What Is Ketogenic Diet? Beginner’s Approach With The High-Fat Diet Trend:
Google Trends is an excellent tool to scout on everything I want to keep track of. For the ketogenic diet as well, people suddenly started to pay attention since at the end of 2015. Finally, in January 2017, the keyword reached one of the most popular topics in Google.
One interesting point to make is that the search volume has drastically increased at the start of new year. Tons of people currently are trying ketogenic diet as their new year’s resolution! Hence, in this article, I have researched through about why people are being so enthusiast with this diet method.
What Is Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet received many popularity and criticism for decades. It was at first a way to treat pediatric epilepsy since the 1920s. Patients were to eat meals that had low carbohydrate and high fats. This medical treatment resulted in suppressing the seizure very well.
During this course of treatment, doctors also found that the diet reduces body fat. As a result, this is why it became widely known to everyone nowadays.
Fundamental Principle Of How We Get Fat
When we are hungry, we eat foods such as bread that contains moderate carbs. Undergoing digestion, the carbs turn into the form of glucose, and it gets absorbed into the body. Glucose is our primary energy source which spreads out through the blood. We call this as a blood sugar. Importantly, our body tries to adjust the blood sugar to a constant level.
What happens if the level of blood sugar gets higher than usual?
A tool called insulin take cares of all excessive or unnecessary glucose. In other words, insulin converts glucose into a form of energy called glycogen. Our body stores this substance in the liver and muscle for immediate use.
Unfortunately, we are to store glycogen only about 300g to 400g in average. For your reference, an adult man can spend half a day with this amount of glycogen as energy.
Let’s say you have stored enough glycogen and there is still leftover of glucose in the blood. Your body then recognizes you don’t need to use the remaining glucose right away. Instead, it’ll store glucose as a form that can be utilized later. This form is called fat.
We are getting fat from this point.
Back To The Ketogenic Diet
I’ve talked in brief about having too much glucose in the blood; or eating too many carb-based foods. Will we get slimmer by cutting down all those bread and potatoes?
The answer is yes. As I said earlier, The Ketogenic is a way to control the amount of carb taken. So, let’s suppose you eat less carb than before. Then, the glycogen stored in the liver and muscle would synthesize back into glucose. We will use the energy that our bodies have saved for later use.
So what happens after we use all the glycogen?
This is the important part. The body would still struggle to maintain the same level of blood sugar as normal. Thus it eventually produces alternative supplies in the fat. We call this body’s stance the state of Ketosis. We define ketosis as a metabolic state which some body’s energy supply comes from ketone bodies instead of glucose. As you can infer from the name, “Ketogenic” and “Ketogenesis,” it is a way to generate ketone bodies. I will explain about ketone bodies in below at an advanced approach section, so don’t worry.
Ketosis has the following features:
- The condition of the body is kept constant.
- You don’t feel much hungry than before.
It is because the human body was made to use nutrients with different kinds of patterns. For example, carbohydrate burns off quickly. Fat and protein would burn slowly and steadily. Therefore, the physical condition will also be steady if we can keep utilizing the fat as an energy source. This diet method with no doubt brings dramatic weight changes just by food.
Wait, there’s more. Since taking less carb means lower level in blood sugar, the level of insulin would go lower, too. Thus Ketogenic also helps prevent diabetes.
Cautions for Diabetics
People with diabetes who plan to try this diet method need careful approach, however. Hypoglycemia can occur if you are taking this way with insulin injections or diabetes medications. With a proper consultation, it is important to control the amount of the medication you take.
Advanced Approach: How Ketogenic Works
Let’s recap the whole process step by step.
- Carbohydrates decompose into glucose when taken.
- Glucose is the primary energy source for human activity.
- Unnecessary glucose transforms into a form that is more suitable for temporary storage: glycogen
- State of insufficient glucose lets glycogen integrates back to glucose.
- When even glycogen dries out, our body oxidizes fatty acids into ketone bodies.
- Ketone bodies become the primary energy source for a brain, heart, and muscles.
Let’s go deeper with ketone bodies as you see at the right. These are three chemicals that are produced when fatty acids are broken down. Production of these compounds is called “ketogenesis,” and this is necessary for small amounts in a normal state. Ketone bodies are produced mainly in the mitochondrial matrix of liver cells. It is when carbohydrates are so rare that energy must be obtained from breaking down of fatty acids.
There are several characteristics of KBs:
- Water soluble.
- Source of fuel for brain, heart, and muscle.
- Major energy source(75%) for the brain during starvation or fasting.
Is it safe?
In summary, the core point of the ketogenic diet is to maintain a low level of blood glucose. Then our body would start producing new energy source: the ketone bodies.
So, you are required knowing whether the ketone bodies will damage your body. And the answer is well; there will be some possibilities. Let’s look at the KBs again.
For acetone, the levels of acetone are much lower than those of the other two types of ketone bodies. In other words, acetone comes in small quantities; highly unstable. Hence our body will not use it. The exhalation of acetone is often responsible for “fruity” odor of the breath of people on a ketogenic diet.
The problem is the below two substances. Both acetoacetate and 2-hydroxybutyrate are acidic. When larger amounts of these two accumulate, the body’s pH lowers to dangerously acidic levels. This state is called ketoacidosis.
Several early symptoms of ketoacidosis are:
- Frequent urination
- Thirst or a very dry mouth
- High level of ketone bodies in the urine
Then, other symptoms would appear:
- Nausea, and vomiting
- Dry skin
- Hard time breathing
- Fruity odor on breath
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above after your diet, I recommend you go to the hospital immediately and get an inspection. Not everyone is fit for a ketogenic diet.
To Go Beyond Is As Wrong As To Fall Short.
Most importantly, the ketogenic dieters should be very careful about the fat intake. Due to the nature of this diet that produces high calories even in small quantities, eating a little more will cause you gain unexpected pounds.
The Final Verdict
In conclusion, the most optimal way to try the ketogenic diet would be staying in a safe-zone. In other words, it is preferable to use ketone bodies only to the line which is not excessive to the body.
There are hundreds of products that can measure your level of ketone in urine, so make sure to buy it and monitor your safe-zone. Click here to check out some test strips.
Another recommended way would be repeating periodically. Many studies report that fasting has been shown to increase ketone bodies for two to three days. Thus it is best to eat a carb-controlled meal for about two to three days, or five days in maximum. Then, take moderate carbs to block the overproduction of ketone bodies.
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