What is the ketogenic diet?

Before starting, let’s make it clear, the word diet is not used to talk about weight loss but to talk about a “food style”.

The ketogenic diet is very different from the omnivorous diet (followed by most of us). This difference is in the proportion of macronutrients that we eat during a day.
As a matter of fact, it is recommended that the intake of a so-called “normal” diet would be: 40% to 55% in carbohydrates, 30-35% in lipids and 10-15% in proteins.

The ketogenic diet is made of 70% of lipids, 20-25% of proteins and 5-10% of carbohydrates.

Why decreasing carbohydrates?

Decreasing in an important amount of carbohydrate in your diet will let the body in a state of ketosis.
The state of ketosis is defined by the fact that the body mainly uses lipids as a source of energy.

Our body will accumulate ketones (metabolites produced from lipids). This happens when the body no longer has enough reserves of carbohydrates, including glucose to produce energy.

After a few days, the body becomes more and more efficient in using fat as a source of energy.

Which foods does someone eat during a ketogenic diet?

In order to decrease the macronutrient of our diet, many foods that cannot (or exceptionally and in small quantities) be consumed daily like bread or pasta for instance.

However, the ketogenic diet still allows you to enjoy.
This diet consists mainly of fat with a very good satiating effect for our body.

We can, therefore, find in this diet, fatty fishes, meat, eggs, but also oilseeds, avocados, vegetables, oil or cheese…

The fruits can be consumed from time to time but in small quantities since they bring a lot of sugar.

What are the advantages?

Sports performance

A ketogenic diet of at least 31 days would improve body composition: less fat and more muscle mass.
A study conducted on trained soldiers showed an increase in their VO2max, potentially due to their loss of body fat.

In addition, it would promote lipid oxidation and therefore the use of lipids during a sports effort. Therefore, this change of the major substrate during an intense effort could explain the improvement of sports performances.

This diet could improve an individual’s aerobic and non-aerobic abilities, if accompanied by appropriate training.

Epilepsy

The keto diet has been used for a hundred years for the treatment of epilepsy. It is recognized as a treatment in more than 45 countries.
Since then the ketogenic diet has been slightly modified keeping, of course, a high fat/low carbs intake in order to adapt to the lifestyle of each patient.

The mechanisms of this diet on this disease are complex and remain still unclear. There would be an effect due to the stable glucose concentration in the blood, the ketones would influence neuronal functions and neurotransmission.

Cancer

Food in the treatment of cancer is increasingly considered.

The ketogenic diet has been the subject of pre-clinical and clinical studies on different types of cancer. Some studies have shown a slowdown in the development of cancer cells as well as a decrease in tumor size.
The ketogenic diet is more or less effective depending on the type of cancer.
As a consequence, the ketogenic diet might become, in the future, part of some cancer treatment in order to optimize it.

What are its disadvantages?

The ketogenic diet is a diet that virtually eliminates an essential macronutrient, it can, therefore, cause nutritional imbalances as well as deficiencies.
It should be taken seriously and involves regular monitoring in order not to endanger one’s health.

As it does not include carbohydrates, this diet can initially produce significant fatigue and headaches before the individual’s metabolism adapts to it.

Moreover, it is a restrictive diet, so it can be difficult to maintain over a long term.
As a matter of fact, it is not advised to hold it in the long term due to the harmful effects it could have on the appearance of cardiovascular diseases (divergent scientific opinions). It could also lead to eating disorders because of the restrictions imposed by this food style.

  • Richard A. Lafoutain. (2019). Extended Ketogenic Diet and Physical Training Intervention in Military Personnel. Military Medicine.
  • Fionn T. McSwiney and al. (2017). Keto-adaptation enhances exercise performance and body composition responses to training in endurance athletes. Metabolism Journal.
  • Letícia Pereira de Brito Sampaio. (2016) Ketogenic diet for epilepsy treatment Dieta cetogênica para o tratamento da epilepsia. Arquivos de Neuro-psiquiatria.
  • Hae-Yun Chung and al. (2017). Rationale, Feasibility and Acceptability of Ketogenic Diet for Cancer Treatment. Journal of cancer prevention.

 

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