It is becoming increasingly clear that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many serious illnesses – including heart disease, many cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease. We all know inflammation on the surface of the body as local redness, heat, swelling and pain. It is the cornerstone of the body’s healing response, bringing more nourishment and more immune activity to a site of injury or infection. But when inflammation persists or serves no purpose, it damages the body and causes illness. Stress, lack of exercise, genetic predisposition, and exposure to toxins (like secondhand tobacco smoke) can all contribute to such chronic inflammation, but dietary choices play a big role as well. Learning how specific foods influence the inflammatory process is the best strategy for containing it and reducing long-term disease risks. (Find more details on the mechanics of the inflammation process and the Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid.)
Andrew Weil MD
Recently a new study was published which looked at the potential mechanisms underlying the specific anti-inflammatory properties of ketosis
For those unfamiliar, a ketogenic diet is one which contains very little – if any – carbohydrate One classic example of this dietary approach is seen in the Inuit people. The Inuit are indigenous people, who live in the Arctic region.
Alaska, Canada and Greenland all have Inuit populations.
In one of the more famous nutrition stories of recent times, Dr. Vilhjalmur Stefansson ate nothing but meat for one year, after being inspired by living with the Inuit, and seeing their remarkably low rate of disease
This was despite the Inuit’s (then) controversial diet of nothing but meat, whether it came from fish or other sources. Stefansson saw no ill effects from a year of an all meat diet, with basically zero carbohydrate. He also consumed no vegetables. It is worth noting, that he also became very ill when he consumed only low fat meat, and nothing else. When he added the fattier meat back in, he immediately felt better.
The many reported benefits of the ketogenic diet include, but are not limited to: less hunger while dieting, improved cognitive function in those who are cognitively impaired, improved LDL cholesterol levels, improved weight loss, and improved levels ofHDL cholesterol
This is in addition to the aforementioned anti-inflammatory effects. When we look to the scientific literature, we see that the anti-inflammatory nature of the diet has been studied for many years.
The ketogenic diet has also been established as an adequate anticonvulsant therapy.
This newly published research looks specifically at the ketone metabolite beta-hydroxybutyrate, which seems to inhibit the NLRP3 inflammasome
Since the NLRP3 inflammasome was previously found to have been linked to obesity and inflammation, as well as insulin resistance, inhibiting it would make mechanistic sense.27 The resultant weight loss and anti-inflammatory effects, commonly seem (at least anecdotally) when adopting a ketogenic diet, would then make sense as well. The NLRP3 inflammasome also drives the inflammatory response in several disorders including autoimmune diseases, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, and autoinflammatory disorders
Could it all be so simple? Possibly, though there is certainly likely more to be more scientific discoveries, relating to the beneficial effects of this specific dietary approach. Moving away from glucose and instead utilizing ketone bodies as a source of metabolic fuel, results in many profound changes, of which we are only beginning to scratch the surface of, scientifically.
This new discovery will likely be the first of many new findings regarding the ketogenic diet, and its abundance of benefits. If you are looking to adopt a ketogenic approach, simply follow the Paleo Diet, and then lower your carbohydrate intake to below 100g per day.
How low you need to go for optimum quality of life is highly variant, and many people report different results with different amounts of carbohydrates.
In recent years, three excellent clinical studies have been published that utilized what the authors called a Spanish ketogenic Mediterranean diet.
The diet consisted of olive oil, moderate red wine, green vegetables and salads, fish as the primary protein, as well as lean meat, fowl, eggs, shellfish and cheese. (Nuts are also acceptable, although they were not included in these studies.) Notice that absolutely no sugar, flour, whole grains, or legumes were consumed. Fruit was also not included.
What is a Ketogenic diet?
The Ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat diet with majority of calories provided by fat , minimal carbs and moderate protein. Contrary to the general belief the fat used in Ketogenic diet, essentially from medium chain fatty acids, are not associated with worsening heart and vascular disease. Medium chain fatty acids have a denser energy potential and is easily converted to ATP for cell consumption.
The ketogenic diet is used to manage a variety of conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome, obesity, hypertension, epilepsy, gastroesophageal reflux disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Ketogenic diet has been used since 1920s very effectively to control refractory seizures of childhood epilepsy. It fell out of favor after the introduction of Dilantin the anti seizure medication.
What are ketones?
Ketons are produced in the body when the fats are burned. Ketons are primarily used when glucose is not readily available to be used for fuel. By adopting a Ketogenic diet your body adopts to use fat instead of carbohydrates to obtain fuel for cellular daily function.
Ketone bodies can be used for energy source for most of the normal cells. There is growing evidence that ketones have beneficial effects on aging, inflammation, metabolism, cognition and athletic performance.
Our ancestors used Ketogenic type diet during the non-animal based food shortage and it is known that new born that are strictly breast fed go into Ketogenic state and 25% of their energy needs are supplied by ketones. So nature has already adopted itself to adopt to this type of dietary habits.
The main ketones produced that are measurable in the blood or urine are beta hydroxybutyrate (blood) , acetoacetate (urine) acetone (breath).
What are the benefits of a low carb, high fat diet namely nutritional ketosis state?
1. Ketones are the preferred fuel source for liver, brain , heart and muscle.
2. Ketosis is an excellent way of loosing body fat
3. By being keto-adapted you generate fuel from dietary fat and body fat but when we consume excess carbohydrate, it is turned into fat and not easily digested to fuel.
4. Natural hunger and appetite control
5. Effortless weight loss and maintenance
6. Mental clarity
7. Better sleep
8. Normalized metabolic function
9. Stabilized blood sugar and increased cellular insulin sensitivity
10. Lower inflammation in the body
11. Blood pressure control
12. Better cholesterol control with increase in good cholesterol (HDL) and decrease in bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides
13. Better fertility
14. Improved immune system
15. Reduction of free radicals and slowing the aging process
16. Improve in cognitive function and memory
17. Decreased anxiety and mood swings
18. Decreased heartburn
19. Felling general well being and happiness
The application of this diet for 12 weeks led to weight loss and the resolution of metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, demonstrating that a ketogenic diet is highly anti-inflammatory.
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