Update on Ketones, Ketosis and Ketogenic Diets….
If you reduce your carbohydrate intake below a certain level your body will start to burn fat as a source of energy. This results in the production of an alternate source of energy called “ketones”. These are byproducts produced when the body metabolizes fat. So if you’re trying to lose weight, “fat burning” may be a good thing to do.
- “Ketogenic diets” usually contain less than 30 grams per day of carbohydrate per day. But we’re all different. Some people may produce ketones at less than 40 grams per day, while others may need to restrict them to less than 20 grams per day.
- A person producing ketones by reducing carbohydrates in their diet is in a state of “nutritional ketosis”.
- In contrast, a person producing ketones as a result of uncontrolled diabetes is in “diabetic ketoacidosis”. This is a dangerous complication of diabetes. Nutritional ketosis is benign and has many benefits (see below). But diabetic ketoacidosis can be lethal.
Here are some broad guidelines for the number of grams of carbohydrate in various diets:
- Typical American diet: 250-300 grams/day
- A reduced carbohydrate diet: 70 – 125 grams/day
- A low carbohydrate diet: 30 – 70 grams/day
- A very low carbohydrate diet : less that 30 grams/day
Q. Are low carbohydrate ketogenic diets new?
A. They were first used for weight loss in 1863 by William Banting, an English undertaker with major weight issues. He was so pleased with the results that he wrote a book about it titled “Letter on Corpulence.” It became so popular that those following the diet were said to be “Banting.” Spearheaded by the pioneering work of Dr. Robert Atkins, the popularity and success of low carbohydrate diets returned in the 1970’s.
Q. Aren’t carbohydrates an essential part of our diet?
A. To survive, we humans must have protein and fat but carbohydrates are not essential. Years ago Eskimos used to live free of cardiovascular disease and diabetes on diets consisting of fish and blubber.
Q. What are the benefits of ketosis?
- Weight loss without hunger
- Lower triglycerides and HDL (the good cholesterol)
- Lower blood pressure
- Prevention of diabetes
- Treatment of diabetes with less medication or insulin
- Control of seizures (very low carbohydrate diets are used in some major medical centers for the treatment of childhood epilepsy.)
- Reduction in inflammation, a cause of heart attacks and stroke
- Reduction in size and improved function of “fatty liver”
- …and more
Q. Can I eat dairy products while on a ketogenic diet?
A. Unless you have lactose intolerance, your diet can include full fat cream, sour cream, cream cheese and hard cheeses. But if you’re sensitive to dairy products, use caution. Try omitting all dairy products for a few weeks and see if it makes a difference (your personal “lactose tolerance test”).
Note: low fat, reduced fat or no fat products are best avoided. They often have added sugars to make them more palatable.
Q. How about caffeine and alcohol?
A. Caffeine may be included in your weight loss plan. Alcohol, particularly during induction, is best avoided. It inhibits ketosis, a clinical state you want to encourage to burn fat. Once you’ve transitioned to self-prepared meals, you may reintroduce it if you wish.
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