Is A Ketogenic Diet For You?

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By Liz Perkins

If I told you to eat a diet that was 70-75% fat and that it was good for you, would you think I was crazy?  I mean, isn’t fat bad for you?  

Well, research involving both humans and animals has shown promise for a diet that does just that – limits carbohydrates and proteins so the body uses fat for its fuel.  

According to the athletic performance site INOV 8, the ketogenic diet helps to maintain lean tissue mass, suppress hunger and promote weight loss. The controversial ketogenic diet was hard to stick to initially, since the allowed carbohydrates are only 5%. However, once the first two weeks of the diet were completed, adding in more carbohydrates did not seem as satisfying to the author as they were before.

I went through the scientific literature and what I read about ketogenic diets was surprising. This way of eating may help kids with epilepsy, can lessen alzheimer’s and parkinson’s symptoms and work for weight loss. The byproducts of fat that work as the body’s primary fuel are ketones, which provide neuroprotective benefits.

The diet protected against seizures in children in 22% of the hard-to-treat cases presented, which is not a super high number, but these children were able to avoid surgery and it worked better than the conventional treatment.

Still have questions? Here’s all that I found out in a nutshell:

1. What is it?  

You eat 20-60 grams of carbs a day, according to the website, Ketogenic diet plan. The breakdown of the diet is:  5% carbs, 70-75% fats and 20-25% protein. The body’s primary fuel is fatty acids instead of glucose, resulting in production of three ketones, acetoacetate, acetone and β-hydroxybutyrate.

2. Is it safe for everyone?

If you have heart disease or kidney disease, it is not advisable. People who want to avoid type II diabetes, lose weight or achieve relief from cancer, neurological diseases or even traumatic brain injury could benefit. But, as always, it’s recommended that you consult a physician about your personal situation and whether this diet would be a good idea for you to try.

3. What’s on the menu?

Here is a typical keto day with breakfast, lunch and dinner:  Bacon, eggs, grated carrot and onions with cheese, salad with chicken breasts and celery dipped in dressing, ribeye steak with creamed mushrooms and broccoli.

4. Alzheimer’s relief, anyone?

The ketone body, β-hydroxybutyrate, improves memory function. Memory recall is correlated with plasma levels of this ketone body. This information is interesting in light of the theory that Alzheimer’s is worsened by high carbohydrate diets.  

5. Parkinson’s symptomatic as well?

In an uncontrolled study, 43% of the patients achieved reduction of Parkinson’s symptoms after consuming a ketogenic diet for 28 days.

6. Burn more calories?

Ketones increase cellular metabolism. Cellular studies show ketones cause existing mitochondria to divide and create new mitochondria, a process called mitochondrial biogenesis. This means there are more mitochondria to make energy for the cell.

7. Are carbs really needed?

A ketogenic diet illustrates that carbohydrates are not essential nutrients as dogma has dictated and the brain’s need for glucose can be supplied through glycogen from the liver.  

8. Is it good to go keto during cancer recovery?

Ketogenic diets have proven to be therapeutic during cancer treatment as an adjuvant therapy during animal and human studies. Results have shown reduction in tumor sizes and greater responsiveness to radiation and chemotherapy. Also, cancer cells are metabolically dependent on glucose for fuel and do not have the flexibility to make glucose from other sources as our cells can.

9. I thought complex carbs were recommended?

Complex carbs can cause post prandial or post meal blood sugar to exceed recommended levels after one hour (120 mg/dl). Estimated levels of postprandial levels of glucose within one hour of eating foods such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, tortilla chips (2 oz) and squash range from 160-295 mg/dl. So, if you are insulin resistant and want to avoid metabolic syndrome onset, this is a viable option.

10. Would I do it with my family?

It looks pretty tasty and doable, except for the fact that it calls for low amounts of fruits and grains. As a therapeutic diet though, it definitely has its benefits. Also, if the diet includes a quality fruit and vegetable supplement and protective phytonutrients are maintained in the diet without all the carbs, it looks like a winner.

My son is a leukemia survivor and I am always looking for ways to ”outwit cancer!” I would definitely be game to try this diet once summer is over and we start getting all that snow that’s being predicted. Winter is naturally a balanced time to implement a low carb and high fat diet. Ayurveda recommends liberal use of fats and oils at that time to keep the body warm and lubricated.

It would mean some modifications on the traditional hot chocolate or saving up the carbs for the day to have with that hot chocolate, but the benefits might really be worth it.

Anyone want to join me this winter on a ketogenic journey?

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Liz Perkins

Liz Perkins

Integrative Nutrition Cancer Advocate at Liz Perkins Nourishing
Liz Perkins, MS. is an Integrative Nutrition Cancer Advocate.She is the mom of a leukemia survivor and leads clients through cancer with whole foods, meditations and humor.
Liz Perkins

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