My friend Karen asked why I hadn’t written a column about the ketogenic diet. Her interest, as CEO of The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, is understandable. Using a ketogenic diet for stopping or reducing seizures in people with epilepsy is well documented and used when medications are ineffective. Ketogenic diets remain a hot topic so here are a few thoughts.
A ketogenic diet is high in fat, moderate in protein and extremely low in carbohydrates. Bread, grain, beans, sugar in any form, starchy vegetables and most fruits are eliminated. The healthier version of the keto diet is high in fish, meat, eggs, chicken, greens and salads. Butter, creams and oils are included with most meals. When carbohydrate intake is dramatically reduced the body starts breaking down fats in the liver and releasing ketones. These ketones can be used by the body and brain for energy. This is the process that saves people during times of starvation.
Keto followers will experience rapid weight loss initially. The questions to be asked are if it is sustainable, are there long-term health issues not yet identified, is there a downside to eliminating fruits and beans, and limiting vegetables with their beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. And there are studies showing that in the long term, non keto eating plans that are low in simple sugar and carbs but include fruits and whole grains produce similar results to the ketogenic diet.
There is intriguing emerging research on the ketogenic diet. A recent study in Diabetes Therapy reported on 218 people with diabetes following a ketogenic diet. After one year, blood glucose levels improved and insulin and medication use decreased. Other interesting ketogenic diet research is with neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
This is all preliminary and no one with these disorders should start the diet on their own. But it could be the beginning of an important discussion with your physician.