What Are the Health Benefits of the Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet is most commonly associated with rapid weight loss, however, that’s not where it got its start, and certainly not the end of the road as far as health benefits are concerned. There’s no denying that weight loss alone aids in the betterment of overall health. And with weight loss comes a multitude of other cardiovascular and digestive improvements. But the list doesn’t even come close to stopping there. Let’s take a look at some of the other avenues of life this incredible way of eating has a positive effect.
A Little History
Originally the ketogenic diet was developed as a treatment option for epilepsy in children who were refractory to multiple medications. In the 1920s Dr. Russell Wilder conducted a year-long study indicating a 90% decrease in seizures in approximately 30% of patients. As one would expect, there was a significant drop-rate in the number of patients sticking with the study, however, the results were consistent at the 3-month, 6-month and one-year intervals with the remaining participants. More recent data suggests a 50% reduction in seizures in a combined assessment of almost 20 studies with a total of 1084 patients. Both with and without the use of anticonvulsant medications, the ketogenic diet has been effective in seizure reduction.
Because of the incredible results in epilepsy patients more research has been underway and is showing promising results in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease. The studies are indicating increased cognition and enhanced memory. Along the same lines, perfectly healthy individuals notice greater mental clarity, increased ability to focus, as well as better migraine control. The “why” is not quite definitive at this point, however, some researchers believe the blood sugar-stabilizing may be a proponent.
Heart Disease Prevention
With weight loss comes lowered blood pressure; that’s just common sense. Cholesterol also deserves some recognition in this way of eating. The ketogenic diet promotes a high-fat (healthy fat) regimen with limited carbohydrates which lowers triglycerides and increases HDL (the good cholesterol). This seems impossible since “fat” is bad and doctors have been telling patients for years to eat a low-fat, heart-healthy diet. Contrary to that theory, carbohydrates are actually a driving force behind increased triglycerides.
Polycystic ovary syndrome comes with a whole host of symptomatology; acne, mood swings, infertility, fatigue, skin tags, and hair growth on the chest, face, back, and toes. It also brings in painful and irregular menstrual cycles and the majority of those affected by PCOS have weight gain or problems losing weight. How in the world can the ketogenic diet help PCOS? It’s all hormonal. Increased insulin hormone and increased androgen hormone, the winning duo for a PCOS diagnosis, are a horrific combination. With the ketogenic diet, glucose levels go down as ketone levels go up. Lower glucose levels mean lower insulin levels. Lower insulin levels mean the ovaries have no need to produce more androgens, the male hormone. Of course, there is a lot more science behind it, but the result is still the same: Reduction or eradication of PCOS symptoms, including infertility.
Decreased Inflammation Issues
This category includes inflammation difficulties like arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acne and other skin problems. Lucky for these folks, the ketogenic diet is profoundly anti-inflammatory. There are a few types of ketones produced in a nutritional ketosis state, one of which suppresses an inflammation molecule commonly found in inflammatory processes. Because of the phenomenal link discovered with the ketogenic diet and inflammatory relief, more research has been prompted.
There is great news for folks with gastrointestinal problems such as gas, bloating, heartburn and acid reflux. Grains, particularly wheat, rye, and barley, is a food glue helping the grain hold its shape. The ketogenic diet is a grain-free way of eating, thus these symptoms should lessen or completely abate simply by following the plan. Another culprit for stomach and digestive issues is sugary foods. The ketogenic diet’s main concept is low-carb, so sugars aren’t going to be an issue for the tummy either.
While this list certainly isn’t exhaustive, it covers some pretty good ground on the health benefits of the ketogenic diet. Improved sleep, increased energy and stamina, and improved control of diabetes are among some other health-related benefits with this way of eating. There is even strong evidence suggesting the ketogenic diet can help fight certain cancers. As research continues, the list continues to grow.