Ketogenic diet: benefits and potential risks
The ketogenic diet has been known since 1920 as an antiepileptic treatment, before antiepileptic drugs were discovered. In recent years, it has become one of the most prominent weight loss strategies.
It is a type of diet based on increased consumption of mainly fats and proteins and reduced carbohydrate intake. The cells of the body use glucose as the main source of energy, which is produced by the consumption of carbohydrates. When carbohydrate intake is limited, then fat, through a natural metabolic process which is known as ketosis, is converted to ketogenic bodies. These are now the main fuel for our cells.
What is achieved is the reduction of glycogen stores in the body as well as water. During the first few days, weight loss is due to water / fluid loss. After this stage, fat burning begins through the formation of ketone bodies in order to produce energy.
The benefits of the Ketogenic diet
In addition to the therapeutic benefits that the ketogenic diet provides in seizures, there are many recent studies that demonstrate additional proven beneficial properties. For example, the ketogenic diet has been found to promote memory and performance, provide mental clarity and increase energy levels. Furthermore, it intensifies the feeling of satiety, as it helps reduce appetite-stimulating hormones, such as insulin and ghrelin. Therefore, it can significantly help in weight loss.
The anti-inflammatory effect of the ketogenic diet
The ketogenic diet can drastically modify the intestinal microbiome and it ultimately helps strengthen our immune system by reducing inflammation, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have been monitoring the diet of 17 overweight and obese men for two months. In the first month, half of them followed a Western diet, while the rest followed a ketogenic diet. After a month, the two groups of men changed the type of diet they followed.
According to fecal analysis, it was found that when the group of men who followed a western diet changed to ketogenic, changes were recorded in the levels of 19 “families” of bacteria. The researchers then extracted microbial samples from the intestines of the keto group and they inserted them into the intestines of mice. What was observed was a decrease in the levels of cells that promote inflammation in autoimmune diseases. According to lead researcher Peter Turnbaugh, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, the results were impressive.
In short, based on the above research, ketones alter the microbiome of the gastrointestinal tract and through this process, the activation of an anti-inflammatory mechanism of our body follows. The anti-inflammatory properties of the ketogenic diet result from the limited production of free radicals that are observed during the metabolism of ketones instead of glucose. An additional reason responsible for reducing inflammation is that the ketogenic diet allows the stabilization of blood sugar levels, the imbalance of which can lead to the prevalence of chronic inflammation.
Furthermore, the ketogenic diet has been shown to promote the growth of new cells, which leads to the enhancement of the formation of new mitochondria. Therefore, the energy production in our body becomes higher since the mitochondria function as small power plants.
Ketogenic diet and protection against chronic diseases
The combination of reduced inflammation and increased production of mitochondria makes our body able to adequately cope with various functions. The occurrence of many chronic diseases is due to chronic inflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction. Therefore, the ketogenic diet is a fundamental strategy to reduce the risk of developing various chronic diseases.
It has been suggested that a ketogenic diet may be effective in treating neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and it may prevent the growth of cancer cells. Furthermore, some skin conditions, such as eczema, are the result of chronic inflammation or autoimmunity, and the ketogenic diet may play a therapeutic role. According to various scientific studies, the development of acne can be reduced through the adoption of a ketogenic diet. In addition, the ketogenic diet has been shown to help women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome achieve hormonal balance, improve insulin levels and lose weight.
Possible side effects and contraindications
The ketogenic diet offers beneficial benefits to our body results, when it is applied temporarily as a weight loss strategy. Nevertheless, it imposes several restrictions and presupposes omissions of essential nutrients, so it may cause unwanted side effects. Some side effects may include a high risk of kidney stones, bad breath, dehydration, muscle cramps, dizziness, constipation, fatigue, hypoglycemia, high heart rate and high blood uric acid levels.
In addition, according to Kristen Kizer, a nutritionist at Houston Methodist Hospital, ketones are negatively charged molecules, suggesting that they are acidic. The body, in an effort to eliminate the acid, makes use of calcium from the bones. For this reason, people who follow a ketogenic diet for long periods of time are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis.
Rarely, the so-called ketoacidosis, which is more common in people with Diabetes 1, may occur due to insufficient production of insulin, which prevents the overproduction of ketones. For this reason, it is becoming clear that staying in a state of ketosis can be harmful to people with underlying diseases. It is no coincidence that this type of diet is contraindicated for pregnant women, children, patients with type 1 diabetes, patients with cardiovascular disease, as well as for people with kidney or liver diseases. Finally, there are contraindications for those who have eating or mental disorders.
The importance of medical guidance and supervision
The ketogenic diet is considered beneficial for our body. However, it is recommended to be guided and supervised by a doctor, in order to ensure the supply of all the necessary vitamins and trace elements. In particular, if someone suffers from heart disease, Type 1 or 2 Diabetes, they should not follow a ketogenic diet without medical supervision.
Therefore, whether the ketogenic diet is followed for weight loss or for therapeutic purposes, it should always be applied under the guidance of a competent doctor, in order to assess the potential risks and potential benefits depending on the needs of each organism and his overall health.
Dr. Nikoleta Koini, M.D.
Doctor of Functional, Preventive, Anti-ageing and Restorative Medicine.
Diplomate and Board Certified in Anti-aging, Preventive, Functional and Regenerative Medicine from A4M (American Academy in Antiaging Medicine).
- Lucas, M., Chocano-Bedoya, P., Shulze, M. B., Mirzaei, F., O’Reilly, É. J., Okereke, O. I., … Ascherio, A. (2014). Inflammatory dietary pattern and risk of depression among women. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 36, 46–53. PMID: 24095894
- Kossoff EH, Wang HS. Dietary therapies for epilepsy. Biomed J. 2013 Jan-Feb;36(1):2-8. doi:10.4103/2319-4170.107152 PMID 23515147
- Gano LB, Patel M, Rho JM. Ketogenic diets, mitochondria, and neurological diseases. J Lipid Res. 2014 Nov;55(11):2211-28. doi:10.1194/jlr.R048975. PMID 24847102.
- Cai QY, Zhou ZJ, Luo R, Gan J, Li SP, Mu DZ, Wan CM. Safety and tolerability of the ketogenic diet used for the treatment of refractory childhood epilepsy: a systematic review of published prospective studies. World J Pediatr. 2017 Dec;13(6):528-536. doi:10.1007/s12519-017-0053-2. PMID 28702868.
- Wheless JW. History and origin of the ketogenic diet (PDF). In: Stafstrom CE, Rho JM, editors. Epilepsy and the ketogenic diet. Totowa: Humana Press; 2004. ISBN 1-58829-295-9.
- Pfeifer, Heidi H. Low glycemic index treatment. Epilepsy Foundation. 22 August 2013. Cited 31 March 2018.
- D’Aquila, P., Bellizzi, D., & Passarino, G. (2015). Mitochondria in health, aging and diseases: the epigenetic perspective. PMID: 25711915
- Muzykewicz DA, Lyczkowski DA, Memon N, Conant KD, Pfeifer HH, Thiele EA. Efficacy, safety, and tolerability of the low glycemic index treatment in pediatric epilepsy. 2009 May;50(5):1118–26. doi:10.1111/j.1528-1167.2008.01959.x. PMID 19220406
Schedule an Online Medical Consultation
1. Create your Personal Profile
2. Fill your Medical History Online
3. Schedule an Appointment