Healthy Fat Heaven: Why Should You Try a Ketogenic Diet?
November 02, 2015 | 3,004 views
There’s been a negative connotation with the word “fat,” and there are many claims that most fats aren’t beneficial to your body. However, consuming good fats can actually lead to positive impacts on the body. Here’s a dietary regimen that relies on healthy fats to exert changes that your body will be thankful for: the ketogenic diet.
Defining the Ketogenic Diet
A ketogenic diet involves shifting your body’s metabolic engine to burning fats instead of carbohydrates. It’s called “ketogenic” because our cells have this “metabolic flexibility” to adapt to using ketone bodies for fuel, which come from fat breakdown, as opposed to using glucose.
This diet emphasizes on the consumption of healthy fats per day, around 50 to 70 percent. These can come from coconut oil, grass-pastured butter, organic pastured eggs, avocado, and raw nuts like raw pecans and macadamia.
Dr. Peter Attia, a physician from Stanford University, conducted an experiment on himself because of his body’s tendency to fall towards metabolic syndrome, despite his determination to follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly. His study aimed to show the effects of a ketogenic diet on overall health markers.
This experiment lasted for 10 years, with 80 percent of his calorie intake coming from fat. He also monitored his metabolic markers like blood sugar levels, body fat percentage, blood pressure, and lipid levels, among others. The experiment led to exceptional results like:
- Loss of both subcutaneous (fat under the skin layers) and detrimental visceral fats (fat stored within the abdominal cavity and around the liver, pancreas, and intestines) as indicated by an MRI
- Increased insulin sensitivity and HDL (good cholesterol) levels
- Decreased body fat percentage and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels
Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
A ketogenic diet can be an effective therapy for battling cancer, as cancer cells don’t have the ability to adapt to burn carbohydrates, which require glucose in order to thrive.
It can also lead to beneficial effects for the heart and other muscles, which operate well when fueled by ketones. The muscles, because of an enzyme that helps maintain glycogen supply, can store more glucose than our brain. However, the brain prefers using glucose as fuel because it lacks this said enzyme.
Despite this, the body has a way of providing a fuel source for the brain that it can use when glucose supply is low, called beta-hydroxybutyrate, a ketone-like compound that is produced by your liver. This can fuel the brain efficiently with “practice.”
Once the body is more efficient at burning fats, there’s a seamless transition between its fat- and carbohydrate-burning engines, leading to stable blood sugar levels. Moreover, the body will also be able to save the glucose supply until it’s critically needed.
Lastly, there’s a link between a high-fat diet like this one and the aging process. A 2010 study examined a high-fat diet on typical markers of aging. Just like Attia’s experiment, the outcome was positive – the data gathered showed improvements on the aging markers studied.
How Is the Ketogenic Diet Related to Intermittent Fasting?
A ketogenic diet is similar to intermittent fasting because it also allows you to burn fat and use it as an energy source instead of carbohydrates and sugars. Intermittent fasting is a practice which involves eating daily calories during a specific time window only (such as an eight-, or six-hour time frame). Apart from helping you lose weight, it also trains your body to get used to eating a certain amount of calories at a particular time of the day only.
Intermittent fasting also happens to be another way of strengthening the ketone engine, a critical component of this diet, apart from restricting carbohydrates and limiting protein. In his study, Dr. Attia consumed a diet that was composed mostly of healthy fats, moderate amounts of protein, and extremely low sugar (although the last one is something I do not recommend for most people).
Lastly, these two are connected because they can prevent “bonking.” An analogy for this term, as Attia explains, is a huge petroleum truck that runs out of gas and stops while on the highway. Even if the truck has gallons of fuel onboard, the engine cannot access it. This is similar to when sugars and carbohydrates mainly comprise our diet – the body loses our ability to burn ketones efficiently, turning off the fat-burning engine.
Follow These Strategies to Kickstart Your Ketogenic Diet
Interested in starting a ketogenic diet? Modify your food choices and go for whole, organic, and unprocessed foods, such as:
- Healthy fats
- Abundant amounts of raw vegetables
- Moderate amounts of high-quality, grass-fed protein
These foods can help retrain your body to burn fat, which is enough to “starve” your brain into ketosis. Meanwhile, avoid sugar, especially fructose, grains, and carbohydrates like the plague, as excessive consumption of these can lead to multiple diseases.
Another way to reactivate your fat-burning engine is by exercising effectively, especially while in a fasted state because it allows your body to be better at using fat for energy. If you’re confused as to what type of exercise to do, look no further than high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises.
A caveat here is that genetics, which influence metabolic tendencies, play a part in retraining your body to burn fat, so people who aren’t so lucky in this area may need to work a bit harder.
Lastly, do take note that this low-carb, low-to-moderate protein, and high-healthy fat diet is best for those who are insulin or leptin resistant. Once the resistance resolves, the diet becomes counterproductive.
A ketogenic diet may not be well-known compared to the big-name diets out there in the market, but it does stack up among the ones that can give you the best results for your health.
To learn more about burning fat for fuel, the ketogenic diet and the other studies that prove its validity, read my latest book, Fat For Fuel, and this article, "Ketogenic Diet Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Numerous Aging Markers."