How the Ketogenic Diet Works

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The ketogenic diet, called the keto diet, is a popular diet containing high amounts of fats, a moderate amount of protein and very low carbohydrates. It is also referred to as a Low Carb-High Fat (LCHF) diet or a low carbohydrate diet.

The diet was originally introduced in 1921 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Wilder discovered that putting epileptic patients on a fast helped to reduce the frequency of their symptoms. At that time, there were few other options available for the treatment of epilepsy. The ketogenic diet was widely used for decades in treating epilepsy with about 50% of patients reporting a 50% reduction in seizures.

In 1993, Hollywood producer Jim Abrahams used the keto diet to help his 2 year-old epileptic son, Charlie. Charlie experienced rapid seizure control within days of using the ketogenic diet. Jim Abrahams created the Charlie Foundation in 1994 helping to revive research efforts in the benefits of a ketogenic diet.

How The Ketogenic Diet Works

The keto diet is a high fat diet, encouraging your body to burn fat for energy rather than carbohydrates. To do this, you must eat considerably more fat than carbs (sugars) literally forcing your body to use what’s available for fuel, in this case, fat. Your body reaches a state of ketosis as there is no glucose for energy and must burn the fats you feed it. Once the available fats are used, your body will then burn stored body fat as fuel.

The classic ketogenic diet has a fat to protein and carb ratio of 4:1 with 60-80% of calories from fat, 20-25% from proteins and 5-10% from carbohydrates. This ratio of macronutrients in a ketogenic diet is formulated to help your body induce and maintain a state of ketosis. Ketogenic diets basically encourage the intake of about 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. Protein consumption is moderate and mostly depends on factors such as the gender, height and activity levels of the individual.

Side effects of ketosis typically happen within the first days of starting a ketogenic diet and include headache, fatigue, lightheadedness, irritability, cramps, and constipation. These are known collectively as the “keto flu,” which can be treated by managing fluids and electrolytes. Being in ketosis is safe for most people, and it provides many health benefits including weight loss, optimal blood sugar and insulin levels, and improved mental focus.

Some individuals should only follow a ketogenic diet under medical supervision, and others should avoid it altogether. Diabetics and those with high blood pressure require medical supervision and monitoring. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid this diet.

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