In today’s world there seems to be a lot of attention on a low carb, high fat diet.The basic premise is to increase your percentage of fat and protein, while decreasing your percentage of carbohydrates which leads to a state of ketosis. When you take someone that starts this nutrition plan, there are several changes going on. Without this turning into a Biochemistry class, I am going to discuss what ketosis is, the benefits, as well as the pro’s and cons of following a ketogenic diet. First lets start with what ketosis is.
Ketosis is when your body’s energy supply comes from ketone bodies in the blood. Ketone bodies are a bi-product of fatty acid metabolism in the liver. Using ketone bodies as an energy supply typically comes onboard in times of pregnancy, extreme exercise, fasting, and in type 1 diabetics. Most of us however, are metabolizing glucose as our primary energy supply in the form of glycolysis. In terms of metabolism, think of ketosis as fat burning, and glycolysis as sugar burning. Sounds like something we all want to achieve is fat burning right? Lets examine the pro’s and con’s below.
- Weight loss- I would say 90% of people that go on a low carb/high fat diet lose weight. Once someone is in a state of ketosis, they can quickly turn into a fat burning machine!
- Reduction in triglyceride levels- having lower triglyceride levels equate to a lower risk of heart disease, which we all want.
- Insulin resistance- Type 2 diabetics have to manage their blood sugar daily, but people in a state of ketosis have a decrease in insulin resistance and can better utilize glucose. So another advantage with ketosis!
- Cancer- For those that follow a low carb/high fat diet there is a lower chance of cancer cells multiplying. Cancer loves sugar, so sticking with a ketogenic diet could possibly help ward off this horrible disease. Not all of the studies have been conclusive, but there is a strong correlation between the two.
- Neurodegenerative disease- Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, and ALS are three debilitating diseases we have all heard of and definitely do not want to get. There has been promising research in the area of a ketogenic diet helping ward off these diseases. There have even been some Neurologists prescribing certain MCT oils such as coconut oil.
- Intermittent Fasting- IF and a ketogenic diet can go hand in hand together. Typically if you follow an intermittent fasting schedule (you eat all your calories in a shortened fasted time period) you are also in a state of ketosis. In a previous blog, I have mentioned the numerous benefits of following this type of plan, and I recommend it to most everyone.
- Diabetics- People with diabetes should use caution when first switching to a ketogenic diet, it is best to find a nutritionist that has advanced knowledge of your blood sugar and diet history. The last thing you want is to become hypoglycemic if you have blood sugar issues.
- GI disturbances- Several complaints I have heard when someone first starts a ketogenic diet is stomach distress. Once again, you will want to slowly decrease your carbs and not go from 60% to 10% overnight.
- Kidney stones- Another possible side-effect of a ketogenic diet is a higher than usual percent of protein your diet. This can increase your chances of kidney stones by increasing the calcium and acid in your urine.
- Nutrient deficiency- This is another issue that needs to addressed before starting a ketogenic diet. We all react differently with how we process nutrients, so make sure you get your blood checked to make sure you are getting all your nutrition needs.
- Skeletal fractures- Unfortunately another issue some people have with following a ketogenic diet is an increase risk of bone fractures. Typically a low carbohydrate diet correlates with an increase in calcium urinary excretion, which is a great place to be if you are a kidney stone 🙂
So the million dollar question is if a ketogenic diet is a healthy, long-term plan to follow? I personally lean more towards yes, but each person needs to take in their own INDIVIDUAL needs before jumping right into this fat burning approach. Some of the questions you will want to ask yourself are: How many grams of carbohydrates do I currently eat? What is your current body fat percentage? What is your activity level? Am I insulin resistant? What is my future plan for exercise and nutrition? Do I have kidney issues? Last but not least is to go and get a blood panel to get a baseline on ALL of your markers and talk it over with an experienced Nutritionist or Physician. The last thing you want is to decrease your overall health, while you were trying to increase it!