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What is the ketogenic diet?

Diabetes, Weight loss | January 26, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

epilepsy, diabetes, weight loss

What is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet is best known as a low-carb diet that forces the liver to burn fat instead of carbohydrates. It incorporates foods that are high in fat and protein and significantly reduces the types and portions of carbohydrates. Unlike many fad diets, the ketogenic diet is based on physiology and nutritional science, which is proven to be effective for controlling blood sugars, epilepsy and weight loss. In this article we will explain how the ketogenic works, who it benefits and what foods you eat.

What is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet was a low-carb eating plan that was developed in 1920’s as a treatment for epilepsy. Researchers found that fasting produced good outcomes for epileptics, but unfortunately long-term fasting is not a feasible option. It was around this time that the ketogenic diet was developed to mimic the same beneficial results as fasting.

The diet involves eating larger amounts of fat, medium amounts of proteins and small amounts of carbohydrates.

How it works

Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred fuel source. These are found in grains, fruit, honey and refined sugar. When you eat something high in carbs, your body will produce glucose and insulin.

  • Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy. When this happens, your fats are not needed and are therefore stored.
  • Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your bloodstream.

If you follow a ketogenic diet and eat lower amounts of carbohydrates the body is induced into a state known as ketosis –  a natural process the body initiates to help us survive when food intake is low. During this state, we produce ketones, which are produced from the breakdown of fats in the liver.
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The end goal of a properly maintained keto diet is to force your body into this metabolic state. We don’t do this by restricting calories but instead starving the body of carbohydrates.

Our bodies are incredibly adaptive to what you put into it – when you overload it with fats and remove carbohydrates, it will begin to burn fat and produce ketones as the primary energy source.

Differences between a ketogenic diet and Atkins diet

Many people might remember the Atkins diet which is another example low-carb diet.

The difference between the two is that the ketogenic diet is based on less overall protein, with a higher emphasis on better quality sources and less emphasis on processed forms such as bacon.

Healthier sources of fats from olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and fish are preferred compared to unhealthier sources found in canola oil and processed foods.

It also has far more research to back up its claims.

Getting started

To get started you want to keep your carbohydrates limited, coming mostly from vegetables, nuts, and full-fat dairy. Don’t eat any refined carbohydrates such as wheat (bread, pasta, cereals), starch (potatoes, beans, legumes) or fruit. The small exceptions to this are avocado and low glycaemic index fruits such as berries which can be consumed in moderation.
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Foods to avoid

  • Grains – wheat, corn, rice and cereal
  • Sugar – honey, agave and maple syrup
  • Fruit – apples, bananas and oranges
  • Starches – potato, beans and legumes

Foods to include

  • Meats – fish, beef, lamb, poultry and eggs
  • Leafy Greens – spinach, kale and rocket
  • Vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini
  • High Fat Dairy – hard cheeses, high fat cream and butter
  • Nuts and seeds – macadamias, walnuts and sunflower seeds
  • Avocado and berries – raspberries, blackberries and blueberries
  • Sweeteners – stevia, natvia and xylitol
  • Healthy fats – coconut oil, olive oil and avocado oil


Benefits of a ketogenic diet

Weight loss

One of the main reasons people will embark on a ketogenic diet is to reduce weight without feeling hungry and having to worry about counting calories. Weight loss can happen quite quickly especially for those who are very overweight or obese. It has been found to be a better diet for long-term results and to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease when compared to your conventional low-fat diet.

Cardiovascular health

The keto diet can reduce the risk of heart disease markers such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides—especially in those who are obese. A 24-week trial involving obese individuals found that a ketogenic diet significantly reduced body weight and body mass index. In addition to this, it decreased the level of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and blood glucose, and increased the level of HDL cholesterol. Administering a ketogenic diet for a relatively longer period of time did not produce any significant side effects and is considered safe to follow long-term.

Blood sugar control

Blood sugar controlFollowing the ketogenic diet, provides more benefits than just shedding those excess kilograms, it helps to regulate levels of other hormones such as insulin.

When we eat carbohydrates, insulin is released to allow cells to take in sugars circulating in the blood stream.

When we restrict carbohydrates in the diet, it prevents too much insulin from being released and maintains normal blood sugar levels.

This can help reverse insulin resistance, which is present in people with type 2 diabetes.


Since the 1900’s the ketogenic diet has been used with great success to treat epilepsy. Today it is still one of the most widely used therapies for epileptics who haven’t responded to traditional therapies. A 2014 study involving 29 adolescents and adults found that following a ketogenic diet significantly reduced seizure frequency (by more than 50%) in 45% of participants. It also allows for fewer medications which are often associated with many unwanted side-effects.


If you are taking insulin contact your medical provider as following a low-carb diet may mean an adjustment to your insulin dosages. Common side-effects may include constipation, muscle cramps and fatigue.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Puchalska P, Crawford PA. Multi-dimensional Roles of Ketone Bodies in Fuel Metabolism, Signalling, and Therapeutics. Cell Metab. 2017 Feb 7;25(2):262-284

Bueno NB, et al. Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Nutr. 2013 Oct;110(7):1178-87

Paoli A, et al. Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Aug;67(8):789-96

Dashti HM, et al. Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. Exp Clin Cardiol. 2004 Fall;9(3):200-5

Nei M, et al. Ketogenic diet in adolescents and adults with epilepsy. Seizure. 2014 Jun;23(6):439-42

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