Understanding How the Ketogenic Diet Works
There is a lot of talk lately about the ketogenic diet. What is interesting, is that this diet is not new. Originating back in the 1920’s, this very low-carbohydrate diet was originally used as a treatment for epilepsy. Today, the ketogenic diet has become popular for weight loss, however, it is not right for everyone.
To better understand how the ketogenic diet works, we first need to know how macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins and fats – are broken down by the body for energy. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which is either used immediately as energy or stored as glycogen or fat which can be used later for energy. Protein is broken down into amino acids, of which 50% are stored as glycogen or fat which can also be used later for energy. Fats, on the other hand are broken down into fatty acids and stored as triglycerides.
A typical diet consists of approximately 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein and 25% fat. However, the ketogenic diet consists of approximately 5-10% carbohydrates, 10-20% protein and 80 – 90% fat, in addition to avoiding specific foods altogether. With a limited supply of glucose, which is a primary fuel for the brain, the body kicks into starvation mode and begins to breakdown fatty acids to produce ketones as an alternate source of energy, thus creating a state of ketosis. Since the brain needs a constant supply of energy, the body will continue to break down fat to survive, hence the weight loss.
What foods are included in the Ketogenic Diet?
Here are examples of common foods you would eat on the ketogenic diet. (This is not a complete list.)
Fat: avocado, coconut milk or oil, olive oil, nuts and nut butters, bacon, egg yolks, butter, heavy cream, cheese
Protein: meat, poultry, seafood, eggs
Carbohydrates: leafy greens, asparagus, cabbage, celery, zucchini
Off Limits: fruit, grains, legumes, sugar, processed foods
Benefits and Drawbacks of the Ketogenic Diet
As with most dietary approaches, there are benefits and drawbacks to the ketogenic diet. Keeping in mind that everyone is different and results may not be the same for everyone. Benefits may include weight loss, blood sugar control, lower triglycerides and improved overall cholesterol. However, the long-term safety of the ketogenic diet is still to be determined. Forcing the body into a state of ketosis can create side effects, including abnormally high levels of uric acid, which can cause painful conditions, such as gout and kidney stones. Very low carb diets have also been associated with adverse metabolic and emotional effects Medical professionals suggest using caution with a ketogenic diet and be sure a physician is monitoring specific metabolic parameters such as thyroid, sex hormones, and mineral metabolism.
If you want to learn more about how the ketogenic diet works, explore these links: