The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used primarily to treat difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Normally, the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is particularly important in fueling brain function. However, if there is little carbohydrate in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood, a state known as ketosis, leads to a reduction in the frequency of epileptic seizures. Almost half of children and young people with epilepsy who have tried some form of this diet saw the number of seizures drop by at least half, and the effect persists even after discontinuing the diet. There is some evidence that adults with epilepsy may benefit from the diet, and that a less strict regimen, such as a modified Atkins diet, is similarly effective. The most common adverse effect is constipation, affecting about 30% of patients—this was due to fluid restriction, which was once a feature of the diet, but this led to increased risk of kidney stones and is no longer considered beneficial.
Ketosis and the subsequent metabolic state associated with it has been shown to have positive effects on chronic conditions, from PCOS to type 2 diabetes. Just a few weeks of eating keto recipes and keeping your blood sugar stable results in improved energy, elevated mood, and possibly best of all, quick weight loss. It’s not uncommon for people to drop 10 pounds or more in the first couple of weeks while sticking with a keto diet!
In regimented keto diets, only 10% of total calories per day (about a measly 20 grams!) come from carbs, 20% from protein, and a whopping 70% from fats. Since our bodies preferentially use carbs for energy, cutting them means we have to use something else to keep organs functioning. Our bodies then turn to the glucose stored in our muscles as glycogen for fuel.
Note: Are you a vegetarian or vegan and want to go on a ketogenic diet? It’s still possible! Just keep in mind that the dietary restrictions can sometimes be a little bit intense. Make sure to plan ahead and prepare to aid your success. To help out, we’ve published articles (with 7 day meal plans included) for both the vegetarian ketogenic diet and the vegan ketogenic diet.