Let’s start this blog off with what seems to be the trendiest diet lately. It’s interesting, though, that the ketogenic diet might also be the most misunderstood. For instance, the above food pyramid was the only ketogenic food pyramid that was actually correct of the ones I found online. Others had water in the smallest triangle at the top, and some with protein in the largest portion at the bottom. Without enough water, besides the fact that your entire system won’t work properly, you can develop kidney stones (and eventually kidney failure) which are far from fun. Protein is basically turned into sugar, so an excess of protein on a ketogenic diet will keep one’s body from turning to ketosis. And vegetables are very important to remember on a ketogenic diet. You certainly do not want to have such acidity or renal failure. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, collard greens, cabbage, lettuce, broccoli and asparagus are incredibly important for fiber, vitamin C, folate, and so much more. Apart from vegetables, eating a diet high in Vitamin A in order to support your thyroid is also important, and that can be found in tomatoes since sweet potatoes are so high in carbohydrates. Also to support the thyroid, be sure to have iodine (think iodized salt or seaweed) and selenium (brazil nuts) included in your diet. As for sources of fat, clarified butter (ghee), coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, and nuts are the healthiest. Studies have shown that PUFAs (Polyunsaturated fatty acids) have been shown to lower thyroid function during a ketogenic diet.
So now that we know what the ketogenic diet is and what it is not, what is it good for? The answer spans many diseases, ailments, and functions. Listed are only a few.
Multiple Sclerosis: The ketogenic diet has a favorable effect on mitochondrial function. In Ketosis, levels of reactive oxygen species is reduced and ATP availability is increased. Oxidative stress is reduced, but histone deacytylases are inhibited and Nrf2 Pathway is activated and ATP production is enhanced and increases mitochodrial biogensis, which then enhances CA1 hippocampal synaptic plasticity and stabilizes neuronal excitability (1). This can also be why ketosis is beneficial for epileptic patients, alzheimers sufferers, and ALS.
Cancer: Studies have shown the ketogenic diet to decrease brain tumor growth by up to 65%. Normal cells can metabolize both glucose and ketones for fuel. In contrast, brain tumor cells need glucose to survive and grow (2). Basically, by being in ketosis, one can possibly starve cancer cells. Side note: A documentary called The Science of Fasting directed by Silvie Gilman and Thierry de Lestrade, which can be found on Amazon Prime is interesting for those of you looking into increasing your success rate with beating cancer cells.
Type 2 Diabetes: The ketogenic diet is far more successful with Type 2 Diabetes than the standard low-glycemic reduced calorie diet commonly given to patients. In comparison, 95% of those on the ketogenic diet reduced or eliminated their medication as opposed to only 62% of those on the low-glycemic reduced calorie diet. Enhancing insulin sensitivity is also why the ketogenic diet is beneficial for those with PCOS attempting to conceive and/or breastfeed (obviously strict attention must be paid to getting the right nutrients such as Folate, Calcium among many others in order to nourish a healthy baby). And in case anyone was wondering, HDL cholesterol (that’s the good stuff!) was increased by 5.6 in the ketogenic group as opposed to 0 in the other (3).
Endurance Athletes: Studies have all pointed to increased time to exhaustion in athletes who eat a high fat (70%), low carbohydrate diet (5%). Not only have the athletes shown the ability to sustain their exercise time, but their high intensity training was not effected (5).
But can it destroy your thyroid? Studies that have claimed that high fat low carb diets will lower the function of your thyroid are mostly based on injecting mice with PUFAs. Linoleic Acid is a polyunsaturated Omega 6 fatty acid (PUFA). Food that is highest in PUFAs or Linoleic Acid is vegetable oil which includes corn oil, safflower oil, and soybean oil. When studies were conducted on mice fed Linoleic Acid versus mice fed lard (saturated fat), it was found that the T4 to T3 turnover rate was lower in the first group as well as the metobolic response to T3 in the first group (4). There is a huge difference in which types of fat we eat, which is why I cringe when I hear someone say vegetable oil ranks higher in health than bacon grease. And I mean, common sense guys… would you prefer corn or bacon? Kidding. All jokes aside, it is important to choose your fats wisely.
The ketogenic diet is definitely not for everyone. Type 1 Diabetics who need to look out for ketoacidosis should steer clear from a diet that is meant to put you into ketosis (which is far from ketoacidosis for the average person). People who have renal failure or any kidney issues should also look to a more easily alkalizing diet.
- GT Plant, M Steroni. (2015). The Therapeutic Potential of Ketogenic Diet. Multiple Sclerosis International. http://www.hidawi.com/journals/msi/2015/681289
- JG Mantis, William T Markis, Purna Mukherjee, Thomas N Seyfried, Michael A Kiebish, Weihua Zhou (2007). The Calorically Restricted Ketogenic Diet. Nutrition and Metabolism. https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com
- Eric Westman, William S Yancy Jr, John C Mavropoulos, Megan Marquart, Jennifer R McDuffie (2008). The effect of a low carb ketogenic diet. Nutrition and Metabolism. https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com
- Reed EB, Tarver H (1975). The Influence of Diet on the Lipogenic Response. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Estelle V Lambert, David P Speechly, Steven C Dennis, Timothy D Noakes (1994). Enhanced endurance in trained cyclists. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology. https://link.springer.com
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