How the Keto Diet Can Benefit Chronic Health Conditions

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You’ve probably heard your friends talking about the latest fad diet: the keto diet. But it isn’t actually new. In fact, this type of diet has been prescribed for treatment of pediatric epilepsy as early as 1921. But could it also assist in the management of chronic health conditions? HealthCentral examines this diet and how it can impact your health.


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What is the keto diet?

The ketogenic or “keto” diet is a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carbohydrate eating plan. It is rich in meats and fats, and carbohydrate intake is limited to no more than 50 grams each day. It’s similar to the very-low-carbohydrate Atkins Diet, which gained popularity in the 1970s for weight loss.


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How does the keto diet work? (slide 1 of 2)

When you dramatically reduce your carbohydrate intake, your cells do not have enough circulating blood sugar (which comes from carbohydrates in your diet) for energy. This causes your body to release ketone bodies (broken down from stored body fat) into your bloodstream for your body to use for energy.


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How does the keto diet work? (slide 2 of 2)

This process is called “ketosis,” and usually takes two to four days of eating no more than 20-50 grams of carbohydrates each day for the body to use ketone bodies for energy instead of circulating blood sugar. The result is a loss of stored body fat with minimal hunger.


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Management of obesity

Research has shown that a low-carbohydrate diet is very effective for rapid, short-term weight loss compared to traditional weight reduction diets. However, traditional weight-loss diets (such as a low-fat diet or the Mediterranean diet) appear to be equally effective over time. The keto diet is rich in meats, fish, nuts, seeds, butter, cheese, and fibrous vegetables.


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Management of diabetes

Research has shown that the keto diet can reduce blood sugar levels for people with living with type 2 diabetes. This is because foods high in carbohydrates, such as fruits, starchy vegetables, legumes, and grains are eliminated while on the keto diet. This diet may also facilitate weight loss, which is a positive effect for individuals with type 2 diabetes looking to lose weight.


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Management of rheumatoid arthritis

Eating fewer processed foods and eliminating grains from your diet can help to reduce chronic inflammation. While the keto diet is not intended for long-term use, cutting back on simple carbohydrates found in white bread and refined grains and cereals can help you to identify if these foods may be contributing to inflammatory symptoms.


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Management of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Research shows that decreasing intake of refined sugars and processed foods can help decrease inflammation in the gut. If you are living with IBD, reducing your overall intake of carbohydrates, refined sugars and starches, and processed foods may help to alleviate symptoms.


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Are there any side effects to following the keto diet?

Careful diet planning is key to ensuring that you are not consuming too much red meat, sodium, processed meats, or saturated fat. One limitation to this diet that people report is that it is difficult to stick to on a long-term basis, since the typical American diet is at least 50 percent carbohydrate. Reported side effects from the ketosis process include nausea, fatigue, bad breath, and constipation.


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Is the keto diet right for me?

If you want to lose weight, the keto diet can be an effective tool for jump-starting your weight loss. Proper planning can ensure that your diet remains balanced in vitamins and essential nutrients, while following the very low-carbohydrate phase of this diet. However, decades of research support a balanced diet rich in unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, and healthy fats found in nuts, seeds, and oils to be the most effective for health and longevity.


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The future of ketogenic diets

Research on the effectiveness of a ketogenic diet for weight loss and type 2 diabetes is well-documented. There is emerging evidence that a ketogenic diet may be effective for the management of other chronic conditions including acne, polycystic ovarian syndrome, cancer, and neurological disease.