The Ketogenic Diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet that is mostly used to control difficult cases of epilepsy in children. This diet forces the body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates. Given the relative lack of carbohydrates, the liver converts fats into fatty acids and ketone bodies. This leads to a situation known as ketosis which has an anticonvulsant effect. This diet was first developed in the 1920 but lost popularity when effective anticonvulsant drugs became available.
The first sets of ketogenic diets were actually developed as far back as the early 1920s by the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Epilepsy Center and also by Dr. R.M. Wilder of the Mayo Clinic to treat children with hard to control seizures. The diets were designed to mimic the biochemical changes that occurred during periods of fasting, namely ketosis, acidosis, and dehydration. The diets involved the consumption of about 10-15 grams of carbohydrates per day, 1 gram of protein per kilogram bodyweight of the patient and the remaining calories derived from fats.
In the mid-1990s a two-year old epileptic boy was not responding to anticonvulsant drugs or alternative therapies. He underwent the Ketogenic Diet at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland and rapidly became seizure free. Some evidence exists that epileptic adults may benefit from this diet, or a less rigorous one such as a modified Atkins Diet.
The standard Ketogenic Diet contains 80% fat and 20% protein and carbohydrate by weight. Foods high in carbohydrates such as bread, grains, pasta, starchy fruits and vegetables, and sugar are eliminated and replaced by high fat foods such as butter and cream.
The Ketogenic Diet is not a diet that children and young adults can undertake lightly. It must be considered as serious medical therapy, which means that serious complications may arise. Among the easily treatable side effects patients may incur low-grade acidosis and constipation. Some patients may see their cholesterol increase by about 30%. Another problem is the much greater likelihood of kidney stones, affecting about 5% of dieters. So parents must carefully discuss the pros and cons of the Ketogenic Diet with medical specialists before committing their child to it.
Pros of Ketogenic Diets
This is a diet approach that works for many people, and here are some benefits.
1. Being in ketosis allows the body to process fat and use it as fuel in a way that no other state allows as easily. Carbohydrates are much easier to convert and use as fuel, by providing plenty of these to the body, its need to burn and use all of those before the body will finally begin converting and using fat as fuel!
2. Another benefit of being in a state of ketosis is that excess ketones are not harmful to the system in any way whatsoever.
3. When the body gets used to being in ketosis, it will actually begin to prefer ketones to glucose. This is the ideal state for the body to be in – no longer craving sugar whatsoever, and in fact preferring protein as a fuel source as opposed to sugar.
4. Another benefit of ketogenic diet weight loss is that being in a ketogenic state is very useful for controlling insulin levels in the body. Insulin is one of the substances that makes body crave food, particularly the sugar high, and so controlling it to healthy levels is one of the key elements of weight loss.
5. Last, but certainly not least, is that the majority of people who take advantage of a Ketogenic Diet report that being in a ketogenic state makes them feel significantly less hungry than when they are in a non-ketogenic state. It is much easier to stick to a diet – any diet – when not fighting cravings and hunger every step of the way. In fact, hunger pangs can often be the thing that derails a person’s best efforts! Not having to deal with them makes it easier to meet your goals, all the way around.
Cons of Ketogenic Diets
Although Ketogenic Diets may seem like a godsend to anyone who has struggled for a lifetime to lose body fat or has had their quality of life plummet due to metabolic or cardiovascular disease, there are some drawbacks:
1. Ketogenic Diets require an adaptation period that lasts 1 to 2 weeks. Depending on the state of keto adaptation going in, this phase can be uncomfortable while the body gets its metabolic machinery up to par.
2. It is a restrictive way of eating and some people just don’t like the idea of living (even for one day) without higher carbohydrate foods.
3. Although it’s completely possible to eat a ketogenic diet at restaurants or at social gatherings, it does require some restraint and forethought.
4. Athletes in sports with a high anaerobic energy component, such as basketball players, mixed martial artists, or soccer aren’t going to have the high rate of energy production necessary for maximal performance from running their bodies on ketones. The maximum rate of ATP resynthesis from ketones is only about 0.40 mol/min, whereas aerobic or anaerobic breakdown of glycogen can resynthesize ATP at a rate of 1.0 to 2.0 mol/min.
What foods are encouraged?
Some of the best-tasting, most fulfilling foods are part of this plan, including lean meats like beef and chicken, healthy sources of protein and high-quality fats like eggs, butter, olive oil, coconut oil and avocado. Also, delicious leafy-green vegetables like kale, chard, and spinach, as well as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
These foods can be combined with seeds, nuts, sprouts, and a wide range of other amazing foods that lead to incredible health benefits that give your body the protein, healthy fats, and nutrients it needs while providing metabolism-boosting meals for easy cooking at home or on the go.
What foods should be limited?
On a Ketogenic Diet plan, the main foods to avoid are those high in carbohydrates, sugars, and the wrong types of fats. These foods can be toxic to the body and create excess glucose levels that the body turns into stored fat. These foods increase the level of insulin and blood sugar in the body, and will prevent fat loss even if you are putting a lot of energy into exercise. To avoid these foods, limit intake of grains, processed foods, vegetable oils (canola, corn, soybean, etc.), milk, margarine, and other high-carbohydrate, high-sugar foods.