The ketogenic diet, often simply called "keto," is a very low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that shares similarities to paleo, Atkins, and other low-carb diets. It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. The reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
When you follow a keto diet, your body gets most of its energy from ketones in the bloodstream. Ketones are molecules your liver produces when it breaks down fat for energy instead of carbs. This state of elevated ketones in the bloodstream is called ketosis - hence the name “keto diet.”
The keto diet was originally developed in the 1920s to treat epilepsy in children. Researchers found that fasting — avoiding consumption of all foods for a brief period — helped reduce the number of seizures patients suffered. Years later, researchers noted that a fat-rich diet also helped reduce seizures. The keto diet produces similar physical and biochemical changes in the body as a fasting state. That's why it can lead to rapid weight loss and health improvements.
The keto diet restricts carb intake to typically less than 50 grams per day — the amount in a small apple or a cup of cooked rice. Such a low intake helps the body enter ketosis fast. To maximize fat burning, followers attempt to enter ketosis by eating high amounts of fat, a moderate amount of protein, and very few carbs.
One of the main benefits of the keto diet is weight loss. The keto diet promotes weight loss in a few key ways:
Ketosis: The keto diet induces a metabolic state called ketosis, where the body starts burning fat for fuel instead of carbs. This promotes fat loss while preserving muscle mass. Appetite suppression:- Ketogenic diets are very effective at reducing hunger and appetite. This leads to a reduced calorie intake without consciously trying to eat less.
Water weight:- The keto diet flushes out excess water from the body, leading to rapid weight loss in the first week or two.
Research has shown that people on a ketogenic diet lose more weight than those on a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet. Over 6 months, ketogenic dieters lost around 7-10% of their body weight, compared to only 2-3% for the low-fat dieters. Other studies show similar weight loss over 12-24 months on keto.
So in summary, the keto diet provides effective weight loss results by inducing ketosis, suppressing appetite, reducing water weight, and promoting fat loss. Studies show keto dieters lose 7-10% of their body weight over 6-24 months.
One of the main reasons the keto diet leads to weight loss is that it significantly reduces appetite. This is due to its effects on hunger hormones.
On a normal high-carb diet, the hormone insulin is frequently elevated. Having high insulin levels can increase hunger and cravings. It also encourages the body to store fat.
On keto, carbohydrates and insulin levels are lowered substantially. This helps fat burning and naturally reduces appetite.
Several studies have shown that being in ketosis suppresses ghrelin, the "hunger hormone". It also leads to rapid increases in the satiety hormones cholecystokinin (CCK) and peptide YY (PYY). Lower insulin levels and higher amounts of ketones like beta-hydroxybutyrate also play an important role in reducing hunger on keto.
By lowering hunger and increasing fullness, many people naturally eat fewer calories without counting calories or controlling portions. Simply by sticking to keto foods, people often find themselves eating to satiety but still consuming far fewer calories than before starting the diet. Improved Heart Health
The keto diet has been shown to have several benefits for heart health by improving key risk factors. One of the most significant impacts is on cholesterol levels. The keto diet tends to increase HDL (good) cholesterol while decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. This leads to improvements in the LDL/HDL ratio and total/HDL ratio, two key markers of heart disease risk. Research indicates the keto diet can also lower blood pressure levels. One analysis found greater reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure on a keto diet compared to a low-fat diet. The keto diet may also reduce inflammation, another major contributor to heart disease, by decreasing inflammatory markers like CRP.
Additionally, keto helps improve atherosclerosis by reducing arterial plaque and increasing plaque stability. It does this by modulating lipoprotein particles and decreasing postprandial lipemia. Overall, the positive effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation, and atherosclerosis make the keto diet highly beneficial for heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease. By targeting multiple risk factors, keto takes a comprehensive approach to improving cardiovascular health.
Lower Blood Sugar
The keto diet has been shown to have major benefits in improving blood sugar levels and reducing insulin resistance. This makes it an excellent dietary approach for people with diabetes, prediabetes, or metabolic syndrome.
By severely restricting carbohydrate intake, the keto diet lowers blood sugar and decreases the need for insulin. Studies show that people on a keto diet rapidly improve insulin sensitivity by as much as 75% (). This effect happens quickly - within days or weeks of starting the diet. In one study, patients with type 2 diabetes were able to significantly reduce or even eliminate their diabetes medication after following the keto diet for 16 weeks (). Other studies show similar effects, with improvements in hemoglobin A1c and fasting blood sugar levels (). For people with poorly controlled diabetes, keto can be life-changing. Maintaining steady, low blood
sugar throughout the day minimizes damage to organs and blood vessels caused by high glucose. The diet may also slow the progression from prediabetes to diabetes because of the improvement in insulin resistance.
Overall, the keto diet can be therapeutic for diabetes, prediabetes, and metabolic syndrome. By lowering carbohydrates and decreasing insulin fluctuations, it improves blood sugar control and reduces the risk of complications.
A ketogenic diet may have powerful anti-inflammatory effects that can help reduce chronic inflammation throughout the body. Chronic inflammation is linked to various health conditions like heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disorders.
When following a keto diet, the body produces fewer free radicals and activated inflammatory cytokines. This is attributed to the reduced amount of glucose metabolism and insulin production. Ketones themselves may also have an anti-inflammatory impact.
Studies indicate that a keto diet can significantly decrease inflammatory markers like TNF, IL-6, and MCP-1. Markers of inflammation like C-reactive protein (CRP), are reduced as well. This can be particularly beneficial for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
One study found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis following a ketogenic diet for 12 weeks experienced reduced CRP and other inflammatory markers. Some studies also indicate improvement in pain scores after following a keto diet. The anti-inflammatory impact may be useful for other autoimmune disorders as well.
Overall, research demonstrates that a well-formulated ketogenic diet can have potent anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body. By reducing chronic inflammation, it may help prevent and manage various inflammatory conditions and diseases.
Improved Brain Function
The keto diet has been shown to have beneficial effects on the brain and neurological health. This is likely related to the metabolic changes that occur when following a very low-carb, high-fat diet. The brain requires high amounts of energy and relies heavily on glucose and insulin signaling. However, research shows the brain can adapt to using ketones derived from fat as an alternative fuel source.
Several studies in animals demonstrate that ketogenic diets can reduce brain inflammation, improve symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, and protect against nerve damage.
The keto diet's ability to stabilize blood sugar levels may also help cognitive function and brain health. High blood sugar can alter neurons and contribute to impairment in learning and memory. In one study of patients with Alzheimer's disease, a ketogenic diet improved symptoms of dementia by nearly 45%. The diet also reduced the buildup of amyloid and tau proteins, which cause the characteristic brain plaques seen in Alzheimer's patients.
There is also promising research showing ketogenic diets may benefit epilepsy. The diet first became popular in the 1920s after it was discovered that fasting could reduce seizures in epileptic
patients. Doctors soon found a ketogenic diet mimicking the metabolic effects of fasting could provide longer-term seizure control.
Multiple studies show the keto diet can significantly reduce seizure frequency and severity in children and adults with epilepsy. However, the diet can be difficult to follow long-term, and may not be effective for all types of seizures.
More research is still needed, but the current evidence suggests ketogenic diets have considerable potential benefits for brain health, cognition, and neurological diseases like Alzheimer's and epilepsy.
One of the most common benefits of the keto diet is increased energy levels and reduced fatigue. This is largely due to the metabolic state of ketosis and the body's ability to utilize fat as its primary fuel source.
When following a standard high-carb diet, the body relies on glucose from carbohydrates for energy. This glucose is burned quickly, causing energy crashes and fatigue between meals. On the keto diet, as carbohydrate intake is drastically reduced, the body enters ketosis - burning fats instead of carbs for fuel. Through a process called fat adaptation, the body becomes efficient at using ketones from fat breakdown to power the body and brain.
Many people on keto report feeling more energized throughout the day with less hunger and fewer energy swings. With a steady stream of ketones from fat, the body can tap into this constant energy source.
Some studies have shown lower reports of fatigue in individuals following a ketogenic diet compared to higher-carb diets. The increased energy promotes greater physical activity and improved athletic performance for some following keto.
The keto diet can provide long-lasting clean energy via fat adaptation and ketosis. For those struggling with low energy, fatigue, and brain fog - keto may provide the ideal metabolic state for boosting energy levels throughout the day.
Foods to Eat
The keto diet focuses on low-carb, high-fat foods that help the body reach and stay in ketosis. Some of the recommended foods to eat on keto include:
Meats are a staple of the keto diet. Choose fattier cuts of beef, pork, and lamb. Also, opt for skin-on poultry.
Low Carb Vegetables
- Leafy greens - spinach, kale, lettuce
- Brussels sprouts
Focus on above-ground, low-carb vegetables. Leafy greens are virtually carb-free. Limit starchy veggies like potatoes, carrots, and beets.
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Full-fat dairy
- Nuts and seeds
Increase healthy fats to stay satisfied on keto. Use olive oil and avocado oil for cooking. Snack on nuts, add nut butter to smoothies or celery. Top salads with olive oil vinaigrettes. Potential Side Effects
When starting a keto diet, some people may experience side effects as their body adapts to ketosis and reduced carbohydrate intake. Some potential side effects include:
In the first few weeks of starting keto, some people may experience flu-like symptoms like fatigue, headaches, nausea, dizziness, and trouble sleeping. This is sometimes called the “keto flu.” It’s caused by the body transitioning from burning carbs to burning fat. The change in metabolic fuel can cause temporary side effects.
Staying hydrated, getting enough electrolytes, and eating enough calories can help minimize symptoms. Most people recover within a few days or weeks.
The keto diet causes a diuretic effect, meaning you excrete more water and electrolytes like sodium and potassium.
This fluid loss can lead to dehydration, low blood pressure, muscle cramps, headaches, and fatigue if electrolytes aren’t replenished.
Getting enough sodium, potassium, and magnesium through keto-friendly foods or supplements prevents electrolyte deficiency.
Following a low-carb, high-fat diet can create digestive issues like constipation in some people. This is primarily due to reduced fiber intake when cutting out grains, legumes, fruits, and starchy vegetables.
To avoid constipation, make sure to eat plenty of low-carb vegetables, drink fluids, and supplement with magnesium or probiotics if needed.
In most cases, potential side effects subside within a few days or weeks as the body adapts to ketosis. Drinking enough fluids, replenishing electrolytes, and eating keto-friendly fiber sources can help minimize adverse effects.
Keto Diet: Unlock the Secret to Fast Weight Loss and Better Health