Ketogenic Diet Benefits
The list of ketogenic diet benefits is a long, happy one. Here's what to expect the first month after switching to a ketogenic diet plan.
As a side note, I would encourage you to get a full blood lipid panel done before starting the plan, so that you can compare the results of your blood work before and afterwards.
- Reduction in blood triglycerides: carbohydrate consumption is closely tied to triglyceride levels, and one of most well known ketogenic diet benefits. The less carbohydrate you eat, the lower your triglycerides readings will go. The ratio of triglycerides to HDL (expressed Triglyceride/HDL) is the best predictor of heart attack risk and is one of blood test results to which you should really pay attention. The closer this ratio is to 1:1, the healthier you are. See this paper.
- Reduction of total cholesterol: Cholesterol is made from excess glucose in the diet. As you eat less sugar creating foods, you do less damage to your arterial system and inflammation drops. Your cholesterol will drop as your body has less glucose from which to make it, and less need for repairing the damages of inflammatory chemicals.
- Increase in HDL Cholesterol (the more saturated fat you eat, the higher it will go.) This is actually a good thing, because it improves the ratio of HDL/LDL. Higher HDL levels (above 39 mg/dL) indicate a healthier heart.
- Reduction in fasting blood sugar and fasting insulin levels: As you eat less carb, there is less sugar driving up blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Freedom from hypoglycemia, food fixations and sugar cravings. This is by far the best benefit in my opinion. Having control over your eating habits is so empowering.
- Lack of hunger: Ketone bodies dampen the appetite, and fat is very satisfying. You'll notice at times, you may forget to eat. You may find this is the most amazing part, especially if you struggle with food addiction issues.
- Lower blood pressure: Low carb diets are very effective at reducing blood pressure. If you are taking any blood pressure medications, be aware that you might start feeling dizzy from too much medication while on a ketogenic diet plan. You may be able to reduce your BP meds (talk to your doctor first).
- Reduction in blood levels of C Reactive Protein (CRP) and HbA1c proteins: These are both markers of inflammation and heart disease risk.
- More energy. You'll be amazed at how much energy you have. Any chronic fatigue symptoms should get better. If you are taking a statin (a cholesterol lowering drug) see my statin side effects page. Statins compromise cellular mitochondria which results in fatigue and muscle pain.
- Clearer thinking. The "fogginess" that accompanies a high carb diet will disappear. My theory on this is that the brain is over 60% fat by weight, and the more fat you eat, the better it can maintain itself and work to its full capacity. Others more scientifically inclined might talk about essential fatty acids and neurotransmitter function.
- Heartburn relief: if you suffer from GERD or other heartburn issues, the symptoms should lessen or disappear. Heartburn, I believe, is a direct result of eating grain based foods, sugar and for some people, nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes. I also believe it is tied to problems with sleep apnea, as described above in the sleep section.
- Changes in your sleep patterns and an improvement in sleep apnea symptoms. I believe that sleep apnea is tied to grain consumption, the heartburn it causes, and reactive hypoglycemia from a high carb diet. I used to have apnea, but once I cut grains out of my diet and permanently reduced my carb intake, I no longer have it, just as I no longer get heartburn or hypoglycemia. Another sleep benefit of eating less carbs is that those urges to take a late afternoon nap will go away. Not falling asleep at your desk every afternoon is one of the best ketogenic diet benefits.
- Weight loss: sticking to a ketogenic diet plan can be very effective for normalizing your weight. However, if you have very high fasting insulin (and high insulin resistance) you may need to add a high intensity exercise program like Doug McGuff's Body by Science: A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week. High intensity training has the effect of increasing the insulin sensitivity of your muscles, thereby decreasing your fasting insulin and help you lose weight. While one of the most common ketogenic diet benefits is weight loss, it may not be as easy as it has been advertised for some. Most people who are very heavy have very broken metabolisms. However, they are also the people who are most likely to experience many of ketogenic diet benefits. I am one of those people. My story on how I got healthy, fixed my metabolism and lost weight will give you an idea of what might be involved.
- Decrease in stiffness and joint pain. This is one of the best side effects of following a ketogenic diet plan. The diet eliminates grain based foods from your diet, and they, in my opinion are the biggest cause of chronic illness and pain, especially muscle stiffness and joint pain. As I often say, no grain, no pain.
- Gum disease and tooth decay: sugar changes the pH of your mouth and contributes to tooth decay. Three months into a ketogenic diet, any gum disease you might have will decrease or disappear.
- Digestion and gut health get better. You will see a decrease in stomach pain, bloating, gas etc.. These are all associated with grain and sugar consumption.
- Mood stabilization. Ketone bodies have been shown to be beneficial in stabilizing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine which result in better mood control.
As you can see from the list above, the temporary unpleasant effects of switching to a ketogenic diet are totally worth it when you experience the many ketogenic diet benefits.
If you have any lingering concerns, please remember that the latest scientific studies (here's a list) have shown that following a ketogenic diet plan is not detrimental to human health, if it is eaten while also minimizing carbohydrate intake. This is the key to experiencing the long list of ketogenic diet benefits: eat a diet low in carbs, high in natural fats, and moderate in protein intake.
It's only when you combine lots of fat and lots of carbohydrates in your diet that you get into trouble. The sugar from the carbohydrates drives up your insulin levels, and those high insulin levels cause any fat you eat to be stored immediately. This causes the weight gain associated with insulin resistance and starts the health problems that should be associated with a high carb diet.
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