The keto diet is a diet plan that focuses on foods that provide a lot of healthy fats, moderate amounts of protein and very few carbohydrates. The goal is to get more calories from fat than from carbohydrates. This diet works by depleting the body’s sugar reserves. As a result, it will begin to break down fat for energy. This leads to the production of molecules called ketone bodies, which the body uses as fuel. When the body burns fat, it also leads to weight loss. In this article, we explain the benefits of the keto diet.
1. Supports weight loss
One of the most popular reasons people try the keto diet is the claimed weight loss benefits. Several studies have found that ketogenic diets are effective for short-term, rapid weight loss compared to low-fat diets. However, a large portion of the initial weight loss may be water weight.
Some studies suggest that the ketogenic diet may be more effective than other diet plans in reducing abdominal body fat and encouraging long-term weight loss. Abdominal fat is sometimes referred to as visceral fat because it surrounds the organs. This type of fat is associated with a high risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and fatty liver.
2. Potentially Reduces Seizures
This is one of the keto diet benefits that why this diet was developed. The ratio of fat, protein and carbohydrates in the keto diet changes the way the body uses energy, leading to ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic process during which the body uses ketone bodies as fuel.
The Epilepsy Foundation suggests that ketosis can reduce seizures in people with epilepsy – especially those who do not respond to other treatments. More research on the effectiveness of this approach is necessary, although it appears to have the greatest impact on children with focal seizures.
A 2019 review supports the hypothesis that a keto diet can support patients with epilepsy. The ketogenic diet may reduce seizure symptoms through several different mechanisms.
3. Restores Insulin Sensitivity
The ketogenic diet has been shown to help restore insulin sensitivity because it eliminates the underlying cause of insulin resistance – namely high insulin levels in the body.
This diet helps promote sustained periods of low insulin because low levels of carbohydrates mean lower insulin levels. A high-carb diet is like pouring gasoline on the fire of insulin resistance. High carbohydrates mean a greater need for insulin, which makes insulin resistance even worse.
In contrast, a ketogenic diet brings insulin levels down because fat is the main nutrient that requires the least insulin.
Lower insulin levels also help with fat burning because high insulin levels prevent the breakdown of fat. When insulin levels drop for a number of hours, the body is able to break down fat cells.
4. Controls High Blood Pressure
It is estimated that 116 million people in the United States have high blood pressure. A range of health conditions have been linked to high blood pressure, such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. It is also a feature of metabolic syndrome.
Some studies have shown that a ketogenic diet can lower blood pressure levels in people who are overweight or have type 2 diabetes.
5. May Improve Cholesterol Levels
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is considered the “bad” cholesterol and is more likely to cause heart disease and plaque. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as the “good” cholesterol because it helps reduce the risk of heart disease.
Studies have shown that following a keto diet may help lower total cholesterol while increasing HDL levels. Thus, a keto diet may reduce the risk of heart disease by improving cholesterol levels.
However, the link is not so clear-cut. Some studies have shown that LDL levels may increase while following a keto diet.
6. Stronger Mental Performance
Mental clarity, an increased ability to focus, and a better memory are other commonly reported benefits of eating a ketogenic diet.
Increased intake of omega-3 healthy fats, such as those found in oily fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel, can improve mood and learning ability. This is because omega-3s increase a fatty acid called DHA, which makes up 15 to 30 percent of our brains.
The production of beta-hydroxybutyric acid, a form of ketone, helps support long-term memory function.
7. May Improve Heart Health
When a person follows a ketogenic diet, it is important to make healthy food choices. Some evidence suggests that eating healthy fats, such as avocados, rather than less healthy fats, such as pork rinds, can help improve heart health by lowering cholesterol.
A 2017 review of studies in animals and humans who adopted a keto diet showed that some people had significantly lower levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and triglycerides, and increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol. High levels of cholesterol can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Thus, the cholesterol-reducing effects of a keto diet may reduce a person’s risk of heart complications.
However, the review concluded that the positive impact of the diet on heart health depends on the quality of the diet. Therefore, it is important to eat healthy, nutritionally balanced foods while following a keto diet.