Chewing the Fat: A Brief Look at the Ketogenic Diet


by Benjamin Delong

Around each corner on the internet, there is a wide range of claims made regarding diets and their benefits. When you are considering any dietary change, you should always conduct a bit of research and seek out the professional opinion of your doctor or a relevant certified professional. Following these simple steps will help to ensure that you do not engage in potentially harmful dietary practices.

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Nutrition

When you think about the word ‘diet’, what comes to mind? If you immediately conjure thoughts of eating regimens promoting weight loss, then you are most likely not alone. However, there is a more straightforward meaning which according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines this word as “food and drink regularly provided or consumed.” Focusing on your nutrition is a crucial element of the ketogenic diet.

The basis of dietary guidelines from the USDA, HHS, and FDA focus on a well-balanced diet which includes a variety of food from a spectrum of all food groups.

Typically, in a calorie-restrictive diet, the goal is to lose weight by making sure the number of calories that enter the body is lower than the number of calories exiting the body. In order to lose one pound, you need to eliminate 3500 calories from your diet each week through less food intake or more exercise.

Many other diets eliminate the intake of carbohydrates, which are a major source of energy for the body, and dense in calories and promote increased intake of protein, vegetables, and fruits. In the Ketogenic diet, the focus is not on protein, but on the intake of healthy fat. When restricting carbohydrates, the body enters a state known as “ketosis” which gives this diet its name.

Based on an article by Wajeed Madood and Kalyan R. Uppaluri, in order to achieve ketosis, a necessary metabolic state of the ketogenic diet, there are specific dietary adjustments required which consists of 55% to 60% fat, 30 to 35% protein, and 5% to 10% carbohydrates. If you are observing a 2000 kcal per day diet, then carbohydrates should total between 20 and 50 grams per day.

Ketosis

Ketosis is the metabolic state in which your body directly breaks down fat stores for energy once glucose stores are insufficient. According to a review by Antonio Paoli, “after 3-4 days of fasting or a very low carbohydrate diet, the central nervous system needs an alternative energy source” engaging a process referred to as ketogenesis wherein your body produces ketones that can be used as an alternative energy source.

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Ketogenesis

This mechanism of producing ketone bodies is relatively complex and primarily occurs within the mitochondria of your liver through the breakdown of amino and fatty acids.

Benefits of Ketosis

Peak nutrition can change from person to person since there really isn’t a solution that is ‘one-size-fits-all’. However, there are some significant benefits to the state of ketosis.

Improved Satiation

The ability to feel full, especially when observing a weight loss diet, can make a significant difference in being able to recognize your body’s actual hunger signals.

Regulation of Hormones

Ketosis assists with sustaining weight loss through the management of hormones that affect weight such as insulin and glucagon.

Improved Oxidation of Fat

This metabolic state and the use of ketones by your body have the potential to enhance the fat oxidation during moderately intense exercise and during rest. According to a study conducted by Brinkworth GD and colleagues, “diet composition altered fuel partitioning during exercise, with an increase in fat oxidation during submaximal aerobic exercise in the low carbohydrate group.

Treatment of Disease

Ketogenic diets have potential promise when it comes to the treatment and/or prevention of disease. According to a review by Wajeed Massod and Kalyan R. Uppaluri, “low-carb diets also may help improve blood pressure, blood glucose regulation, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol levels. Also, in various studies, the ketogenic diet has shown promising results in a variety of neurological disorders, like epilepsy, dementia, ALS, traumatic brain injury, acne, cancers, and metabolic disorders.

Testing Your Ketones

In order to identify that your body is in a state of nutritional ketosis, it is imperative for you to check your ketone levels. You may want to speak with your doctor for advice on the best method for you and to ensure that you are not subject to alternative health consequences.  There are several ways to test yourself to determine if your body is in a state of ketosis.

Blood

This is one of the most accurate ways for you to test the levels of ketones in your body. It involves measuring for the ketone Beta-Hydroxybutyrate.

Urine

This method is not entirely reliable but requires the use of a strip to measure for excess ketones expelled in your urine.

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Breath

The least reliable method for testing ketone levels is through the measurement of acetone in your breath using a meter.

Potential Consequences

Whether you are beginning to observe a new diet or some other health improvement regimen, there is always a possible consequence. It is important to recognize that without the appropriate medical attention some results could have a significant impact on your body’s ability to function.

As a result of the consumption of glycogen by your body when beginning a low carbohydrate diet, you could experience dehydration through more frequent urination. This happens as your body uses the glycogen which is three to four parts water. Without proper hydration, your body can have serious issues with maintaining healthy temperature regulation, loss of consciousness, and even kidney failure.

Another consequence of increased urination could be the loss of essential minerals called electrolytes. When electrolyte deficiency occurs, you could experience symptoms which include:

  • Migraines or headaches
  • Dizziness or weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Heart palpitations
  • Constipation

Take Your Time

Understanding how your body processes the food and beverages that you consume can provide you with insight into how you can best engage in healthy dieting practices. Regardless of any sort of goal to lose weight, or gain muscle, there is a consistent need for your body to get the appropriate nutrition solely to function correctly.

Being mindful of potential risks also includes an awareness of possible symptoms. Having familiarity with symptoms could help with recognizing and communicating a potential issue, especially in the event of an emergency.

When it comes to the endless amounts of diets that are spoken about online, there are indeed plenty of self-proclaimed professionals willing to back up their claims. However, when you are considering any change in diet, it is imperative that you do the necessary research to understand the potential benefits and negative consequences. It is also always a good idea to seek the medical advice of your doctor or another certified medical professional.


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