The ketogenic diet has been set as the true trend of late for many things including weight loss, along with its benefit or support for issues like epilepsy, mental health and more. This low-carbohydrate, high-fat ketogenic, or “keto,” diet has impacts on inflammation in the brain to its effects on weight and heart health, as well as any other potential health risks.
Researchers are studying the potential risks of the diet, just as the risks and effects of other diets have been studied in the past. The full scope of any diet is needed in order to determine its full benefits. While I am one of the patients who like the possibility that it can work as a supportive item for my epilepsy treatment, I know that I need ALL the information before making a final decision.
The ketogenic diet tries to bring carbohydrates down to less than 5 percent of a person’s daily caloric intake – which means eliminating most grains, fruit, starchy vegetables, legumes and sweets. Instead, it replaces those calories with fat. That fat is turned into ketone bodies, which are an alternative energy source: besides glucose derived from carbohydrates, ketones from fat are the only fuel the brain can use.
What We Know
Neurological studies have been overwhelmed by the past studies of the positive effects of the ketogenic diet on the brain, especially in treatment used after issues like stroke and other serious events. The anti-inflammatory effect of ketosis on stroke recovery is likely the same effect that helps children with certain kinds of seizures, having been studied greatly for years.
Additionally, there is Virta Health Corp., a company that is now working on the treatment of type 2 diabetes by controlling patients’ blood glucose levels through a ketogenic diet. With such a cutback on carbohydrates, the results have been wonderful and efficient, requiring much less insulin for treatments.
What We Don’t Know
One of the largest issues when bringing the ketogenic diet into the human scope there is the issue of truly sticking to the rules of the diet with 100% strictness. Far fewer clinical studies have been done in humans outside of seizure prevention since ketosis is a difficult state to maintain; avoiding carbs, including fruit, bread, legumes, and the occasional office birthday cake isn’t feasible for many people in the long run.
Without peer-reviewed clinical trials, many of the benefits remain subjective. For instance, even with researchers who have maintained their own low-carb diets for long periods of time, they report feeling better. However, the limits and capabilities of any specific diet are not complete as of yet.
As to the most exotic claims from health and diet gurus – such as keto diets resulting in euphoria, cognitive boosts, and improvements in anything from kidney function to cancer treatment, though data is minimal. It is also important to make sure that there are conversations with your doctor if any diet changes are being made when you have prescriptions or health issues to manage.