Researching the Ketogenic Diet: What Scientists Are Still Learning

Over the past few years, the ketogenic diet continues to grow as the most popular option for both weight loss and other health and wellness benefits. It also offers many benefits and 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.

So, it’s not a new discovery, but researchers continue to study many issues like the potential risks of the diet, side effects, and other negative effects that may result for certain people. Just like any medical research, the full scope of the diet and its potential is needed. So, the main question that remains after the years of its existence and promotion include the holes that need to be filled.

I admit that 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. I may not be able to completely replace my prescriptions with the ketogenic diet or modified Atkins, but I can definitely support my medication with my diet, exercise, and other life patterns.

We know the basics of the diet like having less than 5% daily carbohydrates in your diet, meaning that even some of the healthy foods that we are usually told to eat. Because of the carbs that many grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, and legumes contain, they may be healthy but will not match the specs of the ketogenic diet.

But, is it as easy as replacing those calories with fat? Think about the type of fat that you are including in your diet, and the fact that it would be such a high percentage of your daily caloric intake. When evaluating this diet and its results, it take careful determination of your other body needs and responses regarding your existing metabolism.

In order to make sure that the ingested fat is turned into ketone bodies, your entire diet needs to be developed very carefully. And it needs to be followed very strictly. So, you will be left with many questions as well after starting to make the effort to move toward the ketogenic diet for weight loss, health improvement, disease treatment, and more. Think about some of these:

  1. Can you eat fast food and still stick to the ketogenic diet?
  2. Can you eat in restaurants and stay on the ketogenic diet?
  3. What happens if you break the ketogenic diet even once?
  4. How long does it take to start losing weight or seeing personal improvements after starting the diet?
  5. Are there any problems that can happen when ketones from fat are the only energy source supplied to the body and brain?

What We Know and What We Don’t

Neurological studies have been overwhelmed by the past studies of the positive effects of the ketogenic diet on the brain, for issues including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and even brain cancer. Much of this research is still in process, but it is definitely a positive, since stroke recovery has already been well-researched.  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.

Other companies have worked extensively on tyhe use of ketosis to treat type 2 diabetes by controlling patients’ blood glucose levels through a ketogenic diet. In addition, this diet in general provides a significant reduction in blood sugar levels without medications, helping many different people with various health issues. With such a cutback on carbohydrates, the results have been wonderful and efficient, requiring much less insulin for treatments.

Another interesting find has been the fact that the ketogenic diet may present an initial slight increase in cholesterol during treatment. However, some longer treatments showed much longer and more permanent results of reduced cholesterol

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.

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