Ketogenic diet, what is it? and when you should try it out?

I have been hearing so much about the ketogenic diet. Lately I heard that a colleague of mine is doing that to reduce her breast cancer. She has been on the diet for 2 years and it is working for her. From all the research that I have seen, it is great for epilepsy, cancer, weight loss and cancer.

However as for any diet, this one needs to be done properly and under the supervision of a nutritionist or a doctor and with the approval of both the doctors and nutritionist if it is for any of the serious diseases. I normally, do not advocate any very strict regimental diet as a principle, however for people who know what they are getting into and have the support of an experience ketogenic nutritionist and doctor it is a good diet to do to get drastic results.

So what is the ketogenic diet and how does it work?

Normally, our body gets the fuel for the food that we eat, such as carbohydrates, fat or protein (the latter it is the last resort for the body to use, and it is used in hunger or a state of anorexia). The first fuel that the body cell will use is carbohydrate. In a balanced diet the fuel from carbohydrate can be between 50 to 60% of our food intake, followed by 15 to 20 % of fat and the rest protein. This includes all the food with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients as well as antioxidants.

In the ketogenic diet, the percentage that you need to eat in order for the body to use fat, goes from 30% to 90% of fat in your diet. Most studies though have shown that 70% of fat is plenty and enough to cause a change, higher percentage does not make a huge difference.

What happens in a ketogenic diet is that the body goes into Nutritional Ketosis with high fat and Natural ketosis when you do not eat enough. Ketones build up, which signals your brain to start using fat faster as fuel in order to survive and to function well. Fat accumulation also stops and fat is used as the primary fuel for making energy.

In order for the body to form ketones, it needs to be short of carbohydrates. Now with this in mind, it does need to be a good fat not any fry up fat. The good fats that are recommended are: coconut oil, ghee, and their products, fish oil and some good fat from the meat as well, etc. There is no much fruits in the diet, however there are plenty of green non starchy green vegetables and good oil, such as raw olive oil and flax seed oil.

As you can see, this is a tough diet, and you need to do it properly as there will be also lots of oxidation from using the fat, which is called perioxidation (free radicals). So it is important that you also take a mixture of antioxidant to support this process. This diet needs to have fat soluble anti-oxidants such as E, vitamin C, lipoic acid, zinc, selenium, and many others. Even though in young fit and sporty people, a couple of studies have found that the oxidation rate went down and the anti-oxidant metabolites of their body was more efficient in getting rid of the free radicals. However in both studies, electrolytes and good protein was supplied, as well as herbal teas allowed and plenty of water (2,3)

In a long term the ketogenic diet is very difficult, especially because we live in a world that excess carbohydrate is all over the place. Travelling would be difficult, as you need to take your own high fat food and supplements, and if you get stuck somewhere, well that would be a worry! However, fat also supply for more fuel then carbohydrate, so you would feel less hungry and therefore eat less.

At the beginning of the diet, you need to weigh everything in order for you to do the percentage right. Now it is very important that you know what you are doing with this diet otherwise you end up with kidney problems and constipation or very smelly stools. The latter is also as a consequence of the diet. Also other side effects of the diet is headache, and diarrhoea as well as constipation. So in order to be able to go without any problem, lots of greens, magnesium in a powder form or vitamin C in powder form and lots of probiotics to keep the smell down a bit.

My colleague did the diet to help reduce her breast cancer. Her results was that that the intervention on her breast was reduced. However, because she is a nutritionist she could do it. Myself, if I wanted to do it I could do it, however I would find it very hard and I would probably found another way. As we know that too much carbohydrate or sugars, good or bad in our diet, is causing the most common diseases of our times, and that includes diabetes, heart problems, cancer and overweight, it is best to prevent them by at least reducing our intake of sugars and carbohydrates as much as possible anyway.

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Like everything else I believe that in any disorders and disease there is genetic component, which it needs to be triggered in order to develop. Then there is the lifestyle, stress, emotions, trauma as well as nutrition and how well we look after ourselves. If you do or you would like to try the ketogenic diet, make sure that you do not do it by yourself unless you are a nutritionist and that you have the support of a nutritionist who is experienced in ketogenic diet (they have done it themselves for at least a year or so), and the support of your doctor if you are doing it for a specific reasons, even the weight loss. Good luck for what ever reason you do it or want to try it!

Warning: if you have a genetic family history of kidney failure or problems do not attempt this diet at all. If you do attempt it do it with a practitioner as stated above and or your doctor approval for any diseases.

References:

  1. Feinman RD et al (2015). Dietary carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management: critical review and evidence base. Nutrition. Jan;31(1):1-13.
  2. Hyun-seung Rhyu et al (2014). The effects of ketogenic diet on oxidative stress and antioxidative capacity markers of Taekwondo athletes. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation;10(6):362-366
  3. Paoli A, et al (2012). Ketogenic diet does not affect strength performance in elite artistic gymnasts. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2012;9:34.
  4. Prabhakar A et al (2015). Acetone as biomarker for ketosis buildup capability–a study in healthy individuals under combined high fat and starvation diets. Nutr J. Apr 22;14:41
  5. Vesely JM et DeMattia LG (2014). Obesity: dietary and lifestyle management. FP Essent. Oct;425:11-5.

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