The ketogenic diet is low in carbohydrates – of nearly 20g/day, high in fat and with a modest amount of protein.
With a low carbohydrate level available as a primary fuel, the body has no choice than burn fats to provide energy. The liver converts fat into fatty acids and produces ketone bodies. This dietary accumulation of ketones in blood, also known as nutritional ketosis, causes a great shift in the normal metabolic pathways.
In a nutshell, ketone bodies replace glucose as a primary energy source.
Ketone bodies are considered a “super-fuel” seeing that they efficiently produce 20% more adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy than glucose or fatty acids. This allows the body to maintain efficient fuel production in the face of calorie loss. Ketone bodies also decrease free radical damage and enhance antioxidant capacity by activation of NF E2-related factor, which upregulates transcription of genes involved in protection against oxidative damage. The latter implies some cardio- protective effects of this type of diet.
Is a Ketogenic diet good for your Brain?
The swap of primary energy source will also change the physiological activity of your brain, modulating the cellular energy utilization with a potential neuroprotective effect. Numerous evidences are supporting possible therapeutic utilization of this type of diet in multiple neurological disorders. The transition from glucose to ketone bodies can metabolically target brain tumours through integrated anti-inflammatory pathway-mechanisms. Enhanced phagocytic activities of macrophages, antiangiogenic, and pro-apoptotic mechanisms reduce tumour energy metabolism and glycolytic energy required for tumour growth (Reference 1).
Not to mention that a ketogenic diet is widely used as an effective treatment in young children and adult patients suffering from epilepsy.
How about Ketogenic diet in Epilepsy?
To answer the question whether or not a ketogenic diet is effective for the treatment of intractable epilepsy in adults we can use a Chinese study published this year. This meta-analysis study indicates that ketogenic diet for refractory epilepsy in adults is well-tolerated and that its side effects are acceptable, confirming that this type of diet is a promising treatment for intractable epilepsy in adults (Reference 2).
Besides the fact we don’t know what they mean by the term ‘acceptable’, more questions need to be answered such as antagonist pharmacological properties, safety and side effects of this type of diet.
Any side effects of a Ketogenic diet?
If you are thinking of changing your fuel, please bear in mind possible mild, moderate, and severe or short – and long-term adverse effects such as headaches, insomnia, constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, dyslipidemia, mineral deficiencies, metabolic acidosis, and increased risk of renal stones.
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