Dr. Jockers, thank you so much for this clear and detailed article! I began a keto-style diet around August 2019. By late November, I had fallen from 197 lbs. to under 175 lbs., dropped from 28% to 18% body fat, and anecdotally felt much better in all aspects of my health. All of this occurred exclusively due to diet, I believe– I had almost no exercise routine to speak of, and my desk-based job is pretty sedentary. My family practice doc was surprised and happy with the results as well when I met with him in January… until my blood work came back showing total cholesterol at 257, triglycerides at 236, LDL-C at 162, and HDL at 50.
There are three instances where there’s research to back up a ketogenic diet, including to help control type 2 diabetes, as part of epilepsy treatment, or for weight loss, says Mattinson. “In terms of diabetes, there is some promising research showing that the ketogenic diet may improve glycemic control. It may cause a reduction in A1C — a key test for diabetes that measures a person’s average blood sugar control over two to three months — something that may help you reduce medication use,” she says.
The ketogenic diet is a treatment protocol for children with epilepsy, a disorder that occurs when the brain produces electrical signals that lead to seizures. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, the ketogenic diet forces the body to burn fat stores instead of glucose for energy. Bodybuilders also use a form of the ketogenic diet. The targeted keto diet is a variation of the ketogenic plan that increases energy for cardio workouts.
Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders after stroke, and affects around 50 million people worldwide. It is diagnosed in a person having recurrent, unprovoked seizures. These occur when cortical neurons fire excessively, hypersynchronously, or both, leading to temporary disruption of normal brain function. This might affect, for example, the muscles, the senses, consciousness, or a combination. A seizure can be focal (confined to one part of the brain) or generalised (spread widely throughout the brain and leading to a loss of consciousness). Epilepsy can occur for a variety of reasons; some forms have been classified into epileptic syndromes, most of which begin in childhood. Epilepsy is considered refractory (not yielding to treatment) when two or three anticonvulsant drugs have failed to control it. About 60% of patients achieve control of their epilepsy with the first drug they use, whereas around 30% do not achieve control with drugs. When drugs fail, other options include epilepsy surgery, vagus nerve stimulation, and the ketogenic diet.
Getting into ketosis is a critical component of the ketogenic diet. You can achieve ketosis by fasting, cutting carbs drastically (typically under 50 grams a day), and/or taking keto supplements, such as BHB (exogenous ketones) and MCT-based meal replacement shakes. After becoming fat-adapted, incorporating intermittent fasting (IF) can help boost weight loss or break weight loss plateaus. The most common method is 16:8 where you go 16 hours without eating, and consume all of your calories during an 8-hour eating window.
Because some cancer cells are inefficient in processing ketone bodies for energy, the ketogenic diet has also been suggested as a treatment for cancer. A 2018 review looked at the evidence from preclinical and clinical studies of ketogenic diets in cancer therapy. The clinical studies in humans are typically very small, with some providing weak evidence for anti-tumour effect, particularly for glioblastoma, but in other cancers and studies, no anti-tumour effect was seen. Taken together, results from preclinical studies, albeit sometimes contradictory, tend to support an anti-tumor effect rather than a pro-tumor effect of the KD for most solid cancers.
“I have been applying low carb solutions to metabolic problems since the moment I closed the cover of Good Calories, Bad Calories. I share with my low-carb colleagues the wonderful experience of offering effective advice and seeing real results. In addition to metabolic and hormonal problems, I have more recently focused on flexible low-carb approaches for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions. I greatly enjoy the lively online low-carb community and rely on Diet Doctor as a resource for myself and my patients.”
Previous studies have shown that ketogenic diets preferably reduce the total FM in obese patients (10–13). However, the precise distribution of these losses has not been determined. In this study we confirmed that the diet reduces total FM and specifically visceral adipose tissue, which has a greater impact in predicting cardiometabolic complications associated with obesity than does the total volume of body adiposity (2, 31).
The weight-loss program has five steps and adheres to the most recent guidelines of the 2015 EFSA on total carbohydrate intake . The first three steps consist of a VLCK diet (600–800 kcal/day), low in carbohydrates (<50 g daily from vegetables), and lipids (only 10 g of olive oil per day). The amount of high biological-value proteins ranged between 0.8 and 1.2 g per each kg of ideal body weight to ensure that patients were meeting their minimum body requirements and to prevent the loss of lean mass. In step 1, the patients ate high-biological-value protein preparations five times a day and vegetables with low glycemic indexes. In step 2, one of the protein servings was substituted with a natural protein (e.g., meat or fish) either at lunch or at dinner. In step 3, a second serving of low-fat natural protein was substituted for the second serving of biological protein preparation. Throughout these ketogenic phases, supplements of vitamins and minerals, such as K, Na, Mg, Ca, and omega-3 fatty acids, were provided in accordance with international recommendations . These three steps were maintained until the patient lost the target amount of weight, ideally 80%. Hence, the ketogenic steps were variable in time depending on the individual and the weight-loss target. The total ketosis state lasted for 60–90 days only.
If you need to eat more or fewer calories per day, you can adjust accordingly by simply taking out or adding a bit more of the ingredients already included in a recipe. For example, adding/removing a tablespoon of olive oil or butter will add/remove about 100 calories. If you like or dislike certain recipes, feel free to shift things around. Make sure to keep an eye on the calories so you’re still falling within an acceptable range of your daily goal.
What makes this diet so special is that it changes how your body feels and most importantly how your body uses energy, placing you into a state known as ketosis. This is actually where all the magic begins to happen; in this state your body starts to utilize substances known as ketone bodies which are produced by the breakdown of your body fats. Your body loves glucose and if it has that on hand it’s going to use that first for energy. On the keto diet, the amount of carbohydrates decreases drastically, which in turn will lead to less production of glucose. High levels of glucose production is generally what makes you fat; without it, the body will begin to start breaking down your body fat and this is when you start to get leaner.
Certain studies suggest that keto diets may “starve” cancer cells. A highly processed, pro-inflammatory, low-nutrient foods can feed cancer cells causing them to proliferate. What’s the connection between high-sugar consumption and cancer? The regular cells found in our bodies are able to use fat for energy, but it’s believed that cancer cells cannot metabolically shift to use fat rather than glucose. (11)
Similar to our results, three studies noted that diabetes medications were reduced in some participants[6,8,9], although details were provided in only one study. We also discontinued diuretic medications during diet initiation because of concern for additional diuresis incurred by the diet. This concern was based on the theoretical effects of the diet , observed effects of the diet on body water by bioelectric impedance , and practical experience with the diet . Until we learn more about using low carbohydrate diets, medical monitoring for hypoglycemia, dehydration, and electrolyte abnormalities is imperative in patients taking diabetes or diuretic medications.
When the craving for alcohol was evaluated, no statistically significant changes were observed in the MACS scores through the nutritional intervention, taking all patients together (Table S1). However, when the analysis was performed considering the gender of participants in the study, men experienced a significant decrease in the total score through the study (p = 0.047). This decrease was more notable in the maximum ketosis phase as compared with baseline (−15.14; p = 0.047). Moreover, a statistically significant reduction was observed in the lack of inhibition item (−27.19; p = 0.042).