The Ketogenic Diet and its Application to Managing Chronic Disease
As the burden on our health system continues to grow, due to the ever-increasing rates of obesity and chronic disease, finding effective non-invasive solutions to treating and/or preventing these issues has never been more pertinent. As diet and lifestyle are key risk factors for many chronic conditions currently plaguing our society, it is only natural that many are searching for the ultimate dietary/lifestyle protocol that will effectively manage/treat these chronic health conditions. One such dietary protocol that has had a massive resurgence in popularity in recent years is the high fat, very low carb diet also known as The Ketogenic Diet. There is now strong evidence indicating that the ketogenic diet is in fact a very effective protocol for treating a range of conditions from obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, chronic inflammatory conditions, cancer, as well as neurological conditions like epilepsy that it was first designed to treat almost a century ago.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
First developed by Dr Russel Wilder in 1924 for reducing seizures in patients with severe epilepsy the Ketogenic Diet has since been found to be a very effective method of achieving rapid weight loss as well as improving a range of other health markers. The Ketogenic diet consists of very small amounts of carbohydrates (20-50g per day), moderate amounts of protein and the majority of your daily energy intake from fats. The diet works by essentially depriving the body of carbohydrates (our preferred energy source) resulting in a reduction in insulin secretions, encouraging the utilisation of an alternative energy source - our body’s fat stores. When fats are broken down, the liver produces a by-product called ketones, hence the name “Ketogenic Diet”. The ketogenic diet restricts daily carbohydrate intake to somewhere between 20-50g per day, primarily from non-starchy vegetables. The Ketogenic Diet differs from other low carb diets such as the Atkins diet as the keto diet focuses on high fat intake instead of protein.
Why is it becoming so popular?
Reducing Inflammation in the body and brain: Studies have shown that burning the ketones for energy produced by the liver during ketosis, is far more efficient than burning carbohydrates, resulting in significantly less reactive oxygen species and secondary free radicals being created that can damage your cellular and mitochondrial cell membranes, proteins and DNA. In protecting the body from this cellular damage, there is the potential for the ketogenic diet to reduce inflammation and pain in the body and essentially prevent chronic inflammatory health conditions from developing (Masino & Ruskin 2014).
Successful Long-Term Weigh Reduction: Though considered a relatively restrictive diet in terms of food choices, recent studies have shown very promising results not only in the diet’s efficiency in inducing rapid weight loss, but that it may also be more effective than other calorie-controlled diets in helping to keep the weight off long term (Bueno et al, 2013). This is thought to be related to the appetite suppressing powers of the diet (due to the satiating properties of the high fat intake) as well as possible changes in appetite-regulating hormones. Despite being allowed to eat to satiety it is thought that the Ketogenic Diet also may not have the same negative effects on our metabolism and metabolic rate that other weight loss diets, like the low-fat diet do (Bueno et al, 2013).
Chronic Disease Management: In addition to achieving effective, long term weight loss, the ketogenic diet has also proven to improve health markers for a range of other chronic health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A recent study by McKenzie et al (2017) for example found that a weight loss program inducing nutritional ketosis can be highly effective in improving glycaemic control and significantly decreasing medication use in adults with Type 2 Diabetes. Once thought to be inappropriate for those with high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease due to the high fat intake of the Ketogenic Diet, more recent studies are indicating this dietary protocol may in fact be cardio-protective. A meta-analysis completed in 2013 for example concluded that not only does a ketogenic diet achieve a greater weight loss than a low-fat calorie-controlled diet but it also results in significant reductions in cardiovascular health markers including LDL- cholesterol, triglycerides and diastolic blood pressure. Significant increases in cardio-protective HDL- cholesterol levels were also identified in the study (Bueon et al, 2013).
Other Benefits: In addition to these significant heath benefits, the Ketogenic Diet has also proven effective in treating and/or managing a range of other health conditions including certain types of cancer, neurological disorders (Stafstrom, C. E., & Rho, J. M. 2012). like epilepsy and also metabolic disorders such as those suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (Mavropoulos et al 2005), though more study is needed in these areas to determine long term effectiveness.
Though more research is needed in these areas, most “Keto Dieters” report rapid improvements in a range of other areas of their health such as:
- Memory and Concentration
- Cognitive Function
- Mood Regulation
- Energy levels
- Appetite Regulation
- Skin and Hair Health
- Joint pain and inflammation
Is the Keto Diet right for you?
If you suffer from any of the above health conditions, the Ketogenic Diet may well be the answer you have been looking for. It is important to note however, that the ketogenic diet is not suited to everyone as for some, certain determinants of their genetic make-up (which can be determined through Nutrigenomic Testing) may indicate that following a high fat diet is contraindicative for their health. If you would like more information on the ketogenic diet or are interested to know if the diet is right for you, please speak to NEMQ Reception staff regarding booking an appointment with our on-site Dietitian, who has a wealth of knowledge in this area.
- Masino, S.A. & Ruskin D.N. (2014). “Ketogenic Diets and Pain”Journal Child Neurology, 28(8): pp993-1001. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4124736/
- Bueno, N., Vieira de Melo IF., Lima de Oliveira, S. & da Rocha Ataide, T. (2013) “Very Low carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials,” British Journal of Nutrition, 110(7), pp 1178 – 1187. http://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114513000548
- Dashti, HM., Mathew, TC., Khadada, M., Al-Mousawi, M., Talib, H., Asfar, SK., Behbahani AI. & Al-Zaid, NS. (2007). “Beneficial Effects of Ketogenic Diet in Obese Diabetic Subjects.” Journal of Molecular Cell Biochemistry. 302(1-2), pp 249-256. http://doi1007/s11010-007-9448-z
- McKenzie AL, Hallberg SJ, Creighton BC, Volk BM, Link TM, Abner MK, Glon RM, McCarter JP, Volek JS, Phinney SD. (2017). A Novel Intervention Including Individualized Nutritional Recommendations Reduces Hemoglobin A1c Level, Medication Use, and Weight in Type 2 Diabetes. JMIR Diabetes, 2(1): p5. http://doi.org/10.2196/diabetes.6981
- Mavropoulos, J. C., Yancy, W. S., Hepburn, J., & Westman, E. C. (2005). The effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on the polycystic ovary syndrome: A pilot study. Nutrition & Metabolism, 2, 35. http://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-2-35
- Stafstrom, C. E., & Rho, J. M. (2012). The Ketogenic Diet as a Treatment Paradigm for Diverse Neurological Disorders. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 3, 59. http://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2012.00059