Keto Diet Health Benefits
Today, many people start a ketogenic diet to lose weight, but this approach to eating originated in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy in children. Once anti-epileptic drugs became available, the diet was all but forgotten until 1970. During the early 1970s interest grew in fasting as an effective method of weight loss and health improvement. The high-fat, moderate-protein, extremely low-carb keto diet was found to mimic the results and benefits of fasting by eliminating sugars and carbohydrates.
The goal of the ketogenic (keto) diet is to promote ketosis, a state where your body uses fat as its primary fuel source instead of carbohydrates (sugar). This conversion from carb-burning to fat-burning promoted by the keto diet can provide a variety of health benefits including:
- Weight Loss – If weight loss is your goal, the keto diet is very effective as it helps your body release and burn your stored body fat. Once you reach ketosis, your body burns dietary fat, if no fat is available (and you avoid carbs) your body will begin to burn stored body fat as fuel. Additionally, as hunger and cravings are major obstacles to “normal” dieting, the keto diet helps prevent hunger and cravings by severely reducing carb consumption and increasing fat intake which promotes satiety. While the initial switch from a diet high in sugar to one high in fat and extremely low in sugar is difficult, once you understand and reach ketosis, the keto diet is easier for people to follow and stick to.
- Improved Brain Function – One of the byproducts of ketosis, ketones, have been shown to fuel and repair brain cells and to protect neural pathways within your brain. There is now one hundred years of research showing the effectiveness of the keto diet in treating epilepsy and new research which details the benefits of a keto diet in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, and multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Improved Insulin Sensitivity – The keto diet improves or enhances insulin sensitivity, which is beneficial for anyone with (or at risk for) Type II diabetes. In one study published in Nutrition & Metabolism, researchers found that Type II diabetics who followed a low-carb keto diet were able to significantly reduce their dependence on diabetes medication and some study participants were able to reverse their diabetes. The weight loss they experienced also decreased their risk for long term Type II diabetes.
- Cancer Prevention – There is growing clinical research that glucose (sugar) fuels cancer cells’ growth and spread. A keto diet that restricts or eliminates sugars and simple carbohydrates may help suppress cancer cell growth as the keto diet is very low in carbs, which deprives the cancer cells of their primary source of fuel – sugar. Strict adherence to your keto diet and the resulting ketosis produces ketones. Your healthy cells can use these ketones as energy (fuel) but cancer cells cannot. A keto diet may help effectively starve cancer cells to death. A study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that cancer cells cannot process ketone bodies for energy and ketones have also been shown to slow the proliferation of tumor cells.