"The keto diet is primarily used to help reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures in children. While it also has been tried for weight loss, only short-term results have been studied, and the results have been mixed. We don't know if it works in the long term, nor whether it's safe," warns registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.
It’s also important to note there have been no long-term studies on the ketogenic diet, nor has there been research that details what may happen to the body if it’s in a constant state of ketosis itself. But given how the body needs carbs to function properly, diets that are based on fat burning may lead to nutritional deficiencies, and supplements and multivitamins are recommended because you’re cutting out entire food groups, warns Alyssa Rothschild, RDN, who is in private practice in New York City.
Achieving ketosis is a pretty straightforward, but it can seem complicated and confusing with all of the information out there.4If you want to learn more about ketosis and the scientific process around it, you can visit a very in-depth discussion about on Dr. Peter Attia’s website. Here’s the bottom line on what you need to do, ordered in levels of importance:
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That’s right: it turns out that if I could go back and do my year of strict ketosis again, I would do everything you’ve going to discover below. If I had done that, I would have avoided all the uncomfortable, unhealthy issues I experienced when I was eating a high-fat diet, and I would have gotten all the benefits with none of the harm. As a matter of fact, in the past 30 days, as I’ve begun a new journey into ketosis, I am now implementing the exact four methods you’re about to discover.
Ketones are a special type of fat that can stimulate the pathways that enhance the growth of new neural networks in the brain. A ketogenic diet is one that is high in fats, and this diet has been a tool of researchers for years, used notably in a 2005 study on Parkinson’s patients finding an improvement in symptoms after just 28 days. The improvements were on par with those made possible via medication and brain surgery. Other research has shown the ketogenic diet to be remarkably effective in treating some forms of epilepsy, and even brain tumors.
Keto-adaptation, AKA “becoming a fat burning machine”, occurs when you have shifted your metabolism to relying on fat-based sources, instead of glucose (sugar) sources, as your primary source of fuel. Your body increases fat oxidation, and breaks down fats into ketones to be used as the primary energy source. Depending on your current level of carbohydrate intake (takes longer if you’re pretty sugar addicted), this process can take two weeks to six months to fully train your body to, but once done, it’s done, and you have achieved fat-burning status that can stick with you for life.
The original therapeutic diet for paediatric epilepsy provides just enough protein for body growth and repair, and sufficient calories[Note 1] to maintain the correct weight for age and height. The classic therapeutic ketogenic diet was developed for treatment of paediatric epilepsy in the 1920s and was widely used into the next decade, but its popularity waned with the introduction of effective anticonvulsant medications. This classic ketogenic diet contains a 4:1 ratio by weight of fat to combined protein and carbohydrate. This is achieved by excluding high-carbohydrate foods such as starchy fruits and vegetables, bread, pasta, grains, and sugar, while increasing the consumption of foods high in fat such as nuts, cream, and butter. Most dietary fat is made of molecules called long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). However, medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)—made from fatty acids with shorter carbon chains than LCTs—are more ketogenic. A variant of the classic diet known as the MCT ketogenic diet uses a form of coconut oil, which is rich in MCTs, to provide around half the calories. As less overall fat is needed in this variant of the diet, a greater proportion of carbohydrate and protein can be consumed, allowing a greater variety of food choices.
“Certainly, the quality of fat counts,” says Yawitz. “There’s a big difference nutritionally between bacon and almonds. As much as possible, people set on the keto diet should emphasize plant-based, unsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocado, which have even been shown to protect the heart.” If you have high cholesterol or other risk factors for heart disease, you should speak with your doctor before beginning the keto diet. This is because the diet may — but doesn't have to — include large amounts of saturated fat. Some studies have shown increases in cholesterol and triglycerides in people following the diet, while other research reveals that the keto diet may actually decrease heart disease risk as well as saturated fat intake.
“When you start the keto diet, you lose sodium and other electrolytes in the urine due to reductions in insulin,” says Yawitz. “This is a major contributor to symptoms of keto flu.” So it’s important to replenish sodium through the diet, especially if you exercise or sweat a lot. “This can help ward off more serious side effects that are seen with long-term sodium deficiencies,” says Yawitz. These include lethargy and confusion — and in extreme cases, seizures, coma, and death, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Anticonvulsants suppress epileptic seizures, but they neither cure nor prevent the development of seizure susceptibility. The development of epilepsy (epileptogenesis) is a process that is poorly understood. A few anticonvulsants (valproate, levetiracetam and benzodiazepines) have shown antiepileptogenic properties in animal models of epileptogenesis. However, no anticonvulsant has ever achieved this in a clinical trial in humans. The ketogenic diet has been found to have antiepileptogenic properties in rats.
Long-term use of the ketogenic diet in children increases the risk of slowed or stunted growth, bone fractures, and kidney stones. The diet reduces levels of insulin-like growth factor 1, which is important for childhood growth. Like many anticonvulsant drugs, the ketogenic diet has an adverse effect on bone health. Many factors may be involved such as acidosis and suppressed growth hormone. About one in 20 children on the ketogenic diet develop kidney stones (compared with one in several thousand for the general population). A class of anticonvulsants known as carbonic anhydrase inhibitors (topiramate, zonisamide) are known to increase the risk of kidney stones, but the combination of these anticonvulsants and the ketogenic diet does not appear to elevate the risk above that of the diet alone. The stones are treatable and do not justify discontinuation of the diet. Johns Hopkins Hospital now gives oral potassium citrate supplements to all ketogenic diet patients, resulting in one-seventh of the incidence of kidney stones. However, this empiric usage has not been tested in a prospective controlled trial. Kidney stone formation (nephrolithiasis) is associated with the diet for four reasons:
Net carbs are what we track when following a ketogenic diet. This calculation is pretty straightforward. Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Fiber. For example, one cup of broccoli has 6g of total carbs and 2.4g of fiber. That would mean one cup of broccoli has 3.6g of net carbs. We count Net Carbs because dietary fiber does not have a significant metabolic effect.
^ Lawrie 2014, pp. 92-. "A much delayed onset of rigor mortis has been observed in the muscle of the whale (Marsh, 1952b). The ATP level and the pH may remain at their high in vivo values for as much as 24h at 37ºC. No adequate explanation of this phenomenon has yet been given; but the low basal metabolic rate of whale muscle (Benedict, 1958), in combination with the high content of oxymyoglobin in vivo (cf 4.3.1), may permit aerobic metabolism to continue slowly for some time after the death of the animal, whereby ATP levels can be maintained sufficiently to delay the union of actin and myosin in rigor mortis."