The ketogenic diet is a high fat, adequate protein and low carbohydrate nutrition plan that was originally used in the 1920s and ’30s as a treatment for pediatric epilepsy. Despite its good results, after the discovery of phenytoin, this nutritional modality was abandoned in favor of new drug therapies. It returned to public attention in the early 1970s when Dr. Robert Atkins published his book, Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, promising rapid weight loss and other health benefits. Since then, the ketogenic diet has, once again, become a commonly used alternative treatment for pediatric epilepsy and is being studied for use as a therapy for a wide range of illnesses and conditions.
5 Benefits of This High Fat and Low Carbohydrate Diet
- Weight Loss: The Adkin’s diet and its subsequent variations are widely recognized among the most effective fat-burning and weight loss programs ever devised. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition researchers reported that the ketogenic diet reduced hunger, and overall food intake significantly more than other diets. By limiting carbohydrate intake, the body exhausts its stores of muscle and liver glycogen and must break down stored fats to provide energy to support normal metabolic activity.
- Neurological Protection: Recent studies indicate the potential for long term therapeutic benefits for epilepsy patients. Though the mechanisms are not yet well understood, the ketogenic diet has shown promising results in the treatment of a broad range of neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury and stroke. Scientists believe that the high ketone levels in the blood may provide better fuel for the brain and protect against damage to brain cells.
- Liver Health: Obesity-related nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an epidemic in the USA. It is a condition in which the liver becomes congested with excess fat. Untreated it can lead to liver damage and/or cancer. The standard recommendation for treating NAFLD is weight loss. Though the mechanism is poorly understood, short term adherence to the ketogenic diet has been shown to be highly effective in reversing NAFLD.
- Diabetes: In a Duke University study, the ketogenic diet proved to be more effective than a low glycemic, reduced calorie diet in promoting greater glycemic control and reducing or eliminating the need for medication.
- Cancer: Researchers are exploring the relationship between blood levels of ketones and glucose and how a ketogenic diet may inhibit tumor growth and protect against the formation of new cancer cells.
It is important to recognize that while the ketogenic diet can offer significant health benefits for a variety of conditions; this program is designed to create a state of metabolic imbalance in order to effect a change. For this reason, it is recommended that use of the ketogenic diet should be guided by a health professional who is experienced in administering this type of therapy.