Ketogenic (Keto) Diet
The Keto diet has gained more recognition recently and uses Ketones more often as energy for the body. This diet aims to reduce the consumption of Carbohydrates and replace it with fat. This puts the body into a state called ketosis when the body becomes very efficient at burning fat and using it as fuel once it’s converted into ketones, instead of using Glucose. People following a Keto diet avoid Carbohydrates, sugary foods, grains and starches, low-fat products, beans and legumes, and alcohol, among other foods. Instead, people opt for meats, fatty fish, many dairy products, fatty meat, nuts, or seeds. Protein and carb consumption is moderated to avoid these nutrients converting into Glucose. Some studies suggest that following the Keto diet can have benefits against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s by reducing blood sugar and Insulin levels and decreasing insulin resistance. A Keto diet can also effective weight loss and lower blood pressure.
However, the Keto diet can be too aggressive for many people. There are various ways to create Ketones in the body without a drastic nutritional change. Other less extreme dietary changes can be to simply monitor how much Carbohydrates or Proteins are being consumed each day rather than removing many foods from a diet entirely. Intermittent fasting is another option described by eating little to no food during certain times and eating during others. Another option would be to increase physical activity. Many studies have discovered that exercising decreases the body’s Glycogen stores, allowing Ketone production to increase. Exercising before a meal can increase Ketone levels even higher, and a few weeks later the body can adapt to using ketones as its primary energy source.
Ketone Pros and Cons
It turned out that Ketones are a much better energy source for the brain than Glucose because of their more efficient pathway. When Ketones are used to produce energy using Oxygen, more ATP is produced per molecule with Ketones than with Glucose. In infancy, the brain is more capable of using Ketone bodies because many enzymes for ketogenesis are produced at this time. Not only are they more efficient, but they can also be used by most organs and tissues in the body as an alternative source of energy. This is beneficial during periods of stress, such as ischemia, trauma, or when Glucose is not readily available, especially in the brain. Increased Ketone production, especially when following the Keto diet, can also eliminate risk factors for some health conditions. Though many benefits of Ketones are still being researched, they can cause a reduction in seizures for those with epilepsy and could slow tumor growth in cancer (cancer cells consume high levels of Glucose). It may also benefit people with heart disease, Alzheimer’s, or some brain injuries.
However, producing too many Ketones can lead to negative consequences for the body. Intense exercise can be impaired because the overproduction of Ketone bodies inhibits the ability of Carbohydrates to provide fuel for skeletal muscles. Another issue that can arise is Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), a condition when the body develops insulin resistance. Without Insulin, there is a lack of Glucose brought in by Insulin, and Ketone body levels rise substantially. As a result, patients can become dehydrated or have rapid and deep breaths. Other symptoms include confusion, nausea, vomiting, and stomach pains. To treat DKA, Glucose and Insulin need to be administered to downregulate the ketogenic pathway. Those who follow the Keto diet can initially experience their own symptoms, such as diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting.
Glucose and Ketone bodies are vital for various processes within the body, especially for brain functions. Each is broken down, distributed, and regulated through its pathway, and altering one’s diet can lead to changes in which one molecule is used more. While Ketones are a better energy source for the brain, both are necessary for cognitive functions, and the lack of regulation of both can lead to negative consequences for the body.