Overview of The Ketogenic Diet

October 19, 2020

Ketogenic is a diet encompassing higher amounts of healthy fats, moderate amounts of protein and low amounts of carbohydrate containing foods. It is named so (‘keto’ or ‘ketogenic’ diet) because the specific dietary changes involved in this diet causes the production of ketones in your body.

As the net carbohydrate intake is restricted to a very low quantity, fat becomes the primary source of energy for your body, as a result of which ketones are formed. Ketones are chemical bodies, viz., beta hydroxybutyrate (BHB), acetoacetate and acetone, made by your liver when fat from diet and from your body is burned for energy due to reduction in carbs. 

When fats rather than glucose provide most of the fuel for proper functioning, your body enters into a metabolic state called ‘ketosis’.

When ketones reach upto a certain level in your blood, your body is considered to be in ‘nutritional ketosis’. There are different degrees of optimal nutritional ketosis and you can refer to the following values when testing your blood ketone levels. 

  • 0.5-3 mmol/l is optimal nutritional ketosis.
  • Above 3 mmol/l is starvation ketosis (When someone is totally fasting, there is complete absence of any caloric intake for several days, the result is an increase in ketones which puts your body in starvation ketosis).
  • Above 8 mmol/l is ketoacidosis (Ketoacidosis aka Diabetic ketoacidosis- DKA is a serious complication of type 1 diabetes wherein the ketones rise to dangerously high levels because of the inability of your pancreas to make insulin).

The best way to measure ketones is by using: A Blood ketone meter, Breath ketone analyzer and Urine ketone strips.

Apart from detecting ketosis through testing, your body shows certain signs as well, like-

  • Dry mouth or metallic taste in mouth
  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fruity breath

When on a ketogenic diet, your body eventually gets accustomed to breaking down fats as its main source of fuel. Here are some of the benefits that you can get once your body uses ketones for energy:

  • Improved weight (fat) loss
  • Improved muscle mass
  • Elimination of cravings for carbs
  • Regulation of appetite
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Lowered risk of Cancer
  • Lowered Insulin levels (thereby, improved Insulin sensitivity and decreased Insulin resistance in people with type 2 DM)
  • Extended life span
  • Reduced neurological complications (Eplileptic seizures, Alzheimer’s, etc.)
  • Decreased migraine headaches (both severity and frequency)
  • Improved PCOS

Despite all the benefits mentioned, a big question floating around which is: Is Ketogenic diet safe for everyone?

To begin with, you can witness certain side effects until your body adjusts to the new changes. These are typically symptoms of something called ‘keto flu’. You may face headache, fatigue, irritability, lightheadedness, sleeplessness, constipation, etc.

Moreover, no particular diet is sustainable for a long term, so you need to bring in customisation at some point in time in order to maintain metabolic flexibility. Metabolic flexibility is the ability to respond or adapt to conditional changes in metabolic demand and eat a variety of foods without your system crashing. 

Also, the latest research shows that the ability to stick to a diet is key. If a low carbohydrate diet or keto diet is a practice that works for you and you are able to maintain it for as long as it takes to lose excess body fat and you are meeting your nutritional requirements, then science says that this should be encouraged.

However, the changes should be tailor made and specific to the requirements and medical conditions of any person. Customisation should involve your current health status to ensure full benefits as well your cultural and personal preferences for food.

So tribe, make sure your nutritionist takes into consideration your health problems and go ahead planning a well-personalized plan, based on your macro and micronutrient requirements. 


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Ria Jain
Functional Nutritionist

Ria has a Master’s in Nutrition and Dietetics and is in a permanent research mode and keeps the rest of us at iThrive (Previously ThriveFNC) updated with her latest findings in the field of Nutrition. Her articles on iThrive's blog are an expression of her research findings. We really don’t know what we’d do without her support and her focus.

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