There’s a growing body of research that the high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet is good for weight loss and may help in preventing disease.
A diet extremely high in fat may not seem like the best way to lose fat. But there’s a growing body of research showing that the high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet is not only good for weight loss, but also may help in preventing disease.
You might think this sounds a lot like the Atkins diet — it’s not. The main difference lies in the protein content of the diet. Atkins tends to be very high in protein, while ketogenic is moderate.
Why keto works
The body’s first and preferred fuel of choice is glucose — stored as glycogen. Anytime you eat a carbohydrate, be it lentils or licorice, the body turns it into glucose, or sugar. Because the body does not do well with a lot of sugar in the blood, a hormone called insulin is secreted from the pancreas, and allows the sugar to enter the cells.
A cup of coffee with heavy whipping cream, stevia drops, and unsweetened almond milk
Greens like spinach, zucchini or broccoli, with a controlled portion of meat
Green vegetables with a small portion of tofu
Butter, without the bread, is used liberally with almost every meal.
Bread, pasta, very high protein options and candy are discouraged — although you can have cacao. A typical keto breakfast is eggs cooked in coconut oil and bacon. No cereal.
Carbs need to be consumed in moderation and to be high in fiber.
How it might fight disease
According to Hwu, cancer loves sugar from all sources, and metabolizes it in a way that helps the cancer cell thrive. Cancer cells can thrive on glucose, insulin, and a hormone associated with metabolism called insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1.
Studies are needed to investigate whether the diet can specifically inhibit cancer cells, but the ketogenic diet is shown to reduce levels of insulin and IGF-1. For example, a 2017 study in which participants fasted, omitting carbohydrates during their fasting times, reduced their blood pressure, levels of inflammation, fasting blood glucose and levels of IGF-1.
Because the diet is so restrictive, in the first few weeks of following it many people experience side effects bad enough to be known as “the keto flu.”
Cutting back on protein is one of the largest challenges to the diet. Because high levels of protein in the diet can turn into glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis, the keto theory says too much protein in the diet can mean too much glucose, whisking you out of ketosis. That’s why bacon, which has a ton of fat but not a lot of protein is a preferred food over chicken breast, which is high in protein with very little fat.
Since I’ve never put a patient on a diet I have not tried myself, I’m following my own 30-day experiment with the ketogenic diet. Stay tuned; I’ll be sharing how my month turns out in a future post.