The keto diet is gaining in popularity all the time. Everywhere we look celebs, our friends, family and colleagues seem to be joining in with this keto fest.
However, there are some who like a little science before they make up their minds. These are the people asking “Exactly how does a keto diet work?”
So, for those among you who like to know some hard facts about the keto diet before embarking on the plan, this article is written for you.
It’s no bad thing to ask about the details. It’s a great start to want to know exactly how does a keto diet work.
For any diet to work it’s necessary to put in time and effort. You’ll want to know that you’re not wasting your time.
This is true whether your goals are weight loss or reversal of a health problem which can be helped by keto. As with all changes to diet or lifestyle, it’s always best to see how the solid science lines up before committing yourself.
Why start a keto diet?
The keto diet is proven to be a highly effective method of losing weight, reversing or preventing numerous diseases and improving cognitive function.
When we eat the standard modern diet, we are eating far too many carbohydrates. This is no surprise as we have been presented with the well-known food pyramid since 1977.
The food pyramid which is familiar to us all suggests that carbohydrates should form the bulk of our daily food intake.
It is worth mentioning that the current sky-rocketing rates of type 2 diabetes started at the same time as the introduction of this pyramid.
The modern diet, and much of the current dietary advice is all about carbohydrate consumption.
However, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that shows that carbs, with their ability to increase blood/ glucose levels are unhealthy if taken in excess.
When blood/glucose levels are raised, insulin levels must also raise to keep the glucose levels within a narrow healthy range in the blood.
When blood/glucose levels become uncontrolled, either by excess carbs or insulin resistance, this produces end results that are harmful to health.
Current dietary advice contained in the food pyramid suggests that we should all base our diets on carbs, an astonishing 6 -11 servings each day. This was suggested as being “healthy” !
Once you know that carbs cause an insulin reaction in our bodies, it’s difficult to see how eating such a carb heavy diet could have ever have been thought of as healthy.
Following this dietary advice, type two diabetes rates went through the roof, and they seem set to climb further unless people begin to understand this carb – insulin resistance link.
Uncontrolled blood/glucose triggers a process leading to advanced glycosylated end products (AGEs)( 5) and inflammation which causes numerous health issues.
AGE modified LDL is trigger of atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases (8)
The body’s response to a diet that persists to deliver high glycemic index foods (carbohydrates) is not health promoting.
Endocrine physiology tells us that every time we spike insulin due to intake of high glycemic index carbohydrate foods, we begin the process of storing fat in our cells (7).
It is this process which causes adipose fat accumulation, in other words – you gain weight. Worse, you gain unhealthy weight which is the cause of countless diseases.
Obesity rates have never been higher, and they are continuing to climb.
Over the past decade, people have noticed that the current dietary advice seems to be connected to the surge in obesity and many diseases.
This includes diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases such as Altheimer’s and cancer.
This is hotly disputed in some quarters, but the evidence is overwhelming.
If you want to lose weight and improve your health you are going to have to reduce your carbohydrate intake and eliminate or drastically reduce simple carbs such as sugar.
For this reason, many are looking to the keto diet with its multiple weight loss and health benefits.
What does the keto diet aim to achieve?
The keto diet restricts carbohydrates to 20g net each day. This takes sugar, flour, pasta, rice, most ready meals, most fruits and root vegetables off the table.
The diet requires that you get only 5% of your daily intake from carbs. 25% of your daily intake should be protein from meat, fish, eggs and dairy.
The remaining 70% of your daily allowance will come from healthy fats such as cheese, butter, olive oil, avocados and nuts and seeds.
The keto diet (ketogenic diet) aims to:
- Prevent fat storage and the use of glucose for energy by putting your body into a state of ketosis.
- Train your body to efficiently switch to burning fat for fuel to meet its energy needs.
- Stabilize blood/glucose levels, thereby reducing or preventing many health issues.
Ketosis is achieved as a product of your body burning fat to supply its immediate energy needs.
Ketosis is a natural process that has evolved in humans to protect against times of food shortage or starvation.
Normally, when eating a medium to high carbohydrate diet, it is these carbs that the body will use for fuel. Carbs are converted into glucose.
When the body senses a rise in the levels of glucose it produces the hormone insulin. Insulin acts to move the glucose into the bloodstream to be used for energy.
As long as you are taking in sufficient carbs, this is the metabolic pathway that the body will use to meet its energy needs.
The keto diet seeks to force the body to switch from this metabolic pathway, to one that does not burn carbs for fuel. The aim is to trigger the alternative pathway which is to burn fat for fuel.
The keto diet achieves this by restricting the amount of carbs consumed each day to 20g net carbs, which is not enough to meet your daily energy needs.
The switch to fat burning is normally complete within 2 – 4 days at this level of carb consumption.
Once the body has registered the lack of carbs to convert to glucose, it will first use the glucose stored in the liver.
Once all stored glucose is depleted, the body is forced to seek out and use either stored fat or fat from your diet as fuel.
At this point the liver begins to convert fatty acids into ketones to utilize for energy. There are three main types of ketones synthesized in the liver:
- Acetoacetate (1) – 20% of ketones in the blood
- Beta-hydroxybutyric acid – BHB 70% of ketones in the blood and the main provider of energy
- Acetone – a side product of acetoacetate, this is mainly lost through your breath and sweat.
This is the process of ketosis and is the main aim of the keto diet.
BHB is the ketone most easily utilized for energy. It provides the body with all it’s energy needs. It is also able to cross the blood/brain barrier to provide energy for the brain.
BHB is an amazingly effective provider of energy, and is capable more than just fueling the body.
The presence of BHB will also act to decrease inflammation (2) and provide heightened cognitive ability.
For more information about the health risks of inflammation read what is inflammation in the body
Other benefits of being in ketosis include:
- Weight loss (10)(13)
- Reduced appetite (9)
- Reduced blood sugar – multiple health benefits as sugar is a major cause of inflammation. (11)
- Increased cognitive performance (12)
- Reduction of fatty liver disease ( associated with weight gain)
- More stable mood (13)
- Control of epilepsy (14)
- Reduction of migraines (15)
- Treatment and prevention of certain cancers (16)
- Reduced risk of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. (17)
As your body gets used to burning fat for fuel, it comes to prefer this. You experience a more stable level of energy, as there are not the highs and lows associated with glucose levels.
The keto diet also acts as an appetite regulator. This is due to the high fat consumption which is very satiating. Most people find that they are less hungry when in ketosis.There is overwhelming scientific evidence that supports the view that the ketogenic diet works well. It is more effective than calorie restricting diets and low fat diets for weight loss.
Being in ketosis has an amazing amount of health benefits and can reduce inflammation.
The restricted amount of carbohydrates stabilize blood sugar and have been proved to reverse type 2 diabetes.
On top of all the health benefits, there is also evidence of the keto diet’s ability to affect mood. In particular, it lessens depression and anxiety.
It may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimers disease, which is now at epidemic levels.
It is also able to improve the cognitive function in people who already have this condition.
The carbohydrate heavy diet that is eaten today causes multiple health problems.
Levels of obesity, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimers are all climbing with no end in sight.
It’s time to look again at the nutritional advice of old. The advice to eat mainly carbs is not supported by science.
There is plenty of evidence that carb heavy diets are making us overweight and sick.
Our body reacts to carbohydrates with a spike in blood/glucose levels. There is a lot of solid science that says chronically out of control blood/glucose is a major health risk.
The keto diet has it’s opponents, but the science is heavily stacked up in favor of it.
There can be no doubt that this diet will help you to reach all your weight loss and health goals.