The Ketogenic Diet and Chronic Disease
Many of us have been conditioned to believe that dietary fat is at the root of many health challenges, weight challenges, and diseases such as heart disease. New research has been showing how the exact opposite might be true. Many treatments for various health conditions and chronic disease have now been using a high fat, moderate protein, and carb restricted approach. This is known as the ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet is a high fat, carb restricted ratio that allows the body and brain to use ketones as a source of energy rather than glucose. Ketones are small four carbon molecules, which are a much cleaner source of fuel. The state of ketosis mimics the state of fasting.
When we are in ketosis, we free up fat in adipose tissue. The liver then produces ketones, which have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, neurologically healing, and increases levels of antioxidants. So how does this relate to the treatment of chronic disease?
Many have proposed a metabolic approach to cancer. Cancer cells have an increase in glucose consumption. These cells have abnormal mitochondria, resulting in a greater usage of glycogen. This often creates increased acidity and an unfavorable environment for normal cells.
When we ingest a ketogenic diet, ketones are metabolized in the mitochondria to produce energy. Nutritional ketosis feeds the normal cells but starves the cancer cells, which are reliant on glucose for fuel. Cancer cells cannot use ketones if they have dysfunctional mitochondria. In addition, nutritional ketosis decreases insulin levels, glucose enzyme pathways, and insulin receptors. These abnormal cancer cells have an increase in insulin receptors and are dependent on these pathways for fuel.
Ketogenic diets have also been shown to be very helpful for the treatment of Type II Diabetes and Dementia. Diabetes is a result of high carb consumption, blood sugar rollercoasters, and eventual insulin resistance. When switching over to ketones as a main source of fuel, we stabilize blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and decrease events of hypoglycemia.
Neurological conditions likes Alzheimer’s are now commonly known as Type III Diabetes. There is a huge link between diabetes, insulin resistance, and neural degeneration. A ketogenic diet replaces glucose as the brain’s source of fuel and has been shown to be very healing. Ketones have the ability to cross the blood brain barrier and increase neurological function and decrease metabolic waste production. In addition, our brain is dependent on fat and cholesterol for proper function. Higher cholesterol levels have actually been shown to have a protective effect on cognitive function. In fact, low cholesterol levels have also been shown to increase rates of overall mortality. Finally, consuming predominately higher carb foods like gluten-containing grains can be highly inflammatory, cause insulin resistance, and have the ability to cross the blood brain barrier, resulting in inflammation in the brain.
I am not saying a ketogenic diet is a cure for chronic disease. All I am proposing is to look at the dietary tendencies over the past few decades and compare that to the rates of chronic disease. There has been a low fat craze for many years now and this has led to higher consumption of sugar and carbs. Since then, rates of chronic disease have increased dramatically. Of course, there are many other factors involved such as stress, environmental toxicity, sedentary lifestyles, etc. This is simply an invitation to experiment with a different approach that may provide you with a greater sense of health, energy, and vitality.