The ketogenic diet has been the rage the past couple years and with good cause. It helps to lose weight which is promising given our country’s obesity epidemic. But, there are some down sides to the ketogenic diet that can be avoided while still getting the health benefits of the ketogenic diet. And, that is what this article is about.
What is the Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is a very low carbohydrate, high fat diet. The low carbohydrate diet provokes a metabolic state called ketosis. During ketosis the body produces ketones that it burns for fuel rather than glucose which are derived from carbohydrates.
Reducing the carbohydrate intake to very low levels mimics the metabolic effects that come from fasting. Fasting has many favorable metabolic effects. A ketogenic diet has been shown to improve energy production and utilization, lower blood glucose or sugar levels, and lead to weight loss.
But, there is another way to get those benefits without the dietary changes necessary to produce them which we will soon get into.
The downside the ketogenic diet is it is a difficult to maintain for any length of time. Many of us do not tolerate such a low carbohydrate intake for prolonged periods. Secondly, to offset’s the reduction in carbohydrates there is a tendency to over consume unhealthy fats.
Another problem with the ketogenic diet is since it reduces carbs to low levels it also lowers intake of fiber. Fiber is important for overall gastrointestinal health. Symptoms related to the ketogenic diet include constipation, headache, muscle cramps, diarrhea, and bad breath.
Now, not all fats are unhealthy – but some are. This increased intake in unhealthy fats that can occur with a ketogenic diet can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and lead to an increased risk of premature death.
What are Ketones?
As we mentioned above ketones are produced when one goes on a ketogenic diet. Ketones come from fat which is why the ketogenic diet leads to weight loss – specifically fat loss.
Ketones have some advantages over glucose. Ketones are more energy efficient and are terrific energy sources for high energy requiring organs like the brain and muscles. In animal tests, ketones have been associated with increased longevity.
The two main ketones are beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and acetoacetate. They are broken down in the cells to produce energy.
The Benefits of Ketones
Ketones have four big advantages over other fuel sources. One, they do not raise blood glucose levels and therefore do not stimulate insulin production. Insulin is a fattening hormone.
Secondly Ketones are readily used by the brain for fuel. They also have neuro-protective effects protecting the brain from age-related decline in cognition. Sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease have lower levels of ketones in their blood
Thirdly, ketones require less NAD+ during their formation. NAD+ stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. NAD+ helps to repair damage DNA and slows other aging process. Ketones spare NAD+ freeing up more of it for these purposes. NAD+ also improve the function of sirloins which life extending properties.
Fourthly, ketones are signaling molecules that activate longevity pathways.
Ketone Benefits without the Dieting
Now, for the purpose of this article. Ketone production has health benefits but the diet required to produced ketones has some unhealthy characteristics. So is there way to get ketones without the resorting to the ketogenic diet? And, the answer is “yes.”
You can increase your blood levels of ketones simply by ingesting them in a supplement form.
Beta-hydroxybutyrate can be ingested and is absorbed easily by the gastrointestinal tract and then blood stream. Ketone levels approaching those obtain from the ketogenic diet are possible to obtain. Acetoacetate is not used in supplements as it is not stable in supplement form.
Ketone supplement are available in two forms: ketone salts and ketone esters (liquid).
Many supplements contain between 8 to 12 grams of ketones per serving. One study did show that 12 grams of ketone salts increased blood ketone levels 300%.
Use of ketone supplement is used by some on the ketogenic to help reduce the time it takes the body to go into ketosis. Exogeneous ketones (supplements) can blunt appetite, too, leading to lower calorie consumption.
If you’re thinking of going on the ketogenic diet to lose weight you may want to try a ketone supplement first and see if you achieve your desirable weight. If not, then you can go on the diet. But, trying a ketone supplement first will be much easier.