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Lillian Wilson

The Remarkable Health Benefits Of The Keto Diet: Beyond Weight Loss

With a plethora of diets to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide which one is best suited for your goals, but the keto diet stands out for its potential benefits beyond weight loss.

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Mediterranean, Atkins, Zone, Weight Watchers and Keto diet – the list of viral nutrition plans that make a buzz all over the Internet seems to be endless. While various healthy and well-rounded diets are effective in improving overall health and physical appearance, it’s important to note that each diet is suitable for different lifestyles, and it is essential to select the one that best aligns with your individual needs and preferences.

In this article, we will embark on an exploration of the ketogenic diet and the fascinating realm of ketosis. This eating plan, characterised by low carbohydrate intake and high-fat consumption, has garnered significant popularity and scientific research suggests that it may potentially increase median lifespan by up to 13.6%.

Let’s delve into what makes the ketogenic diet unique and discover the array of health benefits it can offer.

What is the keto diet?

The keto diet, short for a ketogenic diet, is a way of eating that puts your body into a state called ketosis, where it burns fat instead of glucose for energy.

The main principle of the keto diet is to significantly reduce the intake of carbohydrates and increase the consumption of fats. By doing so, the body learns to rely on fat as its primary fuel source.

The macronutrient breakdown of the standard keto diet typically consists of around 70% to 80% fats, 10% to 20% proteins, and only 5% to 10% carbohydrates. This distribution of nutrients aims to shift the body’s metabolism towards utilising fats for energy rather than carbohydrates.

Comparison of Carbohydrate, Fat, and Protein Content in Different Diets Source: PubMed

It is important to note that before starting any diet, including the keto diet, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure it is appropriate for your individual needs and to address any potential risks or concerns.

Note from Healthypedia

Many of the body’s tissues can function using ketones as fuel, but certain parts require glucose. This misconception leads people to believe that consuming glucose is necessary to obtain it. However, the body has a process called gluconeogenesis, where it can create glucose from sources like fat, ketones, and proteins. In other words, there is no need to consume carbohydrates specifically to obtain glucose.

Top eight health benefits of the keto diet

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1Promotes brain health and function

The state of ketosis can have significant benefits for the brain. Normally, the brain uses glucose as its main fuel, but it actually prefers ketones over glucose, as does the heart. In cases where the brain or heart is damaged, ketones can bypass the damaged pathways and directly nourish the tissues.

Ketosis is also beneficial for brain function as it enhances the number and performance of mitochondria, as evidenced by multiple studies. Plus, the keto diet has shown potential for improving brain cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, while ketogenic therapies are also promising for enhancing brain health and reducing symptoms of mental illness.

2Reduces the risk of cardiovascular events

A low-fat diet is usually recommended for people susceptible to or experiencing cardiovascular issues. However, several recent researches started to question the stigma of whether the high-fat and low-carb diet is beneficial for heart health or not.

One study compared the keto diet (KD) to a standard American diet (SAD) and a SAD plus exercise. The KD was found to outperform the other groups in multiple health outcomes and showed a significant decline in triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat, also called lipids, that circulate in your blood. If your level of triglycerides is too high it may lead to heart attack, while keeping the level of this lipid in check reduces your risk of heart disease. So this study disbands the negative stigma of a high-fat diet and its effect on the heart.

Note from Healthypedia

There are two types of the ketogenic diet: clean and dirty. Clean keto prioritises whole foods while sticking to typical keto macronutrient ratios, whereas dirty keto allows for a wider range of food choices to meet macronutrient goals, including processed foods and fast foods. To achieve optimal health benefits from KD, it is recommended to consume a clean version.

3Lowers insulin levels

The digestive system breaks down carbs into sugar, causing blood sugar levels to rise and insulin to be produced by the pancreas. Too much insulin causes insulin resistance which is behind various chronic diseases including pre-diabetes.

The keto diet is a superior nutrition plan when it comes to lowering insulin levels because, as your body levels up the production of ketones, insulin levels drop.

It is interesting to note that the idea of using a low-carb diet for the treatment of diabetes is not new. Diabetes patients relied on diet alterations before insulin injections were invented.

Webster et al. conducted a study which revealed that type 2 diabetic patients who chose to follow a KD were able to lower their average blood sugar levels from 7.5% to 5.9% after 15 months, resulting in their blood glucose levels falling within the normal range of below 6.0%. Consequently, these patients achieved either partial or complete remission from type 2 diabetes.

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4Raises cancer survival time

Multiple studies have been conducted to test the effect of a low-carb diet on tumour growth. In a mouse model study, the KD alone drastically reduced tumour growth and improved mean survival time by 56.7%.

A low-carb diet can also significantly affect cancer risks when considering that 38% of all attributable cancer cases are closely connected to unhealthy body mass index since 1982.

Keto diet increased cancer survival time by almost +57% Source: PubMed

5Increases the number of good bacteria

Experts believe that the diet can improve the microbiome by increasing good bacteria like Bacteroidetes and Bifidobacteria and decreasing bad bacteria linked to health risks.

Research has shown that a one-week ketogenic diet increased Bacteroides levels in epileptic infants by about 24%. And a 6-month study on children with refractory epilepsy found a decrease in harmful Firmicutes and an increase in beneficial Bacteroides, although overall diversity decreased.

6Improves mitochondrial function

The ketogenic diet may not only treat existing diseases but also help prevent chronic and degenerative diseases. According to Miller et al., a state of nutritional ketosis can improve mitochondrial function and increase resistance to oxidative stress. This is important because the more healthy mitochondria your body has, the better you feel and the stronger your metabolism becomes.

Having healthy mitochondria results in better energy, focus, and the ability to engage in high levels of activity without getting tired.

7Promotes weight loss

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A ketogenic diet might be a good option for people looking to lose weight. One study compared three diets on moderately obese subjects over two years, with the keto diet group showing the greatest weight loss initially and both the low-carbohydrate and Mediterranean diets being more effective than the low-fat diet. However, as carbohydrates were added back into their diet, their weight rebounded to a level close to the Mediterranean diet group.

Thus, even though KD is extremely effective in terms of shedding extra pounds, the Mediterranean diet is also a sufficient weight-loss tool. So, you may opt for the one that appeals to you.

8Improves your oxygen levels

Ketosis increases both blood and muscle oxygen saturation. People on the keto diet often report better breathing, reduced asthma and COPD symptoms and more durable exercising capacity.

In a two-week study, rats that were fed a keto diet had increased oxygen levels in the hippocampus – the brain area responsible for memory. This study also found that the ketogenic diet improved the condition of hypoxia, which is when the body’s tissues are deprived of oxygen.

The vitality of O₂ for the human body cannot be overestimated. Enough O₂ promotes better functioning of all body organs from muscles to the brain and heart. Also, it speeds up bone, skin, and muscle regeneration, strengthens the immune system, and reduces inflammation.

Let’s sum up

The ketogenic diet, with its focus on low-carbohydrate and high-fat consumption, offers a wide range of benefits beyond weight loss. From increased oxygen levels to improved brain health and function, the keto diet has the potential to enhance overall well-being. It has been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular events and reduce insulin levels, making it a promising option for those with diabetes or at risk of chronic diseases.

Furthermore, the ketogenic diet can positively impact the microbiome, improve mitochondrial function, and even potentially increase cancer survival time. While it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, the numerous health benefits associated with the keto diet make it a compelling choice for those seeking to improve their health and vitality.

Not enough? Here is more

Dr. Eric Berg is a specialist in Healthy Ketosis and Intermittent Fasting, on his YouTube channel he shares insights on achieving optimal health and weight loss.

In this video, Dr. Berg shares the ultimate Keto diet guide and how to start it.


Healthypedia FAQ

While the ketogenic diet has been shown to have numerous health benefits, it may not be suitable for everyone. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting the diet, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications that may be affected by dietary changes. They can provide personalized guidance and ensure that the diet is appropriate for your individual needs.

Yes, it is possible to follow a ketogenic diet as a vegetarian or vegan. While the traditional keto diet emphasizes high-fat animal-based foods, there are plant-based alternatives that can be incorporated. These include avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, and plant-based oils. However, careful meal planning and consideration of nutrient intake are important to ensure that you meet your dietary needs.

Like any dietary change, the ketogenic diet can have side effects, although they are usually temporary and diminish as your body adjusts. Common side effects can include 'keto' breath, which is a fruity or acetone-like odour, as well as constipation. It is important to stay hydrated, consume adequate fibre, and ensure a balanced intake of nutrients to mitigate these effects. Additionally, some individuals may experience a period of "keto flu" during the initial transition as their body adapts to using ketones for energy. This can cause temporary symptoms such as fatigue, headache, and dizziness, but they typically resolve within a few days to a couple of weeks.

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