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A diet extremely high in fat may not seem like the best way to lose fat. But there’s a growing body of research showing that the high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet is not only good for weight loss, but also may help in preventing disease.
The ketogenic diet, or keto, relies on using your fat as fuel, instead of glucose from carbohydrates or protein. Simply put, the daily ketogenic diet consists of 75 percent fat, 20 percent of protein, and a teeny allotment of carbohydrates, about 5 percent. This balance of macronutrients is intended to put your body in a state of ketosis, which suppresses the release of insulin and blood glucose levels. The benefits of ketosis to your health are improvements in biomarkers like blood glucose, reduction of blood pressure and decreased appetite due to fullness linked to consumption of fats.
You might think this sounds a lot like the Atkins diet — it’s not. The main difference lies in the protein content of the diet. Atkins tends to be very high in protein, while ketogenic is moderate.
It’s not the easiest plan to follow, but the theory of ketosis as a possible prevention against disease is gaining attention from cancer specialists. Tumor immunologist Dr. Patrick Hwu, one of the leading cancer specialists in the U.S., has followed the keto diet for four years, although he prefers to call it the fat-burning metabolism diet, or fat-burning diet.
More research is needed to prove its benefits, but Hwu, the head of cancer medicine at MD Anderson in Houston, believes in it after seeing improvements in his own health.
Cancer loves sugar from all sources, and metabolizes it in a way that helps the cancer cell thrive. Cancer cells can thrive on glucose, insulin, and a hormone associated with metabolism called insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1.
The ketogenic diet is shown to reduce levels of insulin and IGF-1. In a 2017 study in which participants fasted, omitting carbohydrates during their fasting times, reduced their blood pressure, levels of inflammation, fasting blood glucose and levels of IGF-1.
The risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes — which are both associated with high blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol — may be reduced by following the ketogenic diet, based on research. A recent study from Johns Hopkins found a ketogenic diet was not only safe, but effective for adults who had certain severe forms of epilepsy, supporting previous research.
Because the diet is so restrictive, in the first few weeks of following it many people experience side effects bad enough to be known as “the keto flu.”
Symptoms, which usually go away after four to seven days, can range from: insomnia, headaches, bad breath and constipation.
Type 1 diabetics, individuals with kidney disease and pregnant women should avoid the ketogenic diet.
Just like every diet plan ever created, you’re going to run into cravings on the Ketogenic diet plan. Cutting out more than 80% of your carbs and almost all the sugars in your diet, is going to create some serious cravings. Here’s a few steps to get those cravings under control: