When it comes to advantages of the keto diet, weight loss pops out. But how about the other benefits for the brain, major diseases, and physical performance?
Here’s an important yet underappreciated fact: for the majority of human history, the typical person was routinely exposed to ketosis. Most of the time, this was usually transient and light, although it could sometimes get more protracted.
However, these folks weren’t usually far from being in a mild ketogenic state, and for quite a few reasons. Food availability was not always a sure bet, for one.
Metabolic flexibility got honed due to longer fasts and shorter stretches brought about through compressed eating windows which came with extended hours prior to a morning meal or even a full day away from camp.
Even in the more recent decades, a lot of people rely on a set schedule of mealtimes and they don’t do a lot of snacking in between if any. This means more opportunities for ketosis to happen.
Getting fat-adapted dues to this conveys advantages past the relatively instant flexibility in the body’s energy sourcing. The evidence presents itself through today’s research.
So what are the advantages of the keto diet that made it such a huge hit among dieters and health promoters?
The Advantages Of The Keto Diet
Let’s take a look over the reasons why the ketogenic diet is so popular:
1. Promotes Fat Loss
Consider that, in order to generate ketones, unless you eat ketogenic precursors, you have to liberate your stored body fat.
However, that’s not the primary mechanism behind ketogenic fat loss. Ketosis won’t melt body fat away as the products promise on late-night infomercials.
Rather, it works for a lot of the very same reasons that a conventional low-carb and primal means of eating works, through the reduction of insulin, increased mobilization of your body’s stored fat, followed by a reduced appetite.
The most essential feature might just be how ketosis suppresses appetite. The biggest impediment that gets in the way of weight loss, and why the majority of diets wind up failing, is the overpowering urge to eat more food.
When folks try to eat less food even though they want more, they wind up wrestling with their own physiology. There aren’t many that win that battle.
Ketogenic dieting skips this issue completely by suppressing the boost in hunger hormones which normally happens following weight loss.
Ketogenic diets are particularly effective for tremendous weight loss. If you have a lot of weight that you want or need to lose, then aiming for ketosis might help you lose your body fat.
Again, this isn’t due to any fat-burning attributes inherent to ketones, but rather because your body has to liberate its stores of body fat in order to even make ketones.
A lot of diets work for a while but don’t hold up over time. Weight loss isn’t worth a thing if you’re not able to keep it all off.
Ketogenic diets seem to be better than low-fat diets for longer-term weight loss, especially in regards to maintenance.
2. It’s A Potential Treatment For Major Disease States
One of the most important advantages of the ketogenic diet is its power to alleviate and even heal some of the most dangerous diseases.
The ketogenic diet was first noticed as a clinical tool for treating patients with their epilepsy. It was then, and still is, the one and only thing that can consistently prevent seizures.
Ketogenic diets simply work, whether it’s adults who have refractory epilepsy, Scandinavian kids who have therapy-resistant epilepsy, or even Thai kids that have intractable epilepsy.
Ketosis is able to improve epilepsy through several different mechanisms:
- Boosts conversion of glutamate into first glutamine and then into GABA, which reduces the excitability of neurons.
- Increases antioxidant status in neuronal mitochondria, which improves their functions.
- Reduces the formation of free radicals in neurons, which are a likely source of seizures.
These various effects on both the health and function of neurons, alongside the ability of degenerating or aging brains to first accept and then use ketone bodies, also have considerable implications for a number of other brain conditions, such as Parkinson’s, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s, and many other psychiatric disorders.
Brain disorders aren’t the only thing that a ketogenic diet can help with, though.
There’s a Spanish ketogenic diet, which is basically just the keto diet with wine. It cured folks of their metabolic syndromes and improved the health markers associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
More than 90 percent of subjects actually improved the health of their liver, and over 20 percent resolved it completely.
A keto diet in cancer patients can mean fat loss while preserving lean mass. A lot of researchers are now exploring the usage of ketogenic diets for the prevention and treatment of cancer, even though the results are quite preliminary.
3. Improves Cognitive Function
Since ketosis is able to help out with many major brain disorders, a lot of folks have wondered whether it might improve cognitive functioning in people that are otherwise healthy.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing, researchers have yet to study the nootropic effects of a ketogenic diet in healthy people.
What they have done is looked at folks who have milder cognitive deficits, however, and they’ve found some promising effects. In a mild cognitive decline, the ketogenic diet can improve memory.
Many type 1 diabetics can experience a reduction in cognitive function when they get low blood sugar. But increasing ketone production through medium chain triglycerides, like the ones found in coconut oil, can restore it.
The addition of ketones can improve cognition in adults who have bad memories. The more serum ketones they have, the better their scores are.
A really low-carb diet can improve memory in older adults. Once again, higher ketones can predict bigger improvements.
There’s a good reason to believe that ketone-induced mitochondrial biogenesis inside the brain can help improve its function.
Ketosis upregulates the mitochondrial biogenesis that takes place in the brain. It actually creates new power plants right inside the brain which are effective at the burning of fat-derived fuel.
This kind of upregulation is specifically responsible for anticonvulsant benefits in epilepsy patients, and so it’s likely the source of improvement for many other brain disorders associated with glucose uptake problems.
In offering the brain an alternate power source, brains which don’t run that well on glucose are able to start burning fat.
There is no indication that ketosis will only induce mitochondrial biogenesis in brains considered ‘unhealthy’. It just has yet to be studied, but it’s hard to see why it would not also strengthen the mitochondria of healthy brains too.
For starters, extra sources of energy are always a good thing to have. It makes a lot of intuitive sense that they might just improve the way that your brain works.
Secondly, exercise is a downright nootropic, and it’s possibly the most powerful and reliable booster of the brain’s mitochondrial biogenesis.
Exercise simply increases the rate of blood flow into the brain, and that offers a lot more oxygen and energy. It also reduces enhances memory and reduces free radical damage.
Regular exercise stimulates new neuron creation as well as the production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which is a chemical instrumental to the formation and preservation of neurons.
It also typically promotes gene expression which supports plasticity, which is the crucial power of the brain to alter its neural pathways.
If exercising can promote mitochondrial biogenesis and improved functioning within the brain, then maybe ketosis does as well.
A multitude of anecdotes suggests that people who have intact cognitive functioning and go on ketogenic diets wind up experiencing tremendous benefits in their mental performance.
Improving cognitive function is one of the most underrated advantages of the keto diet.
4. Offers “Keto Clarity”
Everyone has had a foggy brain at some point or another. Everything seems muffled. Your synapses are firing blanks, and your personal neuronal communication medium is nothing more than cold molasses. Work certainly suffers, if anything gets done at all in the first place.
One of the lesser known advantages of the keto diet is that its state of ketosis has good potential for the alleviation of brain fog.
This brain fog happens due to many reasons, but two of them include depressed GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) levels and elevated levels of ammonia.
Ketosis boosts brain glutamine synthetase, which then mops up extraneous ammonia.
Also, ketosis boosts GABA signaling. GABA is known as the ‘chill-out’ neurotransmitter. It opposes the excitatory neurotransmitter of glutamate. Both are necessary for cognitive function, otherwise, the human body wouldn’t make both.
An excess of glutamate can wind up leading to neuronal injury as well as neurodegeneration. GABA is what provides the counterbalance.
5. Increases Physical Performance
Being keto-adapted also has a number of benefits for those who are interested in their physical performance. For one thing, it boosts energy efficiency.
In any given level of intensity, an athlete who is keto-adapted is going to burn less glycogen and more fat as compared to sugar-burning athletes.
At peak oxidation, a long-term keto athlete will burn more than two times the fat than a non-keto athlete. They also do this at higher intensities.
Sparing glycogen is another perk. Glycogen is high-octane fuel for especially intense efforts. Humans store this in both the liver and the muscles, but only approximate 2400 calories of it, which is sufficient for a few hours of intensive activity at best. Once it’s depleted, you have to carb up in order to replenish it.
Keto-adaptation lets you do more of your work using ketones and fat for fuel, which saves glycogen for the times that you truly need it.
Since even the leanest people carry as many as tens of thousands of calories in body fat, it makes their energy stores nearly infinite when on a keto diet.
It builds up mitochondria. These are the power plants of the human cells, which transform the incoming nutrients into ATP.
When you have more mitochondria, you have more usable energy. You also extract more energy from your food and even get more performance out of your body.
Ketosis puts new demands onto your mitochondria, and they adapt to this new energy environment by growing in numbers.
As you can see, all these advantages of the keto diet can help you live a healthier life beyond weight loss. You don’t just lose weight with this diet, but you improve your cognitive functions, treat some dangerous diseases, and boost your energy.
So from now on, don’t think at the ketogenic diet as a method to lose weight, but rather as a natural way to heal and detox your body.