What Is a Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low-carb diets.
It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain.
Ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has numerous health benefits.
Different Types of Ketogenic Diets
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
- Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs .
- Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
- Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
- High-protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
However, only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.
The information in this article mostly applies to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), although many of the same principles also apply to the other versions.
Ketogenic Diets Can Help You Lose Weight
A ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose weight and lower risk factors for disease.
In fact, research shows that the ketogenic diet is far superior to the often recommended low-fat diet.
What’s more, the diet is so filling that you can lose weight without counting calories or tracking your food intake.
One study found that people on a ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more weight than those on a calorie-restricted low-fat diet. Triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels also improved.
Another study found that people on the ketogenic diet lost 3 times more weight than those on the diet recommended by Diabetes UK.
There are several reasons why a ketogenic diet is superior to a low-fat diet, including the increased protein intake, which provides numerous benefits.
The increased ketones, lower blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity may also play a key role.
Ketogenic Diets for Diabetes and Prediabetes
Diabetes is characterized by changes in metabolism, high blood sugar and impaired insulin function.
The ketogenic diet can help you lose excess fat, which is closely linked to type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and metabolic syndrome.
One study found that the ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by a whopping 75%.
Another study in people with type 2 diabetes found that 7 of the 21 participants were able to stop using all diabetes medications .
In yet another study, the ketogenic group lost 24.4 pounds (11.1 kg), compared to 15.2 pounds (6.9 kg) in the higher-carb group. This is an important benefit when considering the link between weight and type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, 95.2% of the ketogenic group were also able to stop or reduce diabetes medication, compared to 62% in the higher-carb group.
Other Health Benefits of Keto
The ketogenic diet actually originated as a tool for treating neurological diseases such as epilepsy.
Studies have now shown that the diet can have benefits for a wide variety of different health conditions:
- Heart disease: The ketogenic diet can improve risk factors like body fat, HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugar.
- Cancer: The diet is currently being used to treat several types of cancer and slow tumor growth .
- Alzheimer’s disease: The keto diet may reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow its progression .
- Epilepsy: Research has shown that the ketogenic diet can cause massive reductions in seizures in epileptic children.
- Parkinson’s disease: One study found that the diet helped improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome: The ketogenic diet can help reduce insulin levels, which may play a key role in polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Brain injuries: One animal study found that the diet can reduce concussions and aid recovery after brain injury.
- Acne: Lower insulin levels and eating less sugar or processed foods may help improve acne.