7 Benefits Of Low Carb and Ketogenic Diets
It’s weight loss that draws many people to low carb and ketogenic diets initially, but the benefits of keto diet go way beyond a leaner waistline.
From Diabetes to dementia.
From cardiovascular disease to cancer.
Lets find out more!
Table of Contents
#1 Benefits of Keto Diet is Weight Loss
So low carb diets have conclusively been shown to
- Reduce insulin levels allowing us to access our stored body fat more easily
- They reduce hunger allowing us to eat less
- They may create a Metabolic Advantage meaning we simply burn more calories when low carb
- And they may help us with food addition problems
I don’t want to dwell on weight loss in this Blog post – because I covered all these points in another video.
Improved Blood Glucose Control
The supply of energy from our food to our tissues is at the core of our metabolism and the regulation of our blood glucose levels is an important part of this.
You will have fewer spikes in energy
The insulin or sugar crash many people experience during the day (particularly in the mid-afternoon) is the result of consuming high GI foods (highly processed Carbohydrates) that result in rapid rises in blood sugar levels.
The insulin response that follows reduces our blood sugar levels quickly, and that often leaves us with low energy levels.
When we consume fewer carbohydrates we can better regulate our blood glucose levels, avoiding these energy spikes.
Improved Control for Type 2 Diabetes
Control of blood glucose is critical for people with type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is defined by blood glucose that is raised beyond normal levels and people who are affected by this disease are effectively intolerant to carbohydrates.
It seems crazy to me that the first line of dietary advice is still to consume carbohydrates, although the tide is thankfully turning with more and more doctors seeing the power of using low carb diets in the management of type 2 diabetes. Specifically…
HBA1c is a test that we use to see how blood glucose levels have been over the past few months.
If blood sugar remains high (Hyperglycemia), Diabetics are at a higher risk of developing serious health complications such as damage to organs such as the eyes, kidneys, and heart.
But if blood glucose control is maintained over a number of years, this can reduce the risk of these complications occurring.
Reduce Dependence On Medication
It can put diabetes into Remission
When I was still in training just a few years ago it was commonly accepted that type 2 diabetes was a progressive, worsening disease which could be managed, but not reversed.
Thankfully we now know that this is not the case.
People on insulin and other hypo-causing medication may need to reduce their doses in advance of starting a low carb or ketogenic diet to prevent hypos.
*Always under the supervision of a doctor –
Helps lower the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes:
Just as the Ketogenic diet can help type 2 diabetics manage their condition more easily, it may also lessen the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes in the first place.
Improved control for Type 1 Diabetes
And it’s not just type 2 diabetics. People with type 1 diabetes can expect to see better control of blood sugars, have fewer hypos and use less insulin. It follows that this improvement in control in blood glucose in the longer term should reduce the risk of complications occurring in years to come.
Improves Cardiovascular Risk Markers
We’re talking Heart attacks and strokes here. A common concern that people have about low carb and ketogenic diets is the increased fat consumption that goes hand in hand with them.
However, the science shows this isn’t true, in fact, it shows that low carb diets or another benefits of keto diet is to improve many of the markers that are commonly associated with heart disease.
We’ve all heard about the great cholesterol battle… HDL vs LDL – – good vs evil.
Whilst much of the focus seems to be on lowering LDL (think statins etc), very little attention has been paid to raising the levels of good cholesterol. Probably because drug companies have failed to provide medication to do this to date.
The good news is that Low carb & ketogenic diets are particularly effective at increasing HDL levels.
Improves LDL Particle Size
Many scientists now believe that we’ve been focusing on the wrong thing when it comes to bad cholesterol and that it’s the size of the LDL particle that matters rather than the total number.
Whilst Low carb & ketogenic diets often result in a raised LDL levels, the particles are thought to be larger and fluffier – which are thought to be less damaging to the walls of our arteries.
These are the fats that are made in the liver when too much carbohydrate is consumed.
And we see significant improvement in triglyceride levels on low carb diets, so much so that some doctors use them to see whether patients are sticking to a low carb diet.
Moving on from cholesterol onto other risk factors for heart disease….
Reduce Blood Pressure
Hypertension is well known to be the single biggest risk factor of heart attacks and strokes. But raised insulin levels cause the kidneys to retain fluid which leads to higher blood pressures.
It will come as no surprise that cutting the carbs also cuts blood pressure.
I mentioned weight loss earlier – but low carb diets are especially useful at getting rid of fat that is carried around our waists.
Because this fat is actually inside our abdominal cavities, around our internal organs that make it so bad for our health.
Fatty Liver Disease
When it’s not caused by alcohol, fatty liver disease is caused by excess consumption of refined carbohydrates.
Small but promising studies have shown a rapid reversal of fatty liver disease with low carb, ketogenic diets.
I just want to close this section by looking at those risk factors all together… because we have a name for it. It’s called the ….
Anyone with 3 or more of the conditions we’ve talked about has got metabolic syndrome.
- Raised fasting blood glucose
- Raised Blood pressure
- Raised Triglycerides
- Low HDL
- Large waist circumference (over half your height)
That’s about 25% of the western world. Why is this important? Because about 75% of people who have a heart attack or stroke also are found to have metabolic syndrome.
Low carb and ketogenic diets seem to be effective at improving all the individual elements of metabolic syndrome, which suggests to me that it is really addressing the underlying cause.
Reduces Inflammation in the Body
Excessive consumption of highly processed Carbohydrates elicits an immune response in the body in the form of inflammation.
If your diet regularly consists of highly processed Carbohydrates, your body will remain in a state of inflammation, which over time can have a detrimental effect on your immune system.
We’ve already discussed heart disease and diabetes but beyond that chronic inflammation can cause DNA damage, leading to conditions such as cancer.
Smoking is still the biggest cause of cancer in many countries, but surprisingly, obesity is in second place. So it’s not hard to see how weight loss might reduce your risk of cancer.
Beyond that, ketogenic diets are currently being investigated for how they may help prevent or treat certain cancers.
One theory is related to lowering blood glucose and therefore insulin levels.
One study found that the ketogenic diet may be a suitable complementary treatment to chemotherapy and radiation in certain cancers.
The reduction in inflammation that goes along with a ketogenic diet is currently being widely researched in a range of autoimmune conditions.
The role that the ketogenic diet plays in chronic inflammation is a very exciting area of research.
We already talked about stabilising blood glucose levels and overcoming those mid-afternoon energy slumps. This in itself going to help your concentration
Beyond this, another benefits of keto diet or specifically being in a state of ketosis means that your brain will also be using ketones as an energy source, and many people report a sense of clarity and improved concentration relating to this.
To be fair when people initially start off on a ketogenic diet they often report worse sleep while they’re becoming adjusted. But beyond the first few weeks, there is anecdotal evidence that some people experience a higher quality of sleep, which of course helps with day time energy levels and concentration.
For many years now, ketogenic diets have been used to manage certain types of epilepsy where medication has been unable to control their symptoms.
Other Neurological Conditions
Some studies suggest that the keto diet offers neuroprotective benefits and it is currently being researched to treat or prevent conditions such as:
Improved Skin Health
Another really exciting area is how a low carb diet affects our gut microbiome.
Diets that consist of a high Carbohydrate content, particularly highly processed Carbohydrates have the ability to alter gut bacteria that can result in Acne.
A high number of foods associated with skin health (particularly those that contain Vitamin A) fit well within the Ketogenic Diet.
Improves Health in Women with PCOS
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with cysts, irregular periods and fertility issues.
If you have a look around the internet you’ll find lots of anecdotal evidence suggesting that this condition can be helped by following a ketogenic diet, and whilst research is limited in this area there is some evidence to support these claims.
So overall I think there is lots more to low carb and ketogenic diets beyond weight loss.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Which of these areas do you find most interesting? Leave me a comment down below.