There are far more than just 8 health benefits of a ketogenic diet. The low carb high fat keto diet helps us unlock our body’s lost ability to burn fat (ketones) for fuel. It helps us become “keto-adapted.” In this adapted state is where the health benefits reveal themselves on us.
This act alone of being in ketosis helps loosen the reigns of your body’s own healing abilities. When your body can focus on what it needs to do, instead of metabolizing food all day, you will feel better in more ways than one. There are many potential health benefits of a ketogenic diet. A low carb high fat (LCHF) diet does far more than weight loss for people. If you’ve been on a high-carb Standard American Diet for years, you’ll need to achieve keto-adaptation first. Once achieved, you can then reap these health benefits of a keto diet.
Feeding the cells of your heart, brain and muscles ketones for fuel promotes various health benefits.
Beyond weight loss: Along with anti-aging effects from increased cell energy, the keto diet promotes increased energy levels, improved athletic performance, reduced migraines, fewer hunger cravings, better skin (from decreased inflammation), less bad cholesterol, more good cholesterol, weight loss, mood stabilization and more health benefits.
8 Health Benefits of A Ketogenic Diet
Long been proven as therapeutic, keto diets are good for diabetes, metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes) and chronic diseases from oxidative stress and inflammation (cancer and neurological disorders).
These are 8 strong reasons to try keto.
Inflammation is a common link among the leading causes of death.
It’s a necessary defense mechanism our bodies use in the right amounts when needed to function properly (sore days after a hard workout/swelling from a bike crash injury or a bump on your head after walking into a short doorway).
Steady, chronic inflammation is horrible for your health. This type of inflammation is the underlying root marker seen within all these degenerative diseases.
It’s been linked to autoimmune disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and more. A quote from the study:
Together, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes account for almost 70% of all deaths in the United States; these diseases share inflammation as a common link (1–2). Dietary strategies clearly influence inflammation.
Dietary strategies clearly influence inflammation. The best thing you can do for yourself right now, regardless of going keto or not, is to cut processed sugars and packaged foods with toxic preservatives and unhealthy trans-fats out of your diet.
Processed sugars promote high blood concentrations of pro-inflammatory molecules known as cytokines. By replacing these bad foods with healthy keto friendly foods lower on the glycemic index chart, you can help balance your insulin levels and reduce body inflammation.
Unhealthy high-carb diets lead to weight gain and excess fat storage.
The more fat cells you have, the more potential there is for inflammation.
Taken from a WebMD article relating inflammation to diabetes:
Researchers discovered that in people with type 2 diabetes, cytokine levels are elevated in fat tissue. Their conclusion: Excess body fat, especially in the abdomen, causes continuous (chronic), low levels of abnormal inflammation that alters insulin’s action and contributes to the disease.
What WebMD is describing is the visceral fat that builds around your belly. Visceral fat is the one fat you do not want on your body. It’s also called “organ fat” or “intra-abdominal fat.” This type of fat promotes inflammation. Learn more about it here.
When you eat high-fat low-carb, your inflammation goes down naturally. This lets your body get to work and finally do what it wants to do… heal itself.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that ages you inside and out. If it itself doesn’t take you down, then it will often lead to something that will. The American Diabetes Association has reported 69,000 deaths per year are from diabetes and 239,000 deaths with diabetes as the main contributor.
It can happen at any age and it’s highly preventable.
At current rates, 1 out of 3 people will develop it. When you make all your energy from glucose, you don’t burn fat efficiently – you store it away and gain weight. Being overweight is one of the main risk factors of type 2 diabetes.
The more carbs you eat, the more your blood glucose rises, the more insulin you force your body to create to keep up with it. Insulin is produced whenever blood glucose levels rise. Our high carb diets give us constantly raised blood glucose levels, which in turn makes us overproduce insulin and leads us to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Here are some scary stats according to a 2014 Diabetes Statistics Report from CDC.gov:
- 29.1 million Americans have diabetes (1 out of 11 people).
- Millions of people (1 out of 4 diabetes sufferers) do not know they have it which makes complications far worse.
- 86 million people – more than 1 in 3 people in the US – have prediabetes. 9 out of 10 of them don’t know it. Prediabetes means blood sugar is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be classified as insulin resistant type 2 diabetes.
- Without efforts to lose weight, eat healthier and exercise, 15-30% of those with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years.
- The risk of death for adults with diabetes is 50% higher than adults without diabetes.
- Diabetes puts you at risk for serious health complications including blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, loss of toes, feet or legs.
When you’re carb addicted and sedentary, you store fat, you don’t burn it. And then you get diabetes.
Keto diet and blood glucose
By adopting the keto diet you give yourself a greater chance of avoiding type 2 diabetes, even if it’s in your family history. Even if you’re already insulin resistant.
Accumulating evidence suggests that Low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets are safe and effective to reduce glycemia in diabetic patients without producing significant cardiovascular risks.
This quote is taken from an NIH publication abstract that goes on to state:
…diets that limit protein as well as carbohydrates, entailing a composition very high in fat, appear even more effective to reduce glucose and whole-body glucose metabolism in humans.
Various research studies show keto diets as remarkable for diabetes. They have the power to reverse it. If you have symptoms of insulin resistance or are dealing with type 2 diabetes right now, the keto diet can potentially be a life-changing solution for you.
Food cravings are one of the biggest reasons we have visceral fat.
Visceral fat is the dangerous fat that gathers around your belly and love handles. It promotes inflammation and prevents your body’s ability to create insulin.
It is one of the leading causes of metabolic dysfunction.
When you can control your satiety, you can balance your hormones and start using fat stores again..
The keto diet doesn’t leave you craving simple carbs like you do when you’re still under carbs’ control. The benefits of a ketogenic diet mean you can access your fat for energy. This lessens the intensity of short-tempered “hunger moods” caused by fluctuating blood glucose levels (AKA get your significant other on a ketogenic diet right away!).
This Bulletproof blog post describes how keto diets control hunger and satiety hormones. One method is by controlling ghrelin, also called “the hunger hormone.”
When you lose weight you can bet your ghrelin levels go up – but not if you’re also in ketosis. Ketosis completely suppresses the increase in ghrelin levels that occurs with weight loss.
If you’re hungry in between meals during the day, just eat a tablespoon of coconut oil and 2 brazil nuts. Or eat half an avocado with 1 Tbsp of ground flaxseed and some sprinkled sea salt. These will hold you over until your next meal. Better idea: Google the term “fat bombs” to find plenty of healthy, fatty quick eats.
4. Weight Management
It’s never been a question of whether low-carb diets work for weight loss. They work. When considering the benefits of a ketogenic diet, this is one of the more popular ones for a reason. Because of an “our brains need carbs” mentality, the question has always been, are they healthy long term.
In this study conducted on 83 obese people, they proved long-term keto diets successful as a natural long-term therapy for obesity.
After 6 months of a ketogenic diet capped at 30g carbs per day, participants’ triglyceride levels, LDL cholesterol, and blood glucose levels all decreased to healthier levels. Their HDL cholesterol had a “significant increase” and no one reported side effects.
From the study conclusion:
These results indicate that the administration of a ketogenic diet for a relatively long period of time is safe. Further studies elucidating the molecular mechanisms of a ketogenic diet are in progress in our laboratory. These studies will open new avenues into the potential therapeutic uses of a ketogenic diet and ketone bodies.
Since the low carb 90’s Adkins days, tons of new research studies, books and individual experiences with low carb diets have been published. New knowledge of mitochondria and how they use ketones gives us more power over our health than ever before. It shows us that low-carb keto diets when done right, are not only sustainable but ideal for optimal long-term health.
Today we know that mitochondria are what produce energy in our bodies. I first learned about mitochondria by listening to Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof podcast and then reading his book Headstrong. This set me off down a rabbit hole and back and I came out a believer.
In the book, he describes how mitochondria are an ancient bacterium that learned how to use oxygen to make energy way back in the day, like 1.5 billion years ago. This energy the mitochondria created is what we call adenosine triphosphate (ATP). At the time, oxygen was a poisonous gas, yet these mitochondria learned how to turn it into energy, using that to create us.
So we have an “ancient bacterium” that’s responsible for our lives and still living inside us today. I’m still trying to fathom this one, but yeah, this ATP they learned to create is the same energy that keeps us alive today.
Ketogenic diet and the human body: mitochondria
There are roughly 2,000 mitochondria within each of our cells.
Our brain, heart, and eyes have even more.
The heart seems to have the most “energy-dense” tissue in your body with around 5,000 mitochondria inside each of its cells. When mitochondria combine either ketones or glucose from our food with oxygen, this process called “oxidative phosphorylation” generates energy (ATP), as well as free radicals. We can’t help that free radicals generate during energy creation. We need free radicals. It’s excess free radicals or ROS that cause havoc in our bodies. Free radical damage is linked to various degenerative diseases.
Free radicals attack our DNA and mess with our body’s molecules to cause problems.
In the book Fat For Fuel, Dr. Mercola describes how free radicals are linked to over 60 different diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Heart Disease, Cancer, Cataracts, Parkinson’s, and more. He says:
..approximately 90 percent or more of the ROS in your body are produced within your mitochondria.
The best thing we can do to limit ROS damage and premature aging – something far better than supplementing with antioxidants – is to limit their production. The keto diet helps us do this. Because ketones are the more efficient form of fuel, our mitochondria produce less free radicals when we feed them ketones primarily.
As long as you are getting proper micronutrients, which can be had nicely with nutrient dense green smoothies throughout the week, the keto diet is a great natural anti-aging solution that can slow down your rate of aging because of the less ROS it produces.
A ketogenic diet benefits cholesterol, contrary to what you’d believe a high-fat diet would do. Ketogenic diets promote more heart-healthy HDL cholesterol than any standard low-fat diet can. Is it superior to a low fat diet in regards to healthy cholesterol levels?
Yes, far superior.
However, if you do keto wrong, you can hurt yourself.
To learn more about the cholesterol dangers faced with the ketogenic diet, I highly recommend you to read this Ben Greenfield article on it. He lays out some very important facts in that post, as well as in this one, that I would say are vital to read and learn before embarking on a ketogenic diet.
Basically, what it boils down to is to NOT combine a high carb diet with your ketogenic diet. Even enough cheat days can set you down a dangerous and unhealthy path. If you’re eating high fat, don’t eat carbs like you used to. This is why it’s important to learn about this diet before starting it. If you must indulge, look into a proper cyclical keto diet that involves periods of feasting and fasting.
The Keto Cholesterol Conclusion: Following a proper low carb high fat ketogenic diet is good for improving cholesterol.
7. Brain Health
A ketogenic diet increases the number of mitochondria, so-called “energy factories” in brain cells.”
Our brains are 60% fat. They call Alzheimer’s disease type 3 diabetes. When you go keto, you fix your blood glucose and gain mental clarity at the same time. This correlation is not a coincidence. Eating healthy fats is important for optimal brain functioning.
This is why the keto diet has so many short-term and long-term benefits. Greater energy now and greater energy in the future when you avoid dementia and brain diseases.
From Ketogenic Diet Resource:
This has important implications because recent reports here and here have suggested that ketosis and the resulting ketone bodies may provide relief for and reversal of several neurological disorders in which oxidative stress at the cellular level is strongly implicated as a cause. This would include Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and stroke.
Often neurological diseases have energy production problems. Using ketones provides more energy per unit oxygen used. When the brain is getting its energy from ketones, it’s more protected against brain diseases that are affected by energy production problems. It’s a healthier, more efficient way to make energy than glucose.
It’s great for short-term brain health as well. If you feel down right now or maybe you feel as if your adrenals are shot from being stressed out all the time and drinking too much coffee. If you’re trying to hide the fact that something is off in your daily energy or moods, try eating more healthy fats and see how you start to feel. Replace a carb meal with something like this. Do the eggs and bacon but skip the toast. And add a green juice. You might just find the blues start to fade away.
Before thought to come from genetic mutations, we now know that mitochondrial damage is a main factor in cancer. Cancer is a disease of the mitochondria. I’ll leave this one to the experts. Dr. Jack Kruse explains how our metabolism works and introduces the Warburg effect:
Metabolism is the process by which cells convert relatively simple extracellular nutrients into energy and building blocks necessary for their growth and survival. In cancer cells, metabolism is dramatically altered compared with normal cells. These alterations are known as the Warburg effect.
In Dr. Peter Volek’s presentation about the keto diet’s health benefits, he talked about how Dr. Otto Warburg, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1931, discovered that cancer cells have a different energy metabolism versus healthy cells:
This Warburg effect tells us that most of the mitochondria in cancer cells are dysfunctional and can’t use oxygen to burn fuel efficiently-they lack the metabolic flexibility to metabolize fats. They rely on fermenting ever-increasing amounts of glucose in their cytoplasm (instead of oxidizing it in their mitochondria), a far less efficient way of obtaining energy called lactic acid fermentation.
So the thought is that since cancer cells cannot use ketones if we then use them to make most our energy, this may have the power to starve the cancer cells to death.
Since the human body can thrive off of ketones, this seems like a promising method to help treat cancer. Dr. Gabriela explains how glucose-loving cancer cells can be starved out with ketogenic diets (wow!):
A healthy ketosis also helps starve cancer cells as they are unable to use ketones for fuel, relying on glucose alone for their growth. The energy-producing factories of our cells – the mitochondria – work much better on a ketogenic diet as they are able to increase energy levels in a stable, long-burning, efficient, and steady way.
Ketogenic diets are one of the very best ways to allow our bodies to heal themselves. In life’s search for optimal health, you come upon answers that change the trajectory of your life. A high-fat, low-carb diet can be one of these. With 40% of us coming down with cancer, and diabetes, brain and heart disease affecting everyone, there’s no better time than now to start learning about ketogenic diets and mitochondrial health.
The Keto Diet Is Different For Everyone
In general, timing extra carbs around activities and early dinners and late breakfasts is a good way to go about it. The thought of using ketones as fuel opens up the doors to learning about health in a broader sense; how things like mitochondria, sunlight, EMF, and water are so important to our health.
Neurosurgeon and blogger Dr. Jack Kruse has a good book I’d recommend if you’re interested in achieving an optimally healthy lifestyle called Epi-Paleo RX.
His blog is full of fascinating information if you’re looking for the latest cutting-edge information about how water and lighting are important for ketosis and our mitochondria and more, things like 20 minutes of morning sunlight into your eyes to balance your circadian rhythm, and drinking plenty of good water to make ketosis work how it should.
Any low-carb high-fat variation of the ketogenic diet is a great way of eating that we should have been taught our whole lives. It’s a sustainable way to live a healthy life and avoid diseases that affect so many today.
However, there are other ways to attain adaptation and the benefits of ketosis.
You don’t have to rush. If you’re going for instant keto, you’ll feel the keto flu stronger than if you gradually step into ketosis. Incorporating the proper foods into your diet and cutting the improper foods one at a time is a good start. The normal temporary side effects such as frequent urination, nausea, fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps, constipation and even high blood pressure can be remedied.
UP NEXT: Beginner’s Guide To A Keto Diet .
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