Getting started – what is the Ketogenic Diet?
The Ketogenic Diet, also referred to as the Ketosis Diet, or Keto for short, is a way of eating that mimics the effects of fasting. By consuming a diet rich in quality fats, adequate in protein, and low in net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber), the body’s metabolism begins to utilize fat as its main source of fuel, rather than carbs. This shift has profound effects on metabolism for both the sick and healthy alike. The diet shows promise for improving or reversing many neurological conditions and metabolic disorders. For the healthy, the diet represents a tool for preventing chronic disease, as well as optimizing cognition and body composition (i.e. fat loss).
What is Ketosis?
The term ketosis refers to a byproduct of the breakdown of fat into useable energy, called ketone bodies, or ketones for short. This fat can be derived directly from a diet (i.e. nutritional ketosis) or from fat stores of the body. Ketosis caused by diet is referred to as “nutritional ketosis”. Ketones are used directly by the body to power itself. This breakdown of fat into useful energy is similar to the process that dietary carbohydrates undergo in producing glucose to fuel the body. In other words, ketones are to fat what glucose is to carbohydrates. Ketosis is defined as having blood ketone levels > .5 millimolar/L.
What are the benefits of Ketosis?
Achieving a state of ketosis can have many benefits from treating chronic illnesses to optimizing performance. While the benefits are well documented, the underlying mechanism of action is not entirely known. The diet seems to enhance the ability of mitochondria, the power plants of our cells, to deliver our bodies’ energy needs in a manner that reduces inflammation and oxidative stress. Through optimizing the way our body uses energy, we fortify our bodies’ ability to combat serveral diseases as well as take on the stressors of our modern way of living.
How do I get into Ketosis?
There are two methods to make the metabolic shift from using glucose to ketones as your main source of energy.
Fasting – the method of complete cessation of caloric intake for a prolonged period of time has been used to treat disease as far back as 400 B.C. when Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine, employed the method for a myriad of ailments. Though this should be done under medical supervision, fasting is a safe, effective (and, some would say, the easiest) way to get into ketosis, quickly. For the average adult, a 48-hour fast will generally result in ketosis. After this fast, adopting a Ketogenic Diet will allow you to stay in ketosis. We recommend starting the fast at least 3 hours before bedtime on the first day, and eating at the same time 2 days later. While fasting means many things to many people, we define it here as the total restriction of macronutrients. We recommend boosting water consumption in order to avoid dehydration, and many find black coffee or plain tea to help maintain focus and performance during the fast. Children go into ketosis much faster and therefore can be started on the diet without fasting.
Diet (nutritional ketosis)– adopting a high fat, moderate protein, and low net-carb diet, will result in ketosis, and will take 2-3 weeks to achieve this state, as defined above. The diet is most basically explained by the ratio of macronutrients (fat, protein and net-carbs) in your diet, as it relates to fat. A classic Ketogenic Diet has a ratio of 4 parts fat, to 1 part protein + carbs (referred to as a 4:1 ratio). This 4:1 ratio is the high end of the spectrum as it relates to fat intake, though modifications to the diet can see this ratio go as low as 2:1. The ratio you adopt depends on the therapeutic benefit you are trying to achieve as well as the diet that is achievable for your lifestyle. There are 5 types of ketogenic therapies, you can learn about them here.
Can a High Fat Diet Be Healthy?
According to David Diamond PhD, “Saturated fat does not clog the arteries: Coronary heart disease is a chronic condition, the risk of which can be effectively reduced from healthy lifestyle interventions. We have known for 150 years that a high carbohydrate diet contributes to fat in the blood and contributes to obesity.”
He goes on to say, “the poor science that was used to support the idea that increased fat intake increases cholesterol and damages arteries was authored by Ancel Keys who had no background in nutrition, but did have a BA in Economics and a PhD in Fish Physiology. Keys’ theory that fat in diet causes increased risk for high cholesterol and heart attack was based on extremely flawed science and “became dogma without ever being rigorously assessed.”
“A generation of citizens has grown up since the Diet/Heart Hypothesis (of Ancel Keys) was launched as official dogma. They have been led by the greatest scientific deception of our times: the notion that consumption of animal (saturated) fat causes heart disease.”
George Mann MD, Nutrition Today, 1985.
“The belief that atherosclerosis is due to high cholesterol has been perpetuated by powerful forces using tactics to preserve the profits and reputations of those who promote them.” Paul Rosch M.D, Scandinavian Cardiovascular Journal, 2008.
“The diet heart hypothesis is sustained by social, political and financial institutions which have little to do with science and established success in public health.” Uffe Ravnskov MD PhD, 2008.
How long should I be on the Ketogenic Diet?
We at the Charlie Foundation believe that a 3-month commitment to the diet is the minimum trial period necessary to understand if Ketogenic Therapy is right for the individual. Since most people following a western diet are not proficient at metabolizing fat optimally, this period allows the body time to become “fat-adapted”, utilizing dietary fat efficiently and effectively. There are a variety of nutritional plans that will enable a ketogenic lifestyle, and flexibility is one of the hallmarks of the diet that make it easy to adopt as a life-long tool to enhance your health. Our nutritionists can help figure out both the short and long-term options best suited for you and your lifestyle.
Types of Ketogenic Diets:
There are a variety of diets that will allow you to get into ketosis. The major differentiating factor between them all is the number of calories that come from protein, carbs and fat, which are what we call “macronutrients”, or nutrients in our food that have a caloric value. The three macronutrients differ in many ways, namely, their caloric values, as well as how the body uses them. Fat is the most calorically dense macronutrient, having 9 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram for both carbs and protein. In a homeostatic state, the body utilizes fat and carbs for energy production, while it uses protein to rebuild the cells of the body. While this is generally the case, an overconsumption of protein can lead the body to break down the excess protein into glucose, resulting in the same end product as carbs.
- Classic Ketogenic Diet
- Modified Ketogenic Diet
- MCT Oil Diet
- Modified Atkins
- Low Glycemic Index Diet (LGIT)
- Intermittent Fasting
Am I a candidate for the Ketogenic Diet?
While the short answer is yes for the majority of people consuming a western diet, we urge you to consult your general practitioner prior to making the switch to Keto. The Charlie Foundation will provide you with the information and tools necessary to adopt the diet, and partnering with your doctor during this process will ensure the most therapeutic outcome. To better understand if you are a candidate for the Ketogenic Diet, we have listed disease states below that studies are showing promising results for treating directly, or having compounding effects when combined with other medical treatments. If you have arrived at the Ketogenic Diet as a tool to tighten the screws of your overall health, fitness, and cognition, we recommend you jump directly to the different types of Ketogenic Diets that exist.
Keto has the power to heal.
Hundreds of studies have been performed showing therapeutic benefits of the Ketogenic Diet for a variety of disease states. Originally studied for its effects on epilepsy, the diet is now showing promise for a multitude of illnesses that have an underlying metabolic dysregulation, including but not limited to:
- Brain Tumor/Cancer
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Tramatic Brain Injury
- Mitochondrial Disease
- Brain Health
- Diabetes: Type-I and Type II
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with any of the above illnesses, are genetically predisposed to developing any of them, or feel your lifestyle and/or environmental factors may increase your chances of developing any of them, the Ketogenic Diet may be a great tool to improve your health outcome.
If you think you can benefit from adopting a Ketogenic Diet, we encourage you to consult one of our nutritionists so that we may guide you towards the most fruitful option given your specific needs.