Recently, ketogenic diets have been coming up in conversation again and again in my circles of friends. For various reasons – weight-loss, nerve damage repair, seizure control etc.
I also had a friend ask me to write a simple and easy to understand post about the diet because she found the information online confusing and, in some cases, confronting – suggesting that ketosis would cause hair loss, painful periods and lead to serious health problems.
So I thought I would attempt to help others understand what ketosis really is, whether it’s safe and whether the diet is something to be considered.
Simply put – your body is in a state of ketosis when the primary energy source is fat (ketones) and not sugar (glucose). Where your body does not have enough sugar for energy, it switches to burn (metabolise) fats into ketones for energy.
There are more and more reasons to look at ketogenic diets these days with an absolute mountain of studies finding positive results. Namely, the benefits found are:
- Weight-loss without starvation
- Normal range blood sugar control
- Decreased seizure events and severity (Reference 1)
- Nerve damage repair and normal function (Nervous System & Ketosis)
- General state of mental well-being (the brain on ketones shows similarities to some anti-depressants), even showing positive results for Alzheimer’s suffers (Reference 2)
Ketosis can be induced by:
- Fasting – even overnight, the period for which we sleep and do not eat may naturally push the body into a ketogenic state, especially in pregnant women.
- Eating low calorie diets – you have probably seen the ads for shakes which when consumed on their own will eventuate in a state of ketosis. Unfortunately, it’s not much fun and works by running the body into a deficit where it has to begin breaking down fats.
- Eating a diet of significantly reduced carbohydrates (sugars) and significantly increased fat, usually with a moderate intake of protein. This means that you remain satisfied and full, whilst achieving a state of ketosis, when your body switches from glucose to fat fueled energy burning.
This safe form of ketosis is usually accompanied by steady and moderate blood sugar levels, rather than the spikes and troughs encountered during carbohydrate metabolism, making it a very attractive diet for diabetics and pre-diabetics.
There is some confusion for those researching the diet online and even with some practitioners, which can unfortunately, discourage its use.
This confusion is between a healthy state of ketosis, and the unhealthy state of ketoacidosis, which is usually encountered with Type 1 diabetics and heavy drinkers. Ketoacidosis is also not induced by high fat diets, or fasting. Instead, this dangerous state usually occurs when there is poor blood sugar control and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is encountered and not mitigated.
In fact, a ketogenic diet can actually assist Type 1 diabetics to manage and avoid ketoacidosis, however, this should always be accompanied by specialist supervision and good diabetic monitoring practices.
The reason why the two states are often confused, is because both result in ketones being present in the blood stream and urine.
The tell, as to whether you are achieving the healthy ketosis or the unhealthy ketoacidosis, is whether the presence of ketones is also accompanied by normal blood sugar levels (ketosis) or abnormally high and sustained blood sugar levels (ketoacidosis).
This is a lot of information for one little blog post, so what I might do is leave you with this information and maybe discuss further in future blogs.
Let me know if you have questions or if you’d like to debate anything with me. I’m not an expert, just someone who has spent some time wading through information and learning from personal experience.
- Mark Sisson Is a constant state of ketosis necessary?
- 5 Most Common Low Carb Mistakes
- The Art and Science of Low Carb Living
- Keto Clarity – Jimmy Moore
Reference 1. Wilder R. M. (1921). The effects of ketonemia on the course of epilepsy. Mayo Clin. Bull. 2, 307–308
*It is recommended that you see a qualified health professional before making any significant changes to your diet.