The keto diet is high fat, extremely low carb and all the rage lately. Celebrated for its ability to burn fat like crazy, there are other more powerful health benefits of the keto diet that shouldn’t be ignored. From disease prevention to craving control, here’s why so many are going keto according to holistic wellness expert, Dr. Josh Axe…
While it’s true the ketogenic diet’s reputation for causing rapid weight loss is appealing to more people than ever, the diet is beneficial for far more than burning body fat. In fact, the ketogenic diet wasn’t even developed with weight loss in mind — it’s actually been used since the 1920s to help doctors treat patients with conditions like diabetes, epilepsy and neurological disorders.
Don’t get me wrong, the keto diet can definitely help you shed stubborn pounds and reduce your risk for obesity. But in the event you’re oblivious to the other health benefits of the ketogenic diet, here are my top five: benefits:
Improved Cognitive Health
While the brain typically relies on glucose (from dietary carbohydrates) for energy, it can switch to using ketone bodies for energy once glucose is no longer available. This is exactly what happens during ketosis or when fasting, as the body – and thus, the brain – is completely deprived of carbs. In fact, the production of ketone bodies is a life-saving mechanism that gives the body the ability to spare the oxidation of vital proteins in the liver, muscle, heart and kidneys in order to provide fuel.
When you’re in ketosis, the ketone bodies, called β-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate, ultimately replace glucose as the predominant fuel for brain metabolism, and this process can have certain anti-inflammatory effects. Many studies have found evidence of the therapeutic uses of ketogenic diets when used to support multiple neurological disorders, even beyond epilepsy. (1) As a result, the ketogenic diet is now used to manage and prevent progression of conditions – including Alzheimer’s – reoccurring headaches, neurotrauma, Parkinson’s disease, sleep disorders, brain cancer, autism and multiple sclerosis. (2)
Reduced Appetite + Decreased Cravings
A major advantage of the keto diet over conventional low-fat or low-calorie diets is that ketones tend to suppress your appetite, making intermittent fasting or calorie-restriction for weight loss easier. Certain studies have found adults following a ketogenic diet tend to achieve better long-term body weight and cardiovascular risk-factor management compared to adults following conventional diets, which have a high percentage of carbohydrates and can increase cravings and hunger. (3)
Another reason extremely low-carb diets may cause a reduction in hunger is the fact that protein and fats lead to increased satiety and fullness much more so than sugary foods and refined grains. This is due, in part, to the positive effect that fats and protein have on appetite-controlling hormones, including ghrelin.
Reduced Risk for Chronic Disease
Many studies have found that extremely low-carb diets like keto can lead to an improvement in certain metabolic pathways, ultimately triggering protection against common chronic health problems. For example, by helping to improve inflammation levels, insulin sensitivity and several parameters of cardiovascular risk (including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high triglycerides), the ketogenic diet may help to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. (4)
One study found that when obese adults followed the ketogenic diet for 24 weeks, the majority experienced decreased levels of triglycerides, LDL (or “bad” cholesterol) and blood glucose, while at the same time experiencing an increased level of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Additionally, newer research suggests that the keto diet may also be safely used as a complementary therapy during conventional radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer patients. (5)
The keto diet works by eliminating carbohydrates from the diet and keeping the body’s carbohydrate/glucose stores almost empty, thus preventing too much insulin from being released into the body while simultaneously helping to normalize blood glucose.
This makes the keto diet an effective strategy for helping to treat prevalent hormonal conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common reproductive/fertility problem among women. (6) Studies suggest that diets like keto – especially since keto limits protein as well as carbohydrates and places an emphasis on healthy fats – appear to be even more effective at improving hormonal imbalances, glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity when compared to higher protein diets.
Need one more reason to try keto? The ketogenic diet is unique in that it leads to an improvement in fat oxidation (i.e. “fat burning”) without reducing your resting metabolic rate, or the amount of calories you expend per day. This resting metabolic rate is what determines your metabolism, or your body’s fat burning efficiency; keto’s effect on metabolism is essentially opposite of most reduced-calorie diets. When calories are drastically reduced, the resting metabolic rate (read: metabolism) tends to slow down in order to conserve energy.
Learn more about healthy fats (and why we need more of them) here.
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All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.