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Ketogenic Diets PDF Print E-mail

One could say that the ketogenic diet is an extreme sub-set of the paleo diet but that wouldn’t be entirely correct as the metabolic pathway that is used to provide energy during a strict ketogenic diet is different from that of any other eating plan.

Perhaps it is easier to explain the ketogenic diet by explaining what it is not. It is a not a high protein, eat-as-much-bacon as you want diet. It is a high fat, moderate protein, very low carbohydrate diet. In fact, this is the way our early ancestors really ate. They would slaughter a woolly mammoth and feast on all the fat and organ meats first and typically air-dry the flesh for consumption in the leaner times. They did not value the fat free fillet like we do as it was less energy-dense than the liver or the brain.

The premise behind a ketogenic diet is to use fat (and not glucose) for fuel. A typical diet (especially one’s that follow the conventional food pyramid) is high in carbohydrates and low in fat. This is a legacy of the cardiovascular disease era when fat was still thought to be the villain and grains the saviour. Fortunately for us, things are changing as more and more scientific evidence is coming to light that shows that its processed carbohydrates and sugar that are the drivers behind cholesterol and heart disease, not fat.

The human body has a remarkable ability to utilize two metabolic pathways to provide us with energy. One of them relies on the consumption of carbohydrates which get broken down into glucose and is used as the body’s main fuel. The other pathway is to use fat. Once it is consumed, fats are absorbed through the walls of the small intestines, the glycerol is separated from the fatty acids, and the fatty acids are broken into pieces in the liver. The pieces are known as ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are used as a source of energy, and like glucose, ketone bodies eventually become carbon dioxide and water. The production of ketone bodies is a part of normal fat metabolism, and it is the way that fat is used. It is not witchery or an unnatural state. In fact newborn baby’s are in ketosis (meaning they are using ketone bodies) for the first few day’s of their lives. That means that YOU, THE READER, were born with this propensity to use fat for fuel.

The amount of ketones formed in the liver depends on the amount of glucose or glycogen (stored glucose) available for use as energy. This reverse ratio means that fewer ketones will be produced in the presence of a lot of glucose. When glucose is being used for energy, ketones are not needed in large amounts. On the other hand, in the absence of insulin, the body metabolizes stored fats to produce the energy that the body’s tissues require.

As with anything in life, you can’t have your cake and eat it. It’s either glucose or fat. There’s no best of both worlds here. Dietary carbohydrates are not required for life provided that enough of the proper kinds of protein and fats are eaten. Some of the protein will be converted to glucose (some published studies cite as much as 50%!), and, additionally, some 10% of the dietary fat will also convert to glucose. This conversion will control the amounts of ketones produced, since the converted glucose will stimulate the release of insulin. The higher the insulin, the more your body stores fat. The lower the insulin the more your body uses fat (not only fat from the diet but fat around the waist!).

Right, by now you’re thinking that it sounds too good to be true. That depends on your point of view. How much do you love pizza, pasta, bread, potatoes, doughnuts, Crappy Meals, chocolate and alcohol? In fact how much do you love milk and yoghurt? On the true ketogenic diet milk is severely restricted, not only because it contains carbohydrates but because it has an insulinotrophic effect that independently drives up insulin despite it having a Low GI.

“But the banting diet book says that I can pig out on loads of double-fat cream and bacon” I hear a lot of you shout. The fact of the matter is this. If you really want to reap the FULL benefits of a ketogenic diet, and if you can appreciate a bigger picture besides just short-term weight loss then it’s best to do things properly. By design all ketogenic diets are wheat, gluten, grain, rice, legume and sugar free. They also restrict most fruit and root vegetables. That means no quinoa, spelt, chickpeas, tapioca, wheat-grass and dragon fruit no matter how healthy your yoga teacher says they are. And you can’t chase down a triple bacon and cheese burger (hold the bun) with a liter of milk, no matter what whatshisname says. This is to prevent the carbohydrate level from being too high – not because those foods are inherently “bad”.

Who should follow a Ketogenic Diet?

I’m not going to say that this diet is a great way to lose weight because it completely undermines the true benefit of this lifestyle. If you are plagued by any inflammatory condition (no matter how big or how small), ranging from insulin resistance, arthritis, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, seizures and even cancer then this eating plan is for you.

If you are overweight, you may not realize it but you already have an inflammatory condition as a result of the excess fat, then this eating plan is for you. If you are an athlete or merely love exercising then this diet is for you. You won’t have to rely on a limited amount of glucose for fuel (which then switches to using your own muscles for fuel). Even in an athlete with 10% body fat, the total amount of energy stored as fat will typically be more than 20 times the maximum level of carbohydrate stored in the body. Thus whereas vigorous exercise can deplete glycogen reserves in just a few hours, when adapted to burning primarily fat, this thin athlete has enough fat to fuel several days of exercise.