Everyone has heard of the Keto (Ketogenic) Diet. Its main popularity is as a weight-loss tool. However, many people don’t realize that It can also be beneficial for other health issues. This diet is based on eliminating carbs (simple sugars) and increasing fats (preferably only healthy fats).
Personally, I am not completely sold on the idea, as I think the body does need fibre and complex (healthy) carbohydrates like whole grain, brown rice, whole oats/ So I have come to the conclusion that the Keto Diet (or a modified keto) could be beneficial on a short-term basis for weight loss and the following health issues.
Cancer: Still one of the leading causes of death, Cancer cells love sugar. Scientific research indicates that some types of cancer are helped by eliminating sugar. Elevated blood sugars, obesity and type 2 diabetes are linked to breast and other cancers, so restricting carbs to lower blood sugar and insulin levels may help prevent tumor growth. Studies in mice show that Keto diets may also reduce the progression of cancer to other areas of the body. If you have cancer, please talk to your GP, oncologist and naturopath about a combination of traditional therapies that may also include Keto. There is an excellent book on the topic of Keto for cancer called Any Way You Can by Dr. Annette Bosworth.
Diabetes: Consumption of carbs & sugars requires the pancreas to produce insulin to convert the simple sugars into energy that the body can use (blood sugar). Eating a diet high in carbs and sugar eventually causes the pancreas to become tired, and/or the body may become insulin resistant. People with diabetes or metabolic syndrome are at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and other serious disorders related to insulin resistance. Keto can offer positive changes in abdominal obesity, triglycerides, cholesterol values, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, please consult your physician before embarking on this diet.
Brain health issues have shown promise with the Keto diet. Studies are underway to determine if the Keto diet can help conditions like Epilepsy (seizures due to excessive brain activity) and some mental illnesses (such as bipolar or schizophrenia). Also, by increasing the conversion of glutamate to GABA, ketones may also increase the mitochondria in the brain leading to improved focus and brain energy. The Keto diet may be helpful for improving ASD patterns as autism shares some features with epilepsy. There is an excellent book on this topic called Grain Brain – the Surprising Truth…Your Brain’s Silent Killers by David Perlmutter and Kristin Loberg. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has devastating effects on memory, brain function, physical function and personality. Unlike other cells in our body, injured brains often don’t recover. Studies on rats show that starting a Ketogenic diet immediately after brain injury may help reduce brain swelling, increase motor function and improve recovery. Human trials are forthcoming.
Parkinson’s Disease is a nervous system disorder from low levels of dopamine causing tremors, difficulty walking, stiffness, writing and manual dexterity impairment. The Ketogenic diet has a protective effect on the brain and nervous system (against nerve damage), as well as improving motor function. It is being explored as a complementary therapy.
Obesity is one of the major health concerns in North America. The billions spent on weight-loss products every year would feed the world many times over. Many studies show that very low-carb, ketogenic diets can be more effective for weight loss than calorie-restricted or low-fat diets, while providing other health benefits like a drop in triglyceride levels, and increase in HDL (good) cholesterol. Ketogenic diets also reduce hunger by suppressing appetite.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is from damage to the myelin sheathe (the protective covering of nerves), which causes communication problems between the brain and body. Symptoms include numbness and problems with balance, movement, vision and memory. More human studies are needed but there is promising evidence that a ketogenic diet may help with energy, reduce inflammation, cholesterol and triglycerides, and increase memory and physical function.
In summary, Ketogenic diets are being considered beneficial in several health disorders because of their potential beneficial effects on metabolic health and the nervous system. However, more research and clinical trials are needed for conclusive declarations of health benefits. Nobody should consider the ketogenic diet as a cure for any disease but due to the various health benefits, this diet could be considered as part of the health protocol for various disorders. As stated at the beginning of this article, I am not yet fully convinced of the claimed benefits of this diet as I recall the overconsumption of unhealthy saturated fats on the Atkins diet. However, I am fully in agreement that healthy fats like olive oil, avocadoes, some nuts and all seeds are very beneficial for health. Again, please consult your medical team before making changes to your disease-fighting protocol and make sure to include a naturopath in that team, as they have more knowledge on the nutritional aspects of treatment.
Claire Nielsen is a health coach, author, public speaker and founder of www.elixirforlife.ca. The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health and medical advice. Please consult a doctor or healthcare provider if you're seeking medical advice, diagnoses and/or treatment.