KETOSIS: Is it Right for You?

Ketosis Melts Fat…Kills Your Appetite…Clears Your Mind…Fights Cancer…” 

You’ve read the headlines. You’ve heard ketosis is the nutritional darling of Silicon Valley. You’ve watched endurance athletes eating butter like candy. And you’ve thought….eat fat to lose fat? No way that works. Besides, UGH. I simply couldn’t.

LET ME SHARE A FEW FACTS

  1. Ketosis is our bodies’ natural state. Historically, in times of famine between feasts, we burned our own fat stores for survival. Only now, with access to food 24/7, have we fallen out of intermittent, or cyclical, ketosis.
  2. Ketosis is, by definition, the ‘melting’ of fat.  Ketosis is a biological process in which fat stores are broken down to create ketone bodies, a highly efficient energy source. For some, the fat-melt is fast and furious. For others it’s slow, but steady. For a few, pounds don’t drop off, but inches eventually do.
  3. Ketosis reduces appetite & cravings. Initially, appetite declines because fat is so satiating. Long term, as the body adapts to burning fat as a primary fuel source, the brain realizes food (fat) is always on hand, and relaxes its ‘feed me’ demands.
  4. Ketosis increases mental clarity. In brains with impaired glucose metabolism (dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy), ketosis reduces symptoms by providing an alternate fuel source. Ketosis allows the brain to form new power plants (mitochondria) that burn fat for fuel.
  5. Ketosis reduces ‘food’ for cancer. Cancer cells rely heavily on glucose metabolism. When glucose isn’t available, cancer cells can lose their ability to thrive. Therapeutic ketosis is being explored & used alongside traditional cancer treatments.

NOW, THE REAL QUESTION: WHY EAT ALL THAT FAT?

Whole foods offer 3 energy sources: protein, fat & carbohydrate. For your body to enter ketosis, it has to have minimal glucose, meaning few carbs, and only moderate protein. If you ate only minimal carbs and moderate protein, your caloric intake could look something like this:

25g carbs + 80g protein = 420 calories

Without fat, you would starve! Healthy fat is necessary to provide needed calories. Plus it satisfies your appetite, improves hormonal profile, and primes your body to burn fat.

CAN EATING FAT BE HEALTHY?

The Western diet includes many fats that keep us feeling drained and inflamed: hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils like canola, corn, sunflower and safflower oils.

Healthy fats, on the other hand, increase Omega-3 fats, reduce inflammation, reduce risks of auto-immune diseases, and improve mitochondrial health and metabolism. Healthy fats include saturated fat such as coconut oil (despite the recent headlines–I’ll blog about this soon), grass fed butter, ghee, cacao butter and extra virgin olive oil. MCT oil, a derivative of coconut oil, and caprylic acid, a derivative of MCT oil, are also good choices and quickly convert to ketone bodies to give us immediate energy.

Grass fed, organic meat, and wild caught fish, especially salmon, offer healthy fat as well, as does avocado and some nuts. Organic bones can be used to make bone broth, an excellent source of protein and fat, and, added bonus, improves gut health.

Research has not shown that eating saturated fat increases incidence of heart disease in people who eat a low carbohydrate diet. Diets high in carbohydrates AND fats can lead to obesity and metabolic syndrome, both of which increase disease risk.

WHAT ABOUT CHOLESTEROL?

  1. Dietary intake of cholesterol has little effect on the cholesterol levels in your body.
  2. Standard cholesterol tests don’t really assess heart disease risk, but the best quick metric using standard data is the Triglyceride/HDL ratio. The lower the number, the better. Nutritional ketosis radically reduces triglycerides and often raises HDL. Based on that ratio, ketosis is a win.
  3. People with hypercholesterolemia may not be well suited for a ketogenic diet.
  4. When in doubt, consult a physician up-to-speed on the latest cholesterol research and testing options. Hint: if he/she doesn’t understand the role particle size plays in determining CV risk, find another doctor.

IS KETOSIS A QUICK FIX?

Healthy young woman weighing herself on scale

Yes and no. Blood glucose drops almost immediately, whereas greater insulin sensitivity takes a while to achieve. Fat loss is often rapid, but reducing risk factors for metabolic syndrome can take longer. Appetite suppression, improved sleep quality, and clearer thinking typically happen within the first several weeks of being in nutritional ketosis.

BOTTOM LINE: KETOSIS IS WORTH EXPLORING IF YOU WANT TO:

  • Lose fat
  • Lower blood glucose
  • Lower triglycerides
  • Reduce the effects of/risk of insulin resistance
  • Reduce risk of fatty liver disease
  • Reduce risk factors for (or reverse) metabolic syndrome
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Improve cognitive function
  • Improve energy levels
  • Improve mood

HAVE YOU ALREADY TRIED A KETOGENIC DIET? ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT IT BUT STILL HAVE QUESTIONS? Please post your thoughts and comments, and share with anyone who might benefit. The health crisis is real. Together we can make a difference.