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A Brief Overview of the Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet, colloquially called the keto diet, is a popular diet that contains high amounts of fat, adequate protein, and low carbohydrates. It is also known as a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet and a low-carb diet.
It was primarily formulated to treat epilepsy that has not responded to medications for the condition.
The diet was originally published in 1921 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Wilder found that fasting epileptic patients helped reduce the frequency of symptoms. At the time of publication, there were few other options available for the treatment of epilepsy.
The ketogenic diet has been widely used over the following decades in the treatment of epilepsy in both children and adults. In several epilepsy studies, about 50% of patients reported having at least a 50% reduction in seizures.
However, the advent of anticonvulsant drugs in the 1940s and later relegated the ketogenic diet to “alternative” medicine. Most health care providers, as well as patients, have found it much easier to use pills compared to following a strict ketogenic diet. It was subsequently ignored in the treatment of epilepsy by most specialists.
In 1993, Hollywood producer Jim Abrahams sparked renewed interest in the ketogenic diet. Abraham took his two-year-old son, Charlie, to Johns Hopkins Hospital for epilepsy treatment. Charlie experienced rapid seizure control within days of using the ketogenic diet.
Jim Abrahams created the Charlie Foundation in 1994 which helped revive research efforts. His production of the TV movie called “First Do No Harm” starring Meryl Streep also helped promote the ketogenic diet a lot.
The meals were designed to provide the body with the correct amount of protein it needs for growth and repair. The calculation of the amount of calories consumed was made to provide adequate amounts that will be able to support and maintain the appropriate weight required for the height and weight of the child.
Concepts underlying the ketogenic diet
The classic ketogenic diet has a ratio of “fat” to “combined protein and carbohydrates” of 4:1.
The general daily calorie breakdown of the ketogenic diet is as follows:
60-80% of calories from fat
The ratio of foods in a ketogenic diet is formulated to help the body induce and maintain a state of ketosis.
However, the ketogenic landscape has expanded considerably in both its application and implementation. Although the classic ketogenic diet is still widely used today, it has now formed the basis for the development of several alternative ketogenic protocols.
Ketogenic diets basically favor the intake of about 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. Protein consumption is moderate and depends mainly on factors such as gender, height and activity levels of the individual. Essentially, the overall caloric intake of the diet is balanced primarily based on the amount of fat consumed.
The proportions of fat and protein in a ketogenic diet
Increasing healthy fat consumption is the main focus of the ketogenic diet. Also, the purpose is to maintain a state of ketosis at all times allowing your body to use more body fat for fuel.
The body digests fat and protein differently. Fat is arguably the body’s best source of energy, and in a state of ketosis, the body can utilize body fat just as well as dietary fat.
In general, fats have a very limited effect on blood sugar levels and insulin production in your body. However, protein affects both of these levels if consumed in large amounts beyond what your body requires.
About 56% of the excess protein ingested is converted to sugar. This has the effect of altering the long-burning state of ketosis as a result of the body’s reaction to the glucose created by protein breakdown.
Depending on the type and source of fats ingested, a high-fat diet can be much healthier. Reducing your carbohydrate intake and increasing your consumption of more saturated fat from mainly medium chain fatty acids will greatly improve your body fat profile.
The ketogenic diet increases HDL (good) cholesterol levels while simultaneously lowering triglyceride levels. These two factors are the main markers of heart disease.
A ratio of less than 2.0 in your triglyceride to HDL ratio means you’re doing well. However, the closer this ratio is to 1.0 or lower, the healthier your heart is.
This type of fat profile is associated with greater protection against heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.
Increased lean protein consumption in the absence of adequate amounts of dietary fat can cause “rabbit starvation.” Rabbit starvation is a condition in which there is an insufficient amount of fats. This condition is seen in diets that consist primarily of lean protein.
One of the main symptoms of rabbit hunger is diarrhea. Diarrhea is often severe and can lead to death. This often happens within the first 3 days to a week of pure lean protein diets. If adequate amounts of fat are not consumed in the following days, diarrhea can worsen and can lead to dehydration and possible death.
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