There is a lot of hype at the moment around the keto diet. And for good reason – people are losing weight quickly and easily without starving themselves or working out excessively. And not only that – people on the keto diet are finding so many additional benefits of keto, other than losing weight!
Although it may seem drastic, there is plenty of scientific research that shows keto or low carb eating to be beneficial to your health. There are many critics out of their of the keto diet – but the results speak for themselves! Whatever your reason for starting the keto lifestyle, there are several key health benefits you may end up enjoying.
But firstly, let’s recap what the keto diet is all about.
What is the keto diet?
The keto diet is a low carbohydrate diet, but it differs from other low-carb diets (such as Paleo) in that it deliberately manipulates the ratios of carbs, fats, and protein to switch fat into the body’s primary source of fuel.
Our bodies are used to using carbohydrates as fuel. Fats, which is a secondary source of fuel, are rarely tapped on. That means the extra fat is stored and keeps adding on the pounds.
The conventional way to reduce fat in a ‘normal’ diet is to consume less fat and work out a lot in order to increase energy expenditure over daily calories intake.
On the other hand, the ketogenic diet uses fat for fuel, which means it gets used instead of being stored. So, weight loss becomes easy. In addition to weight loss, the ketogenic diet is known as the “healing” diet. The lack of sugar intake has been proven to help and prevent many diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancers, epilepsy, and many symptoms of aging.
The manipulation of carbs, fats, and protein is crucial in order to get into ketosis. It’s a state when the body, deprived of the usual carbohydrates and sugar, is forced to use fat as its primary fuel. So the ratio of fats and protein are significantly higher than carbs in general.
Of course, consuming less carbs also means lowering the amount of insulin in your body. Less insulin = less glucose and fat storage. That is why the keto diet has been so successful in helping people with diabetes. It adjusts the sugar level naturally.
The ratio of carbs, fat, and protein can vary. Many people allow themselves up to 50 grams of carbohydrates a day and still lose weight. On a stricter regime, the carb intake can be between 15 and 20 grams daily. The less carbs, the quicker the weight loss.
On the keto diet, you don’t count calories, specifically. You count carbohydrates and adjust the intake of carbs vs. fat and protein. A typical keto diet will get 70 percent of its calories from fat, 25 percent of calories from protein, and 5 percent of calories from carbohydrates. The only limitation on the diet is sugar, which you need to avoid.
The ketogenic diet is not a fad. Many scientific studies have shown the benefits and healing effects of ketosis.
Benefits of Keto Diet
Although ketogenic diet is popularly known as a ‘rapid fat loss diet’, it is actually more to this than meets the eye. In fact, weight loss and higher levels of energy are only by-products of the keto diet, a kind of bonus. It has been scientifically proven that the keto diet has many additional medical benefits.
1. Weight Loss
This is one of the biggest reasons people first try out the keto diet.
When you first start a keto diet, you will typically lose quite a bit of weight in the first two weeks, likely. This is mostly water weight – it occurs when water that is tied to glycogen is released.
Then, by continuing to use fat instead of sugar as your primary source of energy, the keto diet induces a state of ketosis, which is achieved when your body stops receiving carbohydrates to turn in glucose. The fewer carbohydrates you consume, the more you force your body to burn fat for energy instead of storing it.
This is why it is possible to lose weight so quickly on the keto diet. It counts carbohydrates instead of calories. Using fats as an additional energy source is what ketosis is all about.
2. Prevent And Manage Type 2 Diabetes
When you follow a keto or low carb diet long term, the chance of developing diabetes and other health issues is greatly reduced.
Eating less carbs reduces the need for the body to produce insulin; insulin is used to break down all the sugars in carbohydrates and too much of this can lead to diabetes in later life.
By simply reducing the amount of carbohydrates (insulin trigger foods) that you are eating, you are reducing the production of insulin the in the body and reducing the body’s resistance to it.
A low carb diet prevents erratic blood sugar spikes that may lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Similarly, research has shown that diabetes, both type 1 and type 2 can be better controlled with a low carbohydrate diet. If you are already diabetic, it is recommended to consult with your doctor when making a diet change. This is particularly the case if you are taking medication for your diabetes, as this may need to be adjusted too.
3. Reduce High Blood Pressure
Like diabetes, high blood pressure has been connected to many serious health disorders such as heart attacks and strokes. Ultimately, we should all aim to keep our blood pressure within the healthy range, but this can be hard with our lifestyles.
Research is therefore focused on finding ways everyone can realistically lower their blood pressure. The low carb diet can help to keep blood pressure where it should be and prevent it from getting too high.
4. Mental Focus
The keto diet is based on protein, fats, and low carbohydrates. As we’ve discussed, this forces fat to become the primary source of energy. This is not the normal western diet, which can be quite deficient in nutrients, particularly fatty acids, which are needed for proper brain function.
When people suffer from cognitive diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, the brain isn’t using enough glucose, it then becomes lacking in energy, and the brain has difficulty functioning at a high level. The keto diet provides an additional energy source for the brain.
A study by the American Diabetes Association found that Type 1 diabetics improved their brain function after consuming coconut-oil. That same study indicated that people who suffer from Alzheimer’s may experience improved memory capacity on a keto diet. Those with Alzheimer’s have seen improved memory scores that might correlate with the amount of ketones levels present.
What does this study mean to an average person? With the emphasis on fatty acids, such as omega 3 and omega 6 found in seafood, the keto diet is likely to fuel the brain with the additional nutrients to help achieve a healthier mental state. The brain tissue is made up largely of fatty acids (you’ve heard fish referred to as “brainfood”), and the increased consumption of those fatty acids will logically lead to improved brain health.
Our body does not produce fatty acids on its own; we can only obtain it through our diet. And the keto diet is rich in fatty acids.
A diet high in carbohydrates can lead to a “foggy” brain, where you have difficulty in focusing. Focusing becomes easier with the increased energy provided by the keto diet. In fact, many people who have no need or desire to lose weight use the keto diet to improve and enhance brain functions.
5. Appetite Control
With many diets, people often end up hungry and then snacking and fail to lose weight. They try to restrict their food intake too much and end up ‘falling off the wagon’. This is a very real issue for many people and the ultimate reason why they do not lose the weight they are trying so hard to shift.
In contrast, on a keto diet, you do not get the hunger cravings or need to eat like you do with other diets. Research has shown that people who reduce the amount of carbohydrates they eat and replace these with additional protein and healthy fats will eat less and reduce their overall calorie consumption.
6. Increased Energy
It’s not unusual, and has become almost normal, to feel tired and drained at the end of the day as a result of a poor, carbohydrate-laden diet. Fat is a more efficient source of energy, leaving you feeling more vitalized than you would on a “sugar” rush.
No more afternoon slumps at your desk after work!
7. Clearer Skin
While most of the benefits of a keto diet are well-documented, one benefit catches some people by surprise: better skin and less acne. Acne is fairly common. Ninety percent of teens suffer from it, and many adults do, as well.
While it was always thought that acne was at least exacerbated by poor diet, controlled research is still being conducted. However, many people on the keto diet have reported clearer skin. There may be a logical reason. A 1972 study found that high levels of insulin can cause the eruption of acne. Since a keto diet keeps insulin at a low and healthy level, it may very well affect skin health.
In addition, acne thrives on inflammation. The ketogenic diet eases and reduces inflammation, thus enabling the body to decrease acne eruptions. Fatty acids, which are found in abundance in fish, are a known anti-inflammatory.
While research is still being done, it seems likely that a keto diet has beneficial effects for clearer, healthier, more glowing skin.
Many diseases are a natural result of the aging process. While there have not been studies done on humans, studies on mice have shown brain cell improvement on a keto diet.
Several studies have shown a positive effect of the keto diet on patients with Alzheimer’s disease. What we do know is that a diet filled with good nutrients and antioxidants, low in sugar, high in protein and healthy fats, while low in carbohydrates, enhances our overall health. It protects us from the toxins of a poor diet.
There is also research indicating that using fatty acids for fuel instead of sugar may slow down the aging process, possibly because of the negative effects that sugar has on our overall well-being.
In addition, the simple act of eating less and consuming fewer calories is a matter of basic health, as it prevents obesity and its inherent side effects.
So far, studies have been limited. However, considering the powerful positive effects of the ketogenic diet on our health, it is logical to assume this diet will help us grow older in a more natural way while delaying the natural effect of aging. A normal western diet laden with sugars and processed foods are certainly detrimental to warding off the signs of aging.
9. Lower Levels Of Visceral Fat
Visceral fat is the dangerous kind that sits around our organs and can cause serious health problems. It’s not always obvious visually if someone has fat around their organs – this can only be picked up by a scan. (If you’ve heard of the term ‘skinny fat’, this is what it is referring to.)
Research has shown that a keto or low carb diet can help to reduce levels of not only subcutaneous fat, but specifically visceral fat also.