1. Weight Loss
A ketogenic diet generally produces quick, dramatic weight loss and body fat reduction. Since it’s high in healthy fats, it leaves you feeling full and satisfied, stopping the constant refueling needs generated by a high-carb diet. Bottom line: you’ll eat fewer calories and loose fat at a rapid pace.
If you aren’t seeing weight loss at the rate you want, you may well be eating too many calories. But generally speaking, there isn’t a need to count calories. Your hunger signals are normalized on a keto diet and you eat fewer calories than you would on a high-carb diet.
Several studies have shown the ketogenic diet produces better weight loss results when compared to low-fat, high-carb diets.
In contrast, a high-carb, high-insulin producing diet forces you to depend on more and more carbohydrates to use as your energy source.
You’ll burn some of the glucose produced from a high-carb meal right away, but with the help of an insulin surge from elevated blood glucose levels, you’ll store the rest. In the hours after the excess glucose is removed from your bloodstream, you’ll feel shaky, weak, anxious, hangry, and looking for a fix – more carbs! And yes, I’m speaking from experience.
2. Improved Blood Sugar Control
Using fat as your primary fuel source helps lower insulin levels because you are eating very few carbohydrates that trigger their production.
A ketogenic diet is the most effective diet for lowering blood sugar levels. If you have Type II diabetes or are pre-diabetic, you may benefit from a keto diet. Since type II diabetes is a state of carbohydrate intolerance, it seems logical that greatly reducing or eliminating carbohydrates would at the very least, improve control.
Remember: check with your doctor before starting on a keto diet.
3. Increased Mental Focus
Many keto enthusiasts, including several members of my family, have noticed a boost in brain function/cognitive performance on a keto diet.
Recent studies show ketones exert a protective effect on the brain.
When we drastically lower our carb intake, our brain switches to ketones as its primary fuel source. And ketones are present in the bloodstream at a more consistent level when compared to a carbohydrate-based (glucose) diet. No more sugar crashes!
A 2016 study out of the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and the NIH, found that rats fed a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, (ketone heavy) improved both physical performance and cognitive function compared to those on diets high in carbohydrates.
4. Neuroprotective and Disease-Modifying Effects
By burning ketones, the ketogenic diet likely increases the number of mitochondria, the “furnaces” in cells, and may provide a more efficient source of energy for the brain than glucose.
According to an article published in 2006, these two factors may account for the enhanced ability of neurons to withstand metabolic challenges that would ordinarily result in cellular death. The authors site research that indicates the ketogenic diet can provide symptomatic and disease-modifying activity in a broad range of neurodegenerative disorders.
A ketogenic diet has been used to successfully treat refractory childhood epilepsy since the 1920’s, and recent evidence has suggested that in addition to its ability to protect against seizures, it may also have disease-modifying activity that improves the long-term outcome in these children.
Studies have shown that diets high in carbohydrates worsen cognitive performance and behavior in Alzheimer’s patients.
A study in 2004 found that a ketogenic diet may provide symptom reduction and improvement in memory performance in those suffering from the disease by providing greater amounts of essential fatty acids than other diets.
Although no hard clinical evidence exists on the benefits of a ketogenic diet on Parkinson’s Disease, there is some evidence that ketone bodies may play a role in mitigating symptoms of the disease.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Results from studies on neuroprotective effects on traumatic brain injury are often anecdotal, but show promise that a ketogenic diet may diminish metabolic changes in the brain that have been caused by such injuries.
A ketogenic diet may play a role in the treatment or protection from neurologic disorders such as strokes, migraines, autism spectrum disorder, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
5. Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
In a study looking at the long-term effects of a ketogenic diet, researchers found that it not only produced significant weight loss, but also significantly increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels, while LDL (bad) cholesterol levels were significantly decreased.
With low carb intake on a ketogenic diet, triglyceride levels decrease. High triglycerides may contribute to hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.
A study at Duke University Medical Center found that people who followed a low-carbohydrate diet experienced a healthy drop in their blood pressure.
The Warburg effect describes how cancer cells use glucose as their main source of energy, making a ketogenic diet an attractive option for supplemental cancer treatments. The theory: without a supply of glucose used as energy for growth, a cancerous tumor could be contained.
In 2012, a Duke University study looked at the association between a no-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and delayed prostate tumor growth in a mouse model of human prostate cancer. They found a no-carb diet was significantly associated with lower tumor volumes.
A 2014 study out of the University of Iowa reviews the history and the potential of a ketogenic diet as an adjuvant cancer therapy. They looked at ketogenic diets in cancer therapy in both animal models and human case reports. Their findings include studies showing ketogenic diets reduce tumor growth and improve survival in animal models of malignant glioma, colon cancer, gastric cancer and prostate cancer.
Recent studies have shown that a ketogenic diet can increase oxidative stress in breast and colon cancer cells relative to normal breast and colon cells and thus interfere with the cancer cells ability to metabolize glucose.