Adopting a low−carb/high−fat diet by simply manipulating your macronutrients will have significant implications for your health. We can now accept that the health message of the last 60-odd years (low fat, high carb) simply has not worked in our favour, so it’s time to rethink this picture. Since the 1950s we have witnessed improvements in farming, leaps in technology, medical advances and improved diagnostic skills, yet our health continues to decline, with epidemics of diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease being seen across the globe. The elephant in the room has been carbohydrates.
Let’s look that elephant straight in the eye.
When adopting a low-carb protocol for optimal health it should be accompanied with a high-fat approach. Pairing low carb with high protein comes with its own set of complications. The ketogenic diet has attracted widespread attention recently, primarily due to its many health benefits. The positive ramifications for adopting a ketogenic diet, even periodically, are vast:
ENCOURAGE FAT LOSS
In my mind, this is a by-product of the pursuit of health – not the driver. Being in ketosis will naturally increase satiety and help to normalise blood sugar levels, assisting with cravings. To produce ketones, your body will need to ‘liberate’ body fat for metabolism. It is this process in combination with appetite suppression and reduced insulin that will stimulate fat loss.
IMPROVE COGNITIVE FUNCTION AND MOOD
Ketosis will up-regulate mitochondrial biogenesis, literally creating more power stations in your brain. Ketones have been shown to be the preferred fuel source for the brain and heart, and are able to cross the blood–brain barrier with ease, making them readily available as a fuel source. Brain fog has been blamed on elevated ammonia levels and depressed GABA (the ‘chilled-out’ neurotransmitter) and ketones have been shown to increase GABA signalling and the removal of ammonia, helping improve clarity.
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IMPROVE INSULIN SENSITIVITY
Having elevated insulin levels can work against us. Elevated insulin inhibits lipolysis, or the burning of fat. During periods of elevated insulin, fat-burning is blunted until such time that insulin returns to normal levels. However, if insulin is chronically high due to insulin insensitivity then fat utilisation is compromised and fat loss harder to achieve.
This is the golden ticket for me. My 60-day Keto Protocol is designed to reduce systemic inflammation – adopting a ketogenic diet will inhibit inflammasomes, which are a part of the innate immune response and promote inflammation.
PROMOTE NEURON REGENERATION
We need to shake off the idea that we are born with a finite number of brain cells and beyond maturation they slowly die off, accelerated by poor diet and lifestyle. Humans actually have the ability to grow new brain cells through a process called neurogenesis, which occurs when your brain produces more BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) – ‘fertiliser’ for the brain. There are a few mechanisms to stimulate BDNF and being in ketosis is one.
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PROTECT NEURON HEALTH
Ketones produced as a direct result of carb restriction elicit a protective response for the brain, which is highly significant in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases. As we age we do tend to see a decline in the integrity of our brain cells. Studies have shown that ketones improve cognitive function in sufferers of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and MS. In fact, beta-hydroxybutyrate (one of the naturally produced ketones) has been shown to reduce neuronal loss in animal models.
For more information and recipes, pick up a copy of The Keto Diet by Scott Gooding ($29.99), published by Hachette Australia.