A ketogenic diet is based on the idea that carbohydrates, once ingested, turn into glucose in the bloodstream. Simply said, glucose is sugar. It is not much different than eating a spoonful of refined sugar and nothing more. This is a problem for weight loss because glucose/sugar is the easiest molecule for the body to convert to energy. Since there is little need for any other energy that provided by the carbohydrate as glucose the body compensates by storing fat cells. |
Ketogenic diets go by many names. First, and perhaps, the most recognized is the Atkins Diet. Fat burning diets are also found under this category of diet. The idea is to avoid nearly all carbohydrates, allowing a concentration on proteins and fats. In addition, vegetables and fruits are also allowed in that order. Some ketogenic diets allow dairy and others, like the paleo diet, do not. In the end, however, they all seem to work in the same way.
How Ketogenic diets work
Human beings evolved when food was not necessarily a given. Hunter/Gatherer cultures evolved to store fat cells for times when food was in short supply. Fat would be processed in the liver into energy. This was accomplished by the release of ketones to facilitate the conversion. Fat 'burned' off allowing the people to survive those periods with little to eat.
These days, in the industrialized world where food is relatively plentiful, evolution still plays a role. We evolved to face long terms of limited food. Rather than starve, we found a way to survive by burning fat for the period when food was extraordinarily short. Yet, today, with carbohydrates in nearly every kind of food presented to us in the supermarket, the body is tricked into thinking there is no famine. The body does exactly what it evolved to do, select the easiest energy conversion which, in turn, grows fat cells.
The ketogenic diet is a way to cause the body to secrete ketones by starving the body of carbohydrates. Counting calories is not so important with this diet, not that calories don't count, they do. Rather, a high protein, high-fat content diet is naturally lower in calories so the counting becomes less important. What happens in this diet plan is that once sugar becomes relatively rare in the bloodstream, the liver kicks in and converts fat to energy. This means that you lose weight in the process.
Ketogenic Diets and Health
Over the past half-century, since the Atkins Diet Revolution, a diet that Atkins described as healthy, especially for cardiovascular health, many studies indicate that following such a diet is healthy in reducing risk factors for many diseases. I will write about these at a later date. For now, suffice it to say that if you want to reduce your risk for heart disease and a number of cancers, then a low carb diet may be the way to go.
Sara Dawson is the managing partner at The Science of Permanent Weight Loss. Her personal journey going from ‘chubby’ and unhealthy to thin and healthy is one that anyone who suffers from being overweight or in poor health, or both should know. Sara encourages you to visit her Weight Loss Blog where she shares her story along with tips and ideas for healthy weight loss.
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