“Nutritional ketosis is an amazing tool for reversing disease processes including inflammation, diabetes type 2, autoimmunity, and even cancer growth. It is a serious medical tool which can be used to improve health while allowing the patient to be their own manager.”
Dr. Toni Bark, M.D.
If you haven’t heard of the ketogenic lifestyle, you probably will very soon. This diet is the most beneficial not just for weight loss, but for health and disease prevention and reversal as well. So, what is the ketogenic – or “keto” – diet? It’s fairly simple. Most people fuel their bodies with carbohydrates, sugar and (usually) too much animal protein. With keto, that fuel comes from fatty acids and ketones. 75-85% of caloric content comes from good fats. Basically, once you achieve ketosis by depleting your body of available glycogen and using macros that consist of low or no carb, average protein and high fats. This trains your body to burn fat instead of carbs. All of our cells, excluding red blood cells, have a furnace called mitochondria which can use glucose or fats to produce energy for the cell. Glucose molecules contain twice the amount of oxygen as ketones or fatty acids, they also create half the amount of energy. Therefore, using fats for energy allows more energy production with greatly reduced oxidative byproducts. For endurance athletes, ketosis allows you to have great amounts of available stored energy in the form of free fatty acids for muscle and ketones for the brain. There is no “hitting the wall” after reaching the 2000 calories of stored glycogen. No matter how many carbs one eats prior to a race, only 2000 calories of glycogen can be stored. But, in ketosis, the average slim athlete has 40,000 calories of stored fats for burning.
The benefits of a ketogenic lifestyle are seemingly endless. Of course, it is the most effective diet for weight loss. When your body is starved of carbs and refined sugar, it will start burning fat and ketones which lead to healthy, effective and lasting weight loss. It is also the most anti-inflammatory diet available. When in ketosis, you can completely eliminate inflammation which, in turn, will eliminate a myriad of related health issues from chronic pain and other chronic syndromes or diseases to digestive problems. It is also effective in reversing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and even cancer. Cancer cells, which require 19 times the amount of glucose for the same energy (ATP) production as normal cells, cannot utilize fatty acids or ketones as energy and therefore begin to die off. A typical parameter for an average 150 pound lean person would be 35-50 grams of carbohydrates total daily. Cancer patients would be limited at 35 grams while other patients might be able to go up to 50 grams. 68 grams total of protein for the day since the carb and protein caloric content would only be approximately 500 calories so the rest of the day’s energy requirements would come from fats. And, depending upon the need for weight loss, the added fat grams could vary from 800 calories of fat to 1800 calories of fat.
Dr. Bark takes a plant-based approach to the ketogenic lifestyle to reverse disease processes such as cancer, autoimmune syndromes, metabolic syndrome, dementia, and chronic inflammation whether in the brain or body by utilizing proteins from plant sources such as cruciferous vegetables, seeds and nuts. Patients wanting to add animal proteins need to do so with organic sources or, in the case of fish, wild cold water or sustainable and healthful farmed. Many nuts, seeds and dark, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables contain more protein per calorie than meat which means you get more nutrients while eating less. Plant-based diets also include much more fiber which improves digestion. The key to a successful ketogenic lifestyle is to include plenty of healthy fats. This includes saturated fat, but avoid vegetable oils such as canola, soy and cottonseed. Examples of good saturated fats include oils and fats from coconut, cocoa, macadamia and some palm oils. Dr. Bark recommends having a small amount of ketone or medium-chain triglyceride source in the morning such as tea with MCT oil, coffee with coconut oil (“keto coffee”) or a ketone source drink. This isn’t a must, but fats in the morning do help with preventing hunger and it stokes the brain with fuel.
Dr. Bark holds keto food-prep classes and is a big proponent of raw, cultured and dehydrated foods.
Disclaimer information regarding a ketogenic diet
While a ketogenic diet is extremely safe, it does result in less bloating, water and salt accumulation and often lowering of blood pressure and blood sugar levels. This means it is imperative for patients with health issues or who are on medications to lower blood pressure or blood sugar levels, to be under the care of a physician with experience in ketosis and these health issues. In addition, if you have cancer or are doing this diet to reverse serious disease processes, again, I recommend being under the care of a physician who knows how to monitor the glucose to ketone ratio, and disease markers to ensure you are achieving the results desired.