By Scott Gooding
You may have heard of the keto diet, ketosis or ketogenic at some point over the last year or so – the fitness and health industry love a trend and keto is certainly enjoying it’s time in the sun. That being said the Ketogenic diet has been around for a century and first discovered as a mode of treatment for epileptic children. Further to this, our ancestors, pre-dating the agriculture revolution, would have roamed this planet in a ketogenic state for most of their life – either through periods of food scarcity or a diet high in fat and low in carbs.
Ketosis is a metabolic state whereby ketones are manufactured in our liver when fat is oxidized as a direct result of calorie restriction or a low carb/high fat diet. Our ability to produce ketones and therefore providing every cell in our body with energy is a remarkable feat of engineering and has been pivotal in our survival.
If you take the time to peel back the layers of the ketogenic diet you’ll quickly begin to learn what are the fundamental benefits and mechanisms. Firstly it’ll help to reduce the oxidative stress caused by a high carb diet and alleviating stress is the pre-cursor to health. Secondly it’ll amplify your health and increase longevity and lastly it’ll ignite your cognitive function.
Whichever pathway you choose to achieve ketosis it’ll have a number of therapeutic properties, below is a top line view of this very natural energetic pathway
Being in ketosis will…..
Aid with Fat Loss
This is simply a by-product of the pursuit of health in my mind and certainly not the driver. However, that being said, being in ketosis will naturally increase satiety as well as help to normalise blood sugar levels, assisting with cravings. In order to produce ketones your body will need to ‘liberate’ body fat for metabolism, it’s this process in combination with appetite suppression and reduced insulin that will elicit fat loss.
Improved Cognitive Function & Mood
Ketosis will up-regulate mitochondrial biogenesis, literally creating more power stations in your brain. Ketones have been shown to be the preferred fuel source for the brain and heart, and are able to cross the blood-brain barrier with ease, making them readily available as a fuel source. Brain fog has been blamed on elevated ammonia levels and depressed GABA (the ‘chilled’ out neurotransmitter) – ketones have been shown to increase GABA signalling and the removal of ammonia, helping with clarity.
Improve Insulin Sensitivity
Having elevated insulin levels can work against us as we have spelled out. Elevated insulin will inhibit lipolysis or the burning of fat. During periods of elevated insulin, fat-burning is blunted until such time that insulin returns to normal level and we can switch to fat-burning. However, if insulin is chronically high due to insulin insensitivity then fat utilisation is compromised and fat-loss harder to achieve. Ketosis will help to improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin essentially promotes fat storage so normalising insulin is crucial.
This is the golden ticket for me. Being in ketosis will help to reduce systemic inflammation by inhibiting inflammasomes – these are a part of the innate immune response and promote inflammation – as the name would suggest. Studies have shown that Ketones will inhibit inflammasomes and help to lower inflammation.
We need to detach to the notion that we are born with a finite number of brain cells and beyond maturation they slowly die off, accelerated by poor diet and lifestyle. Human’s actually have the ability to grow new brain cells through a process called neurogenesis. Neurogenesis occurs when your brain produces more BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) – think of this as fertiliser for the brain. There are a few mechanisms to stimulate BDNF and being in ketosis is one.
Promotes Neuro Protective
Ketones produced as a direct result of carb restriction will elicit a neuro protective response. This is very significant in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases. As we age we tend to see a decline in the integrity of our brain cells. Ketones have been shown to improve cognitive function in Alzheimers, Parkinsons and MS in animal models. In fact beta hydroxybutyrate (one of the naturally produced ketones) has been shown to reduce neuronal loss in animal models.
Ketosis will go a long way to improving your health, but to me there are additional tricks and tips that will complement the keto diet to assist you on your path to optimal health – this is the keto lifestyle. It’s worth noting at this point that it’s not necessary or practical to be in nutritional ketosis all the time but periods of ketosis, even periodically, is healthful.
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