Keto diet: Benefits and nutrients

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Why is the keto diet good for you?

A keto diet refers to a ketogenic diet, which is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carb diet. The goal is to get more calories from protein and fat than from carbs. It works by depleting your body of its store of sugar, so it will start to break down protein and fat for energy, causing ketosis (and weight loss).

One extremely popular version of a keto diet is the Atkins diet.

Read on to learn the benefits of the keto diet.

1. Aids in weight loss

It takes more work to turn fat into energy than it takes to turn carbs into energy. Because of this, a ketogenic diet can help speed up weight loss. And since the diet is high in protein, it doesn’t leave you hungry like other diets do. In a meta-analysis of 13 different randomized controlled trials, 5 outcomes revealed significant weight loss from a ketogenic diet.

2. Reduces acne

There are a number of different causes of acne, and one may be related to diet and blood sugar. Eating a diet high in processed and refined carbohydrates can alter gut bacteria and cause more dramatic blood sugar fluctuations, both of which can have an influence on skin health. Therefore, by decreasing carb intake, it’s not a surprise that a ketogenic diet could reduce some cases of acne.

3. May help reduce risk of cancer

The ketogenic diet has recently been investigated a great deal for how it may help prevent or even treat certain cancers. One study found that the ketogenic diet may be a suitable complementary treatment to chemotherapy and radiation in people with cancer. This is due to the fact that it would cause more oxidative stress in cancer cells than in normal cells.

Other theories suggest that because the ketogenic diet reduces high blood sugar, it could reduce insulin complications, which may be associated with some cancers.

4. Improves heart health

When the ketogenic diet is followed in a healthy manner (which considers avocados a healthy fat instead of pork rinds), there is some evidence that the diet can improve heart health by reducing cholesterol. One study found that HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels significantly increased in those following the keto diet. The LDL (“bad”) cholesterol went down significantly.

5. May protect brain functioning

More research is needed into the keto diet and the brain. Some studies suggest that the keto diet offers neuroprotective benefits. These may help treat or prevent conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and even some sleep disorders. One study even found that children following a ketogenic diet had improved alertness and cognitive functioning.

6. Potentially reduces seizures

It’s thought that the combination of fat, protein, and carbs alters the way the body uses energy, resulting in ketosis. Ketosis is an elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood.

Ketosis can lead to a reduction in seizures in people with epilepsy. The jury is still out on how effective this actually is, though it seems to be most effective on children who have focal seizures.

7. Improves health in women with PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with cysts. A high-carbohydrate diet can negatively affect those with PCOS.

There aren’t many clinical studies on the ketogenic diet and PCOS. One pilot study that involved 5 women over a 24-week period found that the ketogenic diet:

More research is needed.

Risks and complications

The ketogenic diet may have health benefits – including quick weight loss. But it’s important to note that staying on the ketogenic diet long-term can have adverse consequences to your health. These include increased risk of:

  • kidney stone formation
  • acidosis (high levels of acid in the blood)
  • severe weight loss or muscle degeneration (for long-term use)
  • In many cases, immediate side effects of the diet may include:
  • constipation
  • sluggishness
  • low blood sugar
  • These symptoms are especially common at the beginning of the diet as your body adjusts.

Your brain and body’s primary and preferred source of energy comes from glucose. Because of this, a drastic elimination of carbohydrates isn’t typically a sustainable method of reaching optimal wellness.

Any drastic change in your diet can have potential consequences to your health. Because of this, you should always talk to your doctor or a nutritionist before starting a new diet.

If you’re interested in starting the keto diet, you should be extra careful to check with your doctor if you have diabetes, hypoglycemia, or heart disease.

Because you don’t want your body to stay in ketosis for too long, you’ll want to discuss other options for dietary changes for an extended period of time.

The ketogenic diet encourages the elimination of refined and processed carbohydrates. However, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Many health benefits come from a diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense, fibrous carbs, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

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Additional information

Article last reviewed by Thu 31 August 2017.

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References

Allen B. G., Bhatia, S. K., Anderson, C. M., Eichenberger-Gilmore, J. M., Sibenaller, Z. A., Mapuskar, K. A., . & Fath, M. A. (2014, August 7). Ketogenic diets as an adjuvant cancer therapy: History and potential mechanism. Redox Biology, 2, 963-970. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213231714000925?via%3Dihub

Bueno, N. B., de Melo, I. S., de Oliveira, S. L., & da Rocha Ataide, T. (2013, October). Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials [Abstract]. British Journal of Nutrition, 110(7), 1178-1187. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23651522

Dashti, H. M., Thazhumpal, M. C., Hussein, T., Asfar, S. K., Behbahani, A., Khoursheed, M. A. (2004). Long-term effects of ketogenic diet in obese patients. Experimental and Clinical Cardiology, 9(3), 200-205. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/

Hallböök, T., Sunggoan, J., Maudsley, S., & Martin, B.. (2014, July 27). The effects of ketogenic diet on behavior and cognition. Epilepsy Research, 100(3), 304-309. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4112040/

Mavropoulos, J. C., Yancy, W. S., Hepburn, J., & Westman, E. C. (2005, December 16). The effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on the polycystic ovarian syndrome: A pilot study. Nutrition & Metabolism, 2, 35. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1334192/

Paoli, A., Grimaldi, K., Toniolo, L., Canato, M., Bianco, A., & Fratter, A. (2012, February 11). Nutrition and acne: Therapeutic potential of ketogenic diets [Abstract]. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 25(3), 111-117. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22327146

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