Be forewarned – the ketogenic diet goes against every ‘health rule’ we’ve been taught in the last 40 years! Here is just a very brief and incomplete summary of the differences between a ketogenic diet and a carbohydrate-based diet:
- We’ve been taught “Avoid fats, especially saturated fats.” On the ketogenic diet, the body uses fat for fuel, especially saturated fats, so you eat LOTS of fat! When the body has consumed the fat fuel you gave it, it switches over to your stored fat – so you lose weight.
◊ The fat we eat is converted into ketones, which the body uses as fuel and which actually help clean the blood! Surprisingly, in every medical study done, the ketogenic diet consistently shows dieters having much-improved cholesterol levels, cleaner blood vessels, and less damage to blood vessels than dieters on carb-based diets.
- On the ketogenic diet, diabetes becomes a non-issue – so much so that doctors immediately halve their patients’ diabetes meds as soon as they start the diet, and often the patients are med-free within weeks. On the ketogenic diet, you eat so few carbohydrates (which the body converts to glucose) that blood sugar levels remain very low to non-existent. Adult-Onset Diabetes is not even an option.
◊ I was surprised to learn that the bloodstream is designed to carry only about 1 teaspoon of glucose at any time. When we eat a lot of carbs, it creates a LOT of blood sugar, which the body must struggle to clean out and eliminate. It does this by storing the excess glucose in fat cells – the body’s version of a toxic-waste dump. In the process of handling the glucose overload, the walls of blood vessels can become damaged and prone to blockages. Not to mention that the heavy sugar load causes damage to the adrenals, the pancreas, the liver, the kidneys, and promotes diabetes and other diet-related illnesses. (Research is even beginning to point to the high-carb diet as the culprit in Alzheimer’s and other brain illnesses, as well as cancer.)
- The FDA recommends that 50 percent to 60 percent of our total food intake should come from carbohydrates. However, this is true ONLY if you are on a carbohydrate-based diet! (Carbs burn quickly, so you get hungry quickly and have to keep eating more carbs.)
◊ The human body does not actually require that you EAT a single carbohydrate! The body needs only a very few carbohydrates each day, and it is designed to manufacture the types of carbs it needs from the fats and proteins you eat! On the ketogenic diet, you eat almost no carbs (avg. 20-30 a day during weight loss and a little more during maintenance) and let your body do what it was designed to do. The ketones that are created are a much more efficient fuel – most people on the ketogenic diet can do just fine, without hunger pangs, on two meals or even just ONE meal a day!
We’ve been taught that we have to have those carbohydrates so that we won’t experience low blood sugar and all its uncomfortable side effects. However, in the ketogenic diet, “blood glucose remains physiologically normal due to glucose derived from certain amino acids and the breakdown of fatty acids – voila, low blood sugar avoided!” 
- We’ve been taught “Limit your salt intake.” However, when the body has adapted to fat-burning, it processes and excretes salt entirely differently than on a carb-burning regime – so you need to eat a lot more salt. Food is tasty again!
The Science Behind the Diet is Strong and Growing Stronger
We had the opportunity to hear an early proponent of the diet, Dr. Eric Westman, MS, MHS, of Duke University, speak about the diet. We were impressed with the science behind it. He was the first scientist (though not the last) to do formal controlled studies of the High fat – Moderate Protein – Low Carb diet. I’ve listed links (below) to a few of his videos, so you can listen for yourself.
A word about Dr Westman, MD, MHS: On his web page, he describes himself as follows:
“I am an associate professor of medicine, the director of the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic, and medical director of the Duke Center for Smoking Cessation. I am board certified in internal medicine and obesity medicine, and I have a masters degree in clinical research. My clinical research and clinical care relate to lifestyle treatments for obesity, diabetes, and tobacco dependence, and I have over 90 peer-reviewed publications. I am currently the president of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians, and a fellow of the Obesity Society and the Society of General Internal Medicine. I am co-editor of the medical textbook, Obesity: Evaluation and Treatment Essentials, and co-author of The New Atkins for a New You, and Cholesterol Clarity.”
He recently co-authored a new book, Keto Clarity. If you are interested in learning more about the diet, here are some great videos to watch:
Here’s a really interesting article: The Fat-Fueled Brain: Unnatural or Advantageous?
Another very helpful video, unprofessionally produced but thorough in its research and understandable to the layman, is Butter Makes Your Pants Fall Off, by Bob Briggs. (Skip the lard he recommends – lard is pig fat!) This video really helped me understand what’s going on in the body when we eat carbs.
Some other researchers whose work is available online are:
Prof. Tim Noaks – at this for years
Dr. David Perlmutter – at this for years
Dr. Stephen Phinney – at this for 20 yrs!
Dr Jeff Volek
Dr. Ron Rosedale – at this for 20 yrs!!
Dr. Jay Wortman – at this for 15 yrs!
Dr. Dominic D’Angostino
If you are seriously considering “going ketogenic”, I urge 3 things:
1. Don’t think of this as a temporary “fix-it” diet – Think of it as your new eating lifestyle! If you need or want to splurge on carbs once in a while (family gatherings, holidays, etc), that’s fine. You may gain a pound or two, but no damage done. Tomorrow is a new day and you can go back to eating healthy low-carb style. No butt-kicking allowed! 🙂
2. Learn everything you can about the science behind the diet. This will help you understand the changes your body is experiencing; it will help you understand how to adapt the diet to your body’s needs; it will give you the ability to defend your food choices to people who are still going by old FDA recommendations and out-of-date (but still popular and even medically accepted) nutritional understanding.
3. Stay in contact with other folks who are ketogenic eaters. This style of eating is in direct opposition to the way that most of us have eaten all our lives, so you will need to do a lot of study to get a new slant on “healthy eating.” You will need ideas for recipes. You will need encouragement! You’ll have LOTS of questions. There are some great groups out there that are excellent at helping with each of these issues. Here are a couple of them:
My favorite is a Facebook page called “Low Carb and Losing It…” – This group of over 27,000 low-carb eaters is SO knowledgeable and supportive! They have lots of information available, lots of tips, lots of recipes, and lots of loving encouragement. They even have group diet ‘competitions’, for those of us who need that kind of goal-centric support.
Another great Facebook group is Kultured Karaite, which is run by a severely diabetic (i.e., carb-sensitive) lady. She’s great about posting the latest research on the ketogenic and low-carb eating lifestyles.
The most popular Keto blog is Jimmy Moore’s “Livin’ La Vida Low Carb.“
© Sue Wyatt and The Lamb’s Servant Blog, 2014. Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Lamb’s Servant Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Wyatt and The Lamb’s Servant Blog, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.