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The keto diet isn’t new, and it’s been around for nearly a century. It was originally developed to treat people with epilepsy. In the 1920s, researchers found that raised levels of ketones in the blood led to fewer epileptic seizures in patients. The keto diet is still used today to treat children with epilepsy who don’t respond well to anti-epileptic drugs.[2]
And it all culminated with me stepping into Dr. Jeff Volek’s world famous laboratory at University of Connecitut to subject myself to extensive blood testing, chunks of muscle removed from my legs, fat sucked out of my butt-cheeks, urine, stool and gut microbiome testing, oxygen and carbon dioxide testing and countless hours of treadmill running to discover what a full twelve months of eating a ketotic diet had actually done to my body.
Sleep enough – for most people at least seven hours per night on average – and keep stress under control. Sleep deprivation and stress hormones raise blood sugar levels, slowing ketosis and weight loss a bit. Plus they might make it harder to stick to a keto diet, and resist temptations. So while handling sleep and stress will not get you into ketosis on it’s own, it’s still worth thinking about.

Adipose tissue can be used to store fatty acids for regulating temperature and energy.[21] These fatty acids can be released by adipokine signaling of high glucagon and epinephrine levels, which inversely corresponds to low insulin levels. High glucagon and low insulin correspond to times of fasting or to times when blood glucose levels are low.[23] Fatty acids must be metabolized in mitochondria in order to produce energy, but free fatty acids cannot penetrate biological membranes due to their negative electrical charge. So coenzyme A is bound to the fatty acid to produce acyl-CoA, which is able to enter the mitochondria.
In terms of weight loss, you may be interested in trying the ketogenic diet because you’ve heard that it can make a big impact right away. And that’s true. “Ketogenic diets will cause you to lose weight within the first week,” says Mattinson. She explains that your body will first use up all of its glycogen stores (the storage form of carbohydrate). With depleted glycogen, you’ll drop water weight. While it can be motivating to see the number on the scale go down (often dramatically), do keep in mind that most of this is water loss initially.
Ben – curious about your thoughts on this. I went into ketosis (using LOTS of coconut oil) but it raised my cholesterol and doc was worried about my lp(a) level (17mg/dL on VAP) even though crp was 0.5, trigs 51 and a1c was 5.2. Advised a low fat diet. Have you seen this before with folks on a lchf/ketosis diet and is there anything to be concerned about? Off to read your coconut oil article. Thank you!
The popular low-carb diets (such as Atkins or Paleo) modify a true keto diet. But they come with the same risks if you overdo it on fats and proteins and lay off the carbs. So why do people follow the diets? "They're everywhere, and people hear anecdotally that they work," McManus says. Theories about short-term low-carb diet success include lower appetite because fat burns slower than carbs. "But again, we don't know about the long term," she says. "And eating a restrictive diet, no matter what the plan, is difficult to sustain. Once you resume a normal diet, the weight will likely return."
Take coconut oil for example. The coconut oil industry loves to market the idea that relatively inexpensive and abundant coconut oil is a great source of MCTs because it’s “62% MCT oil”, but the problem is that studies show you can’t get many useful ketogenic MCT’s from just eating coconut oil or even most brands of “MCT oil”, which are often is diluted with lauric acid, a cheap, hugely abundant part of coconut oil that is typically marketed as an MCT oil.
^ Bechtel PJ (2 December 2012). Muscle as Food. Elsevier Science. pp. 171–. ISBN 978-0-323-13953-3. Retrieved 19 May 2014. Freezing does stop the postmortem metabolism but only at about −18ºC and lower temperatures. Above −18ºC increasing temperatures of storage cause an increasing rate of ATP breakdown and glycolysis that is higher in the comminuted meat than in the intact tissue (Fisher et al., 1980b). If the ATP concentration in the frozen tissue falls below ~ 1 µmol/g no contraction or rigor can occur because they are prevented by the rigid matrix of ice.

Alison Moodie is a health reporter based in Los Angeles. She has written for numerous outlets including Newsweek, Agence France-Presse, The Daily Mail and HuffPost. For years she covered sustainable business for The Guardian. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she majored in TV news. When she's not working she's doting on her two kids and whipping up Bulletproof-inspired dishes in her kitchen.
“Loss of muscle mass as we age has a number of serious consequences,” notes Clark. “Muscle is metabolically active and helps boost daily energy expenditure and mitigate age-related weight gain.” Losing muscle mass can also decrease functional strength and heighten the risk of falls, notes Clark. Falls are the top cause of death from injury in older populations, according to the Institute of Medicine Division of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.
But while carbohydrates can help you have a better workout, go faster, or go longer, this only applies to acute, in-the-moment performance. Once you take a look (which you’re about to do) at the long-term effects of chronic high blood sugar levels, things change drastically. If the damage that you’re above to discover is worth it to you, then you are either mildly masochistic or you value performance much more than health.
^ Jump up to: a b Cardona A, Pagani L, Antao T, Lawson DJ, Eichstaedt CA, Yngvadottir B, Shwe MT, Wee J, Romero IG, Raj S, Metspalu M, Villems R, Willerslev E, Tyler-Smith C, Malyarchuk BA, Derenko MV, Kivisild T (2014). "Genome-wide analysis of cold adaptation in indigenous Siberian populations". PLOS One. 9 (5): e98076. Bibcode:2014PLoSO...998076C. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0098076. PMC 4029955. PMID 24847810.
There’s also some evidence that it might help with type 2 diabetes. “An emerging body of research is finding that a keto plan may have some real benefits thanks to its ability to improve the body’s ability to use insulin and also help control appetite, which can result in easier weight loss,” says Karen Ansel, R.D.N., co-author of Healthy in a Hurry.
Over 8–10 mmol/l: It’s normally impossible to get to this level just by eating a keto diet. It means that something is wrong. The most common cause by far is type 1 diabetes, with severe lack of insulin. Symptoms include feeling very sick with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and confusion. The possible end result, ketoacidosis, may be fatal and requires immediate medical care. Learn more
The Johns Hopkins Hospital protocol for initiating the ketogenic diet has been widely adopted.[43] It involves a consultation with the patient and their caregivers and, later, a short hospital admission.[19] Because of the risk of complications during ketogenic diet initiation, most centres begin the diet under close medical supervision in the hospital.[9]
There are many ways in which epilepsy occurs. Examples of pathological physiology include: unusual excitatory connections within the neuronal network of the brain; abnormal neuron structure leading to altered current flow; decreased inhibitory neurotransmitter synthesis; ineffective receptors for inhibitory neurotransmitters; insufficient breakdown of excitatory neurotransmitters leading to excess; immature synapse development; and impaired function of ionic channels.[7]
In the mid-1990s, Hollywood producer Jim Abrahams, whose son's severe epilepsy was effectively controlled by the diet, created the Charlie Foundation to promote it. Publicity included an appearance on NBC's Dateline programme and ...First Do No Harm (1997), a made-for-television film starring Meryl Streep. The foundation sponsored a multicentre research study, the results of which—announced in 1996—marked the beginning of renewed scientific interest in the diet.[1]
^ Fumagalli M, Moltke I, Grarup N, Racimo F, Bjerregaard P, Jørgensen ME, Korneliussen TS, Gerbault P, Skotte L, Linneberg A, Christensen C, Brandslund I, Jørgensen T, Huerta-Sánchez E, Schmidt EB, Pedersen O, Hansen T, Albrechtsen A, Nielsen R (September 2015). "Greenlandic Inuit show genetic signatures of diet and climate adaptation". Science. 349 (6254): 1343–7. Bibcode:2015Sci...349.1343F. doi:10.1126/science.aab2319. hdl:10044/1/43212. PMID 26383953.
I was shocked at how easy it was (using the new supplements and methods outlined below that have been developed since my initial foray into ketosis) to get into ketosis without extreme carbohydrate restriction, without excessive, diarrhea and “diaper-moment” inducing amounts of MCT and coconut oil, and without the inflammation, triglyceride and hormonal issues, or social discomfort I outline above. I was also able to achieve a much more immediate and deeper level of ketosis than I ever achieved in previous experiments sans these newer strategies you’re going to learn about.
When in the hospital, glucose levels are checked several times daily and the patient is monitored for signs of symptomatic ketosis (which can be treated with a small quantity of orange juice). Lack of energy and lethargy are common, but disappear within two weeks.[17] The parents attend classes over the first three full days, which cover nutrition, managing the diet, preparing meals, avoiding sugar, and handling illness.[19] The level of parental education and commitment required is higher than with medication.[44]

Signs of diabetic ketoacidosis include a high blood glucose level, a high ketone level, dehydration, frequent urination, nausea, difficulty breathing, and dry skin. If you have poorly managed type 1 or type 2 diabetes, test your blood glucose level regularly before and after meals, and make sure you check your ketone level whenever your blood sugar is higher than 240 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). (11)
^ Freeman JM, Vining EP, Pillas DJ, Pyzik PL, Casey JC, Kelly LM. The efficacy of the ketogenic diet—1998: a prospective evaluation of intervention in 150 children. Pediatrics. 1998 Dec;102(6):1358–63. doi:10.1542/peds.102.6.1358. PMID 9832569. https://web.archive.org/web/20040629224858/http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press/1998/DECEMBER/981207.HTM Lay summary]—JHMI Office of Communications and Public Affairs. Updated 7 December 1998. Cited 6 March 2008.
Moreover, recent studies show that the Inuit have evolved a number of rare genetic adaptations that make them especially well suited to eat large amounts of omega-3 fat.[57][58][59] And earlier studies showed that the Inuit have a very high frequency—68% to 81% in certain arctic coastal populations—of an extremely rare autosomal recessive mutation of the CPT1A gene—a key regulator of mitochondrial long-chain fatty-acid oxidation[60][61]—which results in a rare metabolic disorder known as carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1A (CPT1A) deficiency and promotes hypoketotic hypoglycemia—low levels of ketones and low blood sugar.[62] The condition presents symptoms of a fatty acid and ketogenesis disorder.[62] However, it appears highly beneficial to the Inuit[60] as it shunts free fatty acids away from liver cells to brown fat, for thermogenesis.[63][64] Thus the mutation may help the Inuit stay warm by preferentially burning fatty acids for heat in brown fat cells.[64] In addition to promoting low ketone levels, this disorder also typically results in hepatic encephalopathy (altered mental state due to improper liver function), enlarged liver and high infant mortality.[65] Inuit have been observed to have enlarged livers with an increased capacity for gluconeogenesis, and have greater capacity for excreting urea to remove ammonia, a toxic byproduct of protein breakdown.[57][66][67][68] Ethnographic texts have documented the Inuit's customary habit of snacking frequently [69] and this may well be a direct consequence of their high prevalence of the CPT1A mutation[70] as fasting, even for several hours, can be deleterious for individuals with that allele, particularly during strenuous exercise.[57][70] The high frequency of the CPT1A mutation in the Inuit therefore suggests that it is an important adaptation to their low carbohydrate diet and their extreme environment.[57][60][70]
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.[1] 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.[4][5]
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Great article! As someone who just started a “ketogenic diet” two weeks ago, I am opting to hold off on using ketone supplements for the following reason. You state how “Keto-adaptation occurs when you have shifted your metabolism to relying on fat-based sources, instead of glucose (sugar) sources, as your primary source of fuel.” If the goal is to “switch” our body’s energy supply to ketones and one uses supplemental ketones, how do they really ever know if their body has successfully accomplished this goal if they are using supplemental ketones? Aren’t they getting a false sense of ketosis if their blood or breath tests show them above 0.5 millimolar through the use of the supplements? I understand that it may take me longer to reach ketosis naturally but I guess I see it was worth it to truly reap all of the benefits that you outline in your article.

There are many misconceptions about ketosis. The most common is mixing it up with ketoacidosis – a rare and dangerous medical condition that mostly happen to people with type 1 diabetes if they don’t take insulin. Even some health care professionals tend to mix up these two situations somewhat, perhaps due to the similar names and a lack of knowledge about the distinct differences.
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Hi Ben – Great article. I had trouble at the end figuring out if you were now eating high fat (60-80% of calories), or if you went back to something closer to 50% fat calories and higher carbs and are using exogenous ketones to get int ketosis when needed. Are you doing any carbs at night or a refeed, or just having higher carbs on most days? Thanks
Awesome… I am a newbie to this i took the keto os for 2 months for weight loss and did well. It a bit pricey. I try hard to conform to lchf diet daily but see no change other than I crave sweets. In 5’7 270 and stuck! My highest weight was 390 had gastric band put in 10 years ago but its just keep me from consumption of large amounts at on time. Is there a more economical way to stay in ketosis? I wAnt more energy… In not an exercise person usually have no energy. In willing to try other ideas.
Insulin is a hormone that lets your body use or store sugar as fuel. Ketogenic diets make you burn through this fuel quickly, so you don’t need to store it. This means your body needs -- and makes -- less insulin. Those lower levels may help protect you against some kinds of cancer or even slow the growth of cancer cells. More research is needed on this, though.
3 years ago I was 500 pounds at my absolute worst. Went through a traumatic experience when I was 17 and afterwards the weight just seemed to add on over the years. I'd always been a big guy but it got really bad. Decided to start the keto diet after looking into healthier lifestyles and fast forward two years later (with intermittent fasting and gym training) I had lost 260 pounds. I kept under 1200 calories a day and the best feeling was not constantly being hungry. The last year has been more of a maintenance but with keto cycling.
^ Freeman JM, Vining EP, Pillas DJ, Pyzik PL, Casey JC, Kelly LM. The efficacy of the ketogenic diet—1998: a prospective evaluation of intervention in 150 children. Pediatrics. 1998 Dec;102(6):1358–63. doi:10.1542/peds.102.6.1358. PMID 9832569. https://web.archive.org/web/20040629224858/http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press/1998/DECEMBER/981207.HTM Lay summary]—JHMI Office of Communications and Public Affairs. Updated 7 December 1998. Cited 6 March 2008.
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