The Amateur Food Detective

The Amateur Food Detective
Bluebird Acres Farm in Friendship, NY

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What Is the Ketogenic Diet?

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Every now and then when I’m looking for something new to research I come across a hidden gem. This time the gem is more common, but brilliant nonetheless. You may have even heard of it: the Ketogenic Diet. According to my research, this diet has proven to help people suffering from epileptic seizures, diabetes, cancer, and even bi-polar disorder.
So what is it?
History Behind the Ketogenic Diet
It began in Ancient Greece as a treatment for many ailments. Although it was considered a beneficial fasting treatment, the scientific reasoning was yet unknown. Over time it developed into a role of detoxification that helped people control their epileptic seizures. Dr. Russell Wilder of the Mayo Clinic ended up with the final credit, however, as his studies and trials became popularized in the 1920s. His colleague, Mynie Peterman, tweaked the diet and tested it on patients, discovering a great decline in patient seizures when used.
In the late 30s, early 40s, the invention of anticonvulsant drugs placed the diet on the backburner, and up until the 1990s, drugs were normally used to control epilepsy. Then NBC’s “Dateline” covered a story about a toddler that continued to have epileptic seizures despite modern means of controlling it. The boy, Charlie Abraham, son of a Hollywood producer, recovered while on a strict diet called the…you guessed it!...ketogenic diet.
How Does This Diet Work?
Carbohydrates provide fuel your body needs for energy. They also enter the small intestine and become converted to glucose, fructose, and simple sugars. For some people, this causes problems.
The ketogenic diet is low in carbohydrates, high in fat and adequate in protein. In this respect, it’s similar to the faddish so-called “low carb” diets, however this diet is very strict. It provides just enough protein for the body to grow and repair itself, and avoids carbohydrates of any kind.
What Conditions Might It Help?
Epileptic Seizures
When carbohydrates are not consumed, the body uses the consumed fat as an energy source. Long story short, it elevates the ketone bodies in the blood, therefore preventing the frequency of seizures.
According to other research, cancer cells live off of glucose, so if you avoid carbohydrates and sugars, the cancer cells are deprived of glucose, starve, and die. Healthy cells, however, can burn fat to survive and don’t need glucose.
A ketogenic diet can help people suffering from diabetes because a low-carb diet can help improve blood sugar control and insulin levels. However, it’s best to discuss with a doctor before proceeding because suddenly quitting carbs can be dangerous to someone who is taking insulin.
Bi-Polar Disorder
When people suffering from mood swings—including people diagnosed with bi-polar disorder—go on a ketogenic diet, they discover a vast improvement in mood. This is because it acidifies the blood, thereby decreasing intracellular sodium accumulation, which stabilizes mood.
This diet is very strict and regulated. Before attempting it (or any diet), you need to talk to your doctor, as there are risks involved, especially if you are taking particular medications that affect your blood sugar levels. For people looking to simply lower their glucose levels, a modification of this diet can also be effective. Look into the Paleo diet, Atkins diet, or even the MCT oil diet.
As usual, I’m including links so you can do your own research and decide if this is something you might want to attempt. Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. Thanks!