In the 14 years that Homefield has been in existence, we’ve seen the comings and goings of many new diets promising to be THE answer to weight loss and eternal life. We’ve tried many of these ourselves with varying success, and clients often ask what we think to the latest trend.
The most recent addition to this list has been the Ketogenic, or Keto diet and here in Part 1 we explore the benefits of a Ketogenic Diet. In Part 2 we explore the possible side effects or negative consequences of this way of eating.
As always, when people ask us if such and such a diet is good for us, our answer is always “it depends who’s following it!”. We are all different and there is no one diet that is going to suit everyone and solve all the worlds health problems.
WHAT IS THE KETOGENIC DIET?
A ketogenic diet is high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate diet. It aims to use stored body fats as a primary source of energy. On a ketogenic diet, roughly 75% to 90% of daily calories come from fat (healthy fats); 6% to 20% come from protein; and 2% to 5% come from carbohydrates.
It is not a new diet – there have been many studies going back to the 1920’s, showing that a ketogenic diet helped reduce convulsions and fits in epileptic children. The mechanism for this is still not certain, but it’s thought that a chemical called ketone acetone, which is produced during ketosis, may have some anticonvulsant activity. A reduction in seizures by up to 40 percent have been recorded, and the diet approach has only slipped into the background because of the introduction of better anticonvulsant drugs.
This may be a pity however, because numerous studies have shown the keto diet to be neuroprotective in a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases. (See below)
The main reason people adopt a keto diet these days is for weight loss and general health, and there are many studies supporting the effectiveness of a keto diet in these areas, specifically:
Weight loss is the chief motivator for many people adopting the keto diet, and this diet can certainly be very effective, at least in the short term, for achieving weight loss. As carbs are reduced and fat is increased in the diet, the body enters a metabolic state called ketosis, where the the body switches from using stored glucose for energy and uses stored fat instead.
The keto diet has thus been found to promote fat burning and appetite control. In fact, studies have shown that this diet reduces hunger, boosts metabolism and lowers food intake more than other diets. 
BLOOD SUGAR CONTROL
The keto diet can help improve blood sugar control. Carbohydrates convert to sugar in the body, so a low carb diet can help reduce total intake of sugar as well as improving insulin sensitivity. A 2015 study of 10 obese individuals with Type II Diabetes who followed a low carb, high protein, high fat diet for 14days, found that their insulin sensitivity improved by 75%.
In fact, studies suggest that even by following this type of diet for as little as two weeks, it can improve insulin resistance by as much as 75 percent, and most study participants have been able to reduce or even eliminate their diabetes medications.
Cardiovascular Disease (CD) is one of the biggest killers and the low-fat industry would have us believe that a high fat diet is a risk for cardiovascular disease. However, the real risk factors for CD are:
- Overweight and obesity
- Poor diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use
Many studies have shown that the keto diet can improve some of the risk factors which contribute to this disease:  The Keto diet has been found to:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol
- Increases HDL (good) cholesterol
- Lowers triglycerides which are a type of fat laid down by a high carb diet and a risk factor for heart disease.
However, some studies have shown middle-aged men following a low carb diet long term (3yrs) can increase cholesterol and heart rate. (See Part 2).
There is increasing evidence the ketogenic diet may help protect the brain, reduce the risk, and slow down the progression of degenerative diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. ,
Some studies have shown that a high carb intake actually worsens cognitive behaviour and performance in Alzheimer’s patients. 
There is also limited research suggesting that a ketogenic diet may help prevent certain cancers such as brain, gastric, colorectal and prostate cancers. . The state of ketosis has also been shown to encourage response and sensitivity to both radio and chemo therapy. 
Other reported benefits from following a keto diet include (in the short term at least):
- Balanced hormones
- Improved mood, energy, memory and focus
- Improved skin
- Improved physical energy 
So should you give the Ketogenic Diet a try? Quite possibly, but read Part 2 before you make up your mind.