A Brief Overview of the Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet, commonly known as the keto diet, is a popular diet high in fat, adequate in protein, and low in carbohydrates. It is also known as a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet and a low-carbohydrate diet.
It was formulated primarily for the treatment of epilepsy that has not responded to drugs for the disease.
The diet was originally developed in 1921 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic. dr Wilder discovered that fasting in epilepsy patients helped reduce the frequency of symptoms. At the time of writing, few other options for treating epilepsy were available.
The ketogenic diet was widely used to treat epilepsy in both children and adults over the next several decades. In several epilepsy studies, about 50% of patients reported at least a 50% reduction in seizures.
However, the introduction of anticonvulsants in the 1940s and after relegated the ketogenic diet to an “alternative” medicine. Most healthcare providers as well as patients found using the pills much easier than sticking to the strict ketogenic diet. It was later ignored by most specialists in treating epilepsy.
In 1993, Hollywood producer Jim Abrahams sparked renewed interest in the ketogenic diet. Abraham had his two-year-old son, Charlie, taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital for epilepsy treatment. Charlie experienced rapid seizure control within a few days of using the ketogenic diet.
Jim Abrahams founded the Charlie Foundation in 1994, which helped revitalize research efforts. His production of the TV movie First Do No Harm, starring Meryl Streep, also helped heavily promote the ketogenic diet.
Meals are designed to provide the body with the right amount of protein it needs for growth and repair. The calculation of the amount of calories consumed has been performed to provide adequate amounts capable of supporting and maintaining the correct weight required for the child’s height and weight.
Basic concepts of the ketogenic diet
The classic ketogenic diet has a 4:1 ratio of “fat” to “combination of protein and carbohydrates.”
The general daily calorie breakdown of the ketogenic diet is as follows:
60-80% of calories from fat
20-25% from proteins
5-10% from carbohydrates
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 significantly in both its application and implementation. While the classic ketogenic diet is still widely practiced today, it has now formed the basis for the development of several alternative ketogenic protocols.
Ketogenic diets generally encourage the intake of about 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. Protein consumption is moderate and mainly depends on factors such as gender, size and activity level of the individual. Essentially, the total calorie balance of the diet is primarily based on the amount of fat consumed.
The fat and protein ratio in a ketogenic diet
Increasing healthy fat consumption is at the heart of the ketogenic diet. Also, the purpose is to maintain the state of ketosis at all times, which allows 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 is equally good at utilizing body fat and 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 when consumed in large amounts in excess of what your body requires.
About 56% of excess protein ingested is converted to sugar. This has the effect of disrupting the distant burn ketosis state as the body responds to the glucose produced by protein breakdown.
Depending on the type and source of fats ingested, a high-fat diet can be much healthier. Reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing your intake of more saturated fats from mostly medium-chain fatty acids will greatly improve your body’s fat profile.
The ketogenic diet increases HDL (good) cholesterol levels while 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 are fine. However, the closer this ratio is to 1.0 or lower, the healthier your heart is.
This type of fat profile has been linked to increased protection against heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.
Consuming increased lean protein in the absence of adequate amounts of fat in the diet can lead to “rabbit hunger”. Rabbit starvation is a condition where there is an insufficient amount of fats. This condition occurs with diets that consist mostly of lean proteins.
One of the main symptoms of rabbit starvation is diarrhea. The diarrhea can often become severe and lead to death. This often occurs within the first 3 days to a week of an all lean protein diet. If adequate amounts of fats are not consumed in the following days, the diarrhea can worsen, leading to dehydration and possible death.
Thanks to Marcus J Michael