Although keto is the rave these days as a weight loss diet, it wasn’t originally intended for that. The ketogenic diet was developed to control epilepsy in the 1920’s. Doctors realized that keeping patients on a low carb diet forced their bodies to use fat as a fuel source instead of glucose. They didn’t quite understand why this worked on the brain, but knew a few things
- Ketogenic means that ketones are produced in the body. (keto = ketone; genic = producing) Ketones are formed when the body uses fat for its source of energy.
- Usually, the body uses carbohydrates for its fuel. Because the ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrates, fats become the primary fuel instead. The body can work very well on ketones (and fats).
- Ketones can be detected in the urine, blood, and breath.
Just recently new studies by a research team at Emory University School of Medicine showed that the diet alters genes involved in energy metabolism in the brain, which in turn helps stabilize the function of neurons exposed to the challenges of epileptic seizures.
They found that the ketogenic diet treatment significantly increased the number of mitochondria per unit area in the hippocampus. This finding, along with the concerted increase in the expression of genes encoding energy metabolic enzymes, led them to conclude that the treatment enhances energy production in the hippocampus and may lead to improved neuronal stability. Because the diet enhances the brain’s ability to withstand metabolic challenges, they also believe the ketogenic diet should be studied as a possible treatment for other neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases.
The medical original ketogenic diet is very specific and monitored by a medical team, neurologist and a ketogenic dietitian. This is much different than the keto diet for weight loss. Both can cause constipation or other not so fun side effects, mineral deficiencies, energy loss or rash. But with a medical team many of these can be addressed as patients are not doing it “alone”
More ketones are beneficial for the brain but not necessarily for weight loss.
There are 2 different things happening with the keto diet. Glucose is usually the brain’s main fuel, but your brain as explained above, can utilize ketones effectively. Ketones can provide 75% of the brains energy when carbs fall under 50grams per day. However, there are portions that require glucose but can be supplied by the small amount of carbs consumed. The other process happening in the body is that fat is now being used as the main fuel source for rest of the body.
Your muscles can use fat as a fuel but your brain cannot. Ketones are the outcome of a process your body does, in when glucose and insulin levels are low, your liver produces ketones from fatty acids. So don’t get fooled by products selling ketones and think this will magically help you lose weight as the body has to go through the process for fat to be utilized to be “burned”, the ketones themselves do not do this.
Remember ketones are the by-product and good for the brain but nothing to do with weight loss. Our body uses different energy systems all the time to fuel itself. In fact, when sleeping or sitting around you are usually using fat as your main fuel source and producing ketones at the same time. So why aren’t we all skinny? It’s because it’s a very slow energy system and we are not burning a lot of calories overall with these activities, and the ketones are used to fuel the brain.
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