harm, a 1997 television movie starring Meryl Streep and based on a true story of another child who also became seizure-free thanks to a ketogenic diet. This began a surge in interest worldwide and spurred further research which has proven the effectiveness of the diet as a treatment for epilepsy.
Effects On Diet Quality
Extreme carbohydrate restriction can profoundly affect diet quality, typically curtailing or eliminating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes and increasing consumption of animal products. Very-low-carbohydrate diets may lack vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains . Low-carbohydrate diets are often low in thiamin, folate, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium . In the absence of multivitamin supplements, individuals on low-carbohydrate diets are at risk of frank nutritional deficiencies . Even when consuming only nutrient-dense foods, a 4:1 ketogenic diet is reported to have multiple micronutrient shortfalls, often lacking in vitamin K, linolenic acid, and water-soluble vitamins excluding vitamin B12 .
Intake of other protective dietary components may also be insufficient, such as phytochemicals , which are not typically included in multivitamins and for which specific intake targets have not been established. Low-carbohydrate diets are also typically high in saturated fat and cholesterol .
The Keto Diet Was Not Always As Popular As It Is Now In The Modern Day
The Ketogenic diet has grown exponentially in popularity in recent years especially among the lifting population. In laymans terms, the Ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet plan based on the concept of using ketones for energy. Whereas carbohydrate consuming individuals run primarily off the glucose derived from carbohydrates, Keto adapted individuals use ketones, which are produced in the absence of carbohydrates, for energy.
Sensing that I am massively out of my wheelhouse, I willll happily point readers over to Barbends detailed, and decidedly more scientific, evaluation of Keto, found here.
Moving back to matters of history, it is notable that numerous lifters, sprinters, and athletes of various disciplines have appeared to have dabbled in Keto from one time to another. The past decade, in particular, has witnessed a remarkable increase in the diets popularity. Scroll online and youll read seemingly miraculous weight loss stories based on the Keto diet. Youll hear of increased caloric intakes with no ramifications and youll come across a variety of Keto based supplements.
Keto, like vegetarianism and, more recently veganism, has become a trendy way of eating. However, this was not always the case. In fact for many decades, a Keto diet was only associated with the fringes of the lifting community, only indulged in for brief periods of time and for extreme circumstances. It was not the lifestyle it has become today.
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Blood Sugar Regulation And Diabetes Reversal
More and more doctors are recommending keto diets or lower-carb diets as a way to treat or prevent type 2 diabetes and other metabolic and blood sugar issues.
As we covered above, low-carb diet approaches can help regulate the spikes of blood sugar. Disordered blood sugar regulation long term can lead to metabolic issues like insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, both of which are markers of type 2 diabetes. Studies show that a ketogenic diet can reduce the glycemic responses that come with a high-carb diet. Going keto can also improve insulin resistance, supporting the body in properly metabolizing glucose.
What Conditions May Benefit From The Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet may significantly reduce seizure frequency, with studies demonstrating a reduction of up to 50% in a majority of child and adult patients.
The mechanism by which the ketogenic diet aids in epilepsy is still unclear, however it is hypothesized that ketones elicit an anticonvulsive effect. They influence excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters, in addition to cell excitability.
Due to altered and impaired glucose metabolism, increasing energy supply through ketosis could potentially be beneficial. There is also a lower uptake of glucose in the brain of MS sufferers, and providing the brain with an alternative source may reduce the rate of degeneration.
Fat is burned as a source of energy when ketosis is achieved.
In AD, low glucose metabolism in the brain precedes cognitive decline and memory loss. The impaired glucose uptake present in AD may be supported by ketones, as beta-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate are the brains alternative energy sources to glucose. These ketones are able to act as energy sources for the brain, as the brain receives approximately 65% of its energy from ketone bodies when blood glucose levels are low.
It is hypothesized that the ketone body, beta-hydroxybutyrate elicits a protective action on neurons, and prevents neurodegeneration in PD.
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Different Types Of Ketogenic Diets
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
- Standard ketogenic diet : This is a very low carb, moderate protein and high fat diet. It typically contains 70% fat, 20% protein, and only 10% carbs .
- Cyclical ketogenic diet : This diet involves periods of higher carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high carb days.
- Targeted ketogenic diet : This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
- High protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.
However, only the standard and high protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.
The information in this article mostly applies to the standard ketogenic diet , although many of the same principles also apply to the other versions.
There are several versions of the keto diet. The standard version is the most researched and most recommended.
What To Eat On A Keto Diet
As you probably know by now, your main sustenance on a keto diet will come from fats. But what does that actually look like and what kind of fats are we talking about? You dont want to simply be taking shots of olive oil to go keto. The whole purpose of the diet done well is to properly nourish your body while in ketosis. This means that a variety of vegetables, animal products, fruits, seeds, and healthy fats is necessary to really thrive in this diet.
Here is a list of common nutritious foods you can enjoy in keto regimes:
The History Of The Keto Diet
In this article:
The keto diet is a science-based low-carbohydrate, moderate-protein, high-fat diet with a history dating back to the 20th century/early 1900s. Many people choose the keto diet for weight loss. But keto was first discovered for controlling seizures and there are many other dietary-therapy benefits as well, such as improved neurological functioning, increased mental clarity, and sustained all-day energy. Whats the history of the ketogenic diet, and why is it growing dramatically in popularity among dieters and beyond? We review the history, growth, and relevance of the keto diet.
An Account Of Keto Flu From The Lost Journal Of An Arctic Explorer
Schwatkas journals from his expedition leave us with what is perhaps the earliest Western account of what today we commonly referred to as the keto flu.
This period of low energy takes place as the human body switches from using carbohydrates to producing ketones from fat for fuel.
When first thrown wholly upon a diet of reindeer meat, it seems inadequate to properly nourish the system and there is an apparent weakness and inability to perform severe exertive, fatiguing journeys. But this soon passes away in the course of two or three weeksHowever, seal meat which is far more disagreeable with its fishy odor, and bear meat with its strong flavor, seems to have no such temporary debilitating effect upon the economy.
Schwatkas entry reveals the difference between a low-to-no carb diet and a keto or fat-centered diet.
When he and his men ate lean reindeer meat, the period of adaptation to ketosis was long and difficult. In fact, they were suffering from starvation. Their bodies were metabolizing depleted fat storesthey were essentially eating themselves.
But when they ate the much fattier bear and seal, their bodies were able to turn the ingested fat into ketones from the outset, making the transition much easier.
Though Schwatkas experiences of an arctic keto diet were hidden in his journal and not discovered until long after his death, Stefansson returned from his arctic adventure as a boisterous champion of an all meat, mostly fat, diet.
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All About Keto Cycling: What It Is How To Do It And If Itll Help You Meet Your Weight Loss Goals With The Ketogenic Diet
Its important to remember that the goal of any dietary change is to promote a healthy lifestyle, so make sure to select a meal plan you can envision yourself following long term. If you know you will not be able to comply with such stringent carbohydrate restrictions for years to come, the ketogenic diet is most likely not the right choice for you.
The Ketogenic Diet Literally Saved The Life Of His Son Its No Wonder Abrahams Was Seriously Outraged That It Wasnt Spoken Of By Anyone In The Medical World As A Viable Method/treatment For His Sons Epilepsy
But, the good news: Abrahams happened to have a close friend in Oscar winner, Meryl Streep. And, guess what? Streep signed on to do a movie that would bring Charlies story to the masses. Obviously, keto plays a large role in the story!
Cut to now
While the ketogenic diet was almost exclusively used for pediatric epilepsy, these days the number of applications have seriously just exploded. Some of this data is brand new and currently emerging, but keto is proving to be effective for:
- Weight loss
- and other disorders
Including, genetic disorders . For example, Angelman syndrome. See, even though the ketogenic diet is not correcting the genetic defect when implemented, it IS silencing the seizures, and improving motor function!
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Brain Function And Mental Health
Keto diets have been shown to boost brain power. From bulletproof coffee to MCT oil there is a wide range of trends that fit a keto approach and claim to support brain function.
One of the main reason why the keto diet can improve brain health is that being in a state of ketosis can increase the production of GABA .GABA is a neurotransmitter that regulates activity in the central nervous system. GABA is known to reduce anxiety, inprove mood, and enhance focus.
Another reason why keto can be considered brain healthy is its emphasis on healthy fats including Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats . These good fats help keep hormone levels in balance which improves mood and energy levels. They also work as antioxidants and help reduce LDL cholesterol levels , which supports your bodys overall performance, and has been shown to relieve cognitive decline, symptoms of mood disorders, and attention difficulties.
Other Health Benefits Of Keto
The ketogenic diet actually originated as a tool for treating neurological diseases such as epilepsy.
Studies have now shown that the diet can have benefits for a wide variety of different health conditions:
- Heart disease. The ketogenic diet can help improve risk factors like body fat, HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar (
Any food thats high in carbs should be limited.
Heres a list of foods that need to be reduced or eliminated on a ketogenic diet:
- sugary foods: soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
- grains or starches: wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
- fruit: all fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries
- beans or legumes: peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
- root vegetables and tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
- low fat or diet products: low fat mayonnaise, salad dressings, and condiments
- some condiments or sauces: barbecue sauce, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, ketchup, etc.
- unhealthy fats: processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
- alcohol: beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks
- sugar-free diet foods: sugar-free candies, syrups, puddings, sweeteners, desserts, etc.
You should base the majority of your meals around these foods:
Its best to base your diet mostly on whole, single-ingredient foods. Heres a list of 44 healthy low carb foods.
To help get you started, heres a sample ketogenic diet meal plan for one week:
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Intermittent Fasting & Keto
Some people on a keto diet choose to also practice intermittent fasting to speed up weight loss or when trying to reverse type 2 diabetes.
Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of fasting and eating. When eating a keto diet, many people feel hungry less often. And since we advise eating only when you are hungry, this means that you might naturally begin to eat fewer meals a day or you may deliberately plan fewer meals to match your reduced appetite. For some people, this could mean eating two meals a day . For others, this could mean eating once a day, which is often referred to as OMAD, meaning one meal a day.
Want to learn more about the potential benefits of intermittent fasting or need information on how to get started? Read our full guide to intermittent fasting >
The Sad Legacy Of Agriculture
Today we see the sad legacy of our dependence on agriculture and a diet dominated by carbohydrates. Its ensconced in the misconceived recommendations of the mainstream medical establishment. Its trumpeted by so-called food gurus like Michael Pollan, whose infamous statement, Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants, encompasses everything thats wrong with the way we eat.
A better rallying cry, which echoes those of the vast majority of our human ancestors, is the exact opposite: Eat fat. Not too little. Mostly from animals!
Yet we find ourselves in the same predicament: Study after study is bearing out the same sad story. Inflammation and stress-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, mental disorders, asthma, and autoimmune diseases like IB and ulcerated colitis, are skyrocketing among both young and old populations.
This increase is a direct result of modern diets and lifestyles. Our genes and physiology, which are almost identical to those of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, preserve core regulation and recovery processes. Yet nowadays our genes operate in internal and external environments that are completely different from those we were designed for.
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How Long Should I Really Follow The Keto Diet For
For as long as you can sustain it.
The ketogenic diet has come a long way from its humble beginnings.
Unless youve been living under a rock, youve probably heard of the ketogenic diet. You might have even tried it. This low-carbohydrate diet is high in fat and protein, which sounds scary, but its been shown to be effective as long as its followed correctly.
Initially developed in 1921 by Russel Wilder to treat epilepsy, this diet is now experiencing a resurgence. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Lebron James, and Kim Kardashian have all gushed about the keto diet.
Like any plan that seriously reduces or completely cuts carbs, its not the easiest diet to stick to for a long period of time.
Fortunately, you may not have to commit forever to reap the results.
We talked to experts to find out exactly how long you should follow the keto diet.
The Masais Stellar Health Linked To High Fat Diet Not Genetics
Manns detractors asserted that African tribes like the Masai were genetically adapted to a high-fat diet. However, a study of Masai people who lived in the Nairobi metropolis showed this to be false.
The Nairobi Masai ate considerably less fat, which would suggest to researchers taking the genetic inheritance perspective, that their cholesterol should be even lower than their brethren still living in the countryside. Yet the mean cholesterol of the Nairobi Masai was 25 percent higher.
Whats more surprising is that the markers of physical health and absence of disease that Mann found in the rural Masai, persisted into old age.
Manns findings fly in the face of the prevailing wisdom of the Western medical establishment that as humans age, cholesterol and weight, along with instances of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, all inevitably increase.
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How Can I Reincorporate Carbohydrates Into My Diet
Its no secret that many people wind up gaining back the weight they lost as soon as they reincorporate certain foods.
The vast majority of people who lose weight regain the weight they did lose within a year. So clearly we do have a weight maintenance problem, Salter says.
He gives the example of someone lowering their daily calorie intake from 2000 to 1200. That person, he says, will lose weight but will not be able to sustain such a low-calorie intake.
As a result, theyre going to give in to their hunger and the foods theyre craving and binge wildly, bringing their baseline calories up significantly, he explains.
If they can diligently and gradually bring their calories up by slowly introducing portions while simultaneously expanding their food selection, they can still maintain their weight loss and their health benefits, especially if exercise remains the focal point in their weekly regimen.