Tag Archives: ketogenic diet

Dr. Georgia Edes Raves About Her Ketogenic Diet Experience

Click for details. Here’s her version of a ketogenic diet:

My diet consists almost entirely of roasted chicken (with skin), duck (with skin), duck fat, turkey, fish, chicken liver, zucchini, spinach, plantain chips, berries, lettuce, small amounts of black coffee, and salt.  I’ve been avoiding chocolate entirely.   Every once in a while I eat beef, pork, or a very small amount of cheese, or when at a restaurant might order something that includes a cream, wine, or butter-based sauce, but these don’t usually agree with me, so I keep them to a minimum, and most days I completely avoid them.  I steer clear of preserved, smoked, cured, aged, fermented, canned, and processed foods whenever possible.

Most folks will enter ketosis when they get their daily digestible carbohydrate consumption below 30-50 grams. My favorite method is the Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet.

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Ketogenic Diet Works for Children

ketogenic diet, children

Is there a trampoline out of view?

A ketogenic diet was safe and effective for weight loss in children and adolescents, according to a small study in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism.  Fifty-six children were placed on either a ketogenic diet or a calorie-restricted diet.  The investigators judged the low-carb ketogenic diet more effective.

I don’t treat children, so I don’t normally monitor the pediatric scientific literature.  Thanks to Diet Doctor Andreas Eenfeldt for bringlng this to my attention.  I’ve not read the full research report.

In 2010 I reported on research showing a low-carb, high-protein diet was safe and effective for severely obese adolescents.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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“ItsTheWooo” Explains Reluctance to Try Very-Low-Carb Eating For Weight Management

Click for details. ITW, BTW, is a nurse. A snippet:

At work, a few days ago, I was sitting at the station alongside a new nurse; she’s very young (about my age when I first started using a ketogenic diet for my obesity) and she is also very very overweight. In addition to being a young female (thus common sense that she prefers to be thin), observing her eating behavior made it patently obvious this poor girl has been trying for years to correct her obesity.  She always refuses food if offered to her, and when she does bring food, she rarely eats it, and it’s always healthy food like salads.

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Potential Problems With Major Carbohydrate Restriction

Caprese salad, naturally low-carb

Caprese salad, naturally low-carb

Ketogenic Diets

First, let’s define ketogenic diets.  For most folks, that means eating under 50 grams of digestible carbohydrate daily.

Your body gets nearly all its energy either from fats, or from carbohydrates like glucose and glycogen. In people eating “normally,” 60% of their energy at rest comes from fats. In a ketogenic diet, the carbohydrate content of the diet is so low that the body has to break down even more of its fat to supply energy needed by most tissues. Fat breakdown generates ketone bodies in the bloodstream. Hence, “ketogenic diet.” Also called “very-low-carb diets,” ketogenic diets have been around for over a hundred years.

What Could Go Wrong?

Long-term effects of a very-low-carb or ketogenic diet in most people are unclear—they may have better or worse overall health—we just don’t know for sure yet. Perhaps some people gain a clear benefit, while others—with different metabolisms and genetic make-up—are worse off.

If the diet results in major weight loss that lasts, we may see longer lifespan, less type 2 diabetes, less cancer, less heart disease, less high blood pressure, and fewer of the other obesity-related medical conditions.

Ketogenic diets are generally higher in protein, total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than some other diets. Some authorities are concerned this may increase the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke; the latest evidence indicates otherwise.

Some authorities worry that ketogenic diets have the potential to cause kidney stones, osteoporosis (thin, brittle bones), gout, and may worsen existing kidney disease. Others disagree.

Soon after adoption of very-low-carb eating, dieters may have headaches, bad breath, easy bruising, nausea, fatigue, aching, muscle cramps, constipation, and dizziness, among other symptoms. “Induction flu” may occur around days two through five, consisting of achiness, easy fatigue, and low energy. It clears up after a few days.

Very-low-carb ketogenic diets may have the potential to cause  low blood pressure, high uric acid in the blood, excessive loss of sodium and potassium in the urine, worsening of kidney disease, deficiency of calcium and vitamins A, B, C, and D, among other adverse effects.

Athletic individuals who perform vigorous exercise should expect a deterioration in performance levels during the first three to four weeks of any ketogenic very-low-carb diet. The body needs that time to adjust to burning mostly fat for fuel rather than carbohydrate.

Competitive weight-lifters or other anaerobic athletes (e.g., sprinters) will be hampered by the low muscle glycogen stores that accompany ketogenic diets. They need more carbohydrates.

What About Adherence to the Diet?

It’s clear that for many folks, compliance with very-low-carb diets is difficult to maintain for six to 12 months.  Some can’t do it for more than a couple weeks. Potential long-term effects, therefore, haven’t come into play for most users. When used for weight loss, regain of lost weight is a problem—but regain is a major issue with all weight-loss programs. I anticipate that the majority of non-diabetics who try a ketogenic diet will stay on it for only one to six months. After that, more carbohydrates can be added to gain the potential long-term benefits of additional fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

Or not.

People with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes may be so pleased with the metabolic effects of the ketogenic diet that they’ll stay on it long-term.

The most famous ketogenic diet is Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution.  I’ve put together one call the Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Once Again, Low-Carbohydrate Ketogenic Diet Beats Low-Calorie For Overweight Diabetes

Kuwait City and Towers

Kuwait City and Towers

A low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet is safe, effective, and superior to a low-calorie diet in type 2 diabetics, according to a report last year in Nutrition.

Kuwaiti researchers gave 102 adult overweight diabetic men and women their choice of diet: 78 chose ketogenic, 24 went low-calorie.  Average age was 37, average weight 211 lb (96 kg).  The study lasted six months.  The ketogenic diet was very much Atkins-style, starting out at 20 grams of carbohydrate daily.  Once good weight-loss progress was made, and if carb cravings were an issue, dieters could increase their carbs in small increments weekly.

This is all they said about the low-calorie diet: “Participants in the low-calorie diet group were given appropriate guidelines and a sample low-calorie diet menu of 2200 calories is presented in Table 1” (it’s typical and reasonable).

What Did They Find?

The low-carb ketogenic dieters lost 12% of body weight, compared to 7% lost by the low-calorie dieters.  Furthermore, the ketogenic dieters showed significant lowering of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and triglycerides.  HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) rose.  The low-calorie dieters seem to have had a significant drop in LDL cholesterol, but no changes in the other lipids.

Fasting blood sugar levels dropped significantly in both groups, but more in the ketogenic dieters.  Both groups started with fasting blood sugars around 162 mg/dl (9 mmol/l) and fell to 108 mg/dl (6 mmol/l) in the ketogenic group and to 126 mg/dl (7 mmol/l) in the low-calorie group.

Glycosylated hemoglobin (hemoglobin A1c) levels fell in both groups, more so in the ketogenic dieters.  The drop was statistically significant in the ketogenic group, but the authors were unclear about that in the low-calorie dieters.  It appears hemoglobin A1c fell from 7.8% to 6.3% with the ketogenic diet (the units given for glycosylated hemoglobin were stated as mg/dl).  In the low-calorie dieters, hemoglobin A1c fell from 8.2 to 7.7%.

What’s Odd About This Study?

The title of the research report indicates a study of diabetics, but only about 25% of study participants had diabetes (total subjects = 363).  (The figures I share above are for the diabetics only.)

Glycosylated hemoglobin, a test of overall diabetes control, is reported in Fig. 1 in terms of mg/dl.  That’s nearly always reported as a percentage, not mg/dl.  Misprint?

None of the participants dropped out of the study.  That’s incredible, almost unbelievable.

The low-calorie diet was poorly described.  Were 140-lb women and 250-lb men all put on the same calorie count?

Food diaries were kept, but the authors report nothing about compliance and actual food intake.

Clearly, some of these diabetics were on insulin and other diabetic drugs.  The authors note necessary reductions in drug dosages for the ketogenic group but don’t say much about the other dieters.  They imply that the drug reductions in the low-calorie group were minimal or nonexistent.

Grand Mosque of Kuwait

Grand Mosque of Kuwait

So What?

Calorie-restricted diets are effective in overweight type 2 diabetics, but ketogenic diets are even better.

The effectiveness and safety of ketogenic diets for overweight type 2 diabetics has been demonstrated in multiple other populations, so this study is not surprising.  We’ve seen these lipid improvements before, too.

The favorable lipid changes on low-carb ketogenic diets would tend to reduce future heart and vascular disease.

I know little about Kuwaiti culture and genetics.  Their contributions to the results here, as compared with other populations, is unclear to me.  Type 2 diabetes is spreading quickly through the Persian Gulf, so this research may have wide applicability there.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Hussain, Talib, et al.  Effect of low-calorie versus low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet in type 2 diabetes.  Nutrition, 2012; 28(10): 1016-21. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2012.01.016

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Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet Cures Metabolic Syndrome

The very-low-carb Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet cures metabolic syndrome, according to investigators at the University of Córdoba in Spain. 

The metabolic syndrome is a collection of clinical factors that are linked to high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Individual components of the syndrome include elevated blood sugar, high trigylcerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure,  and abdominal fat accumulation.

Spanish researchers put 26 people with metabolic syndrome on the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet for twelve weeks and monitored what happened.  At baseline, average age was 41 and average body mass index was 36.6.  Investigators didn’t say how many diabetics or prediabetics were included.  No participant was taking medication.

What’s the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet?

Calories are unlimited, but dieters are encouraged to keep carbohydrate  consumption under 30 grams day.  They eat fish, lean meat, eggs, chicken, cheese, green vegetables and salad, at least 30 ml (2 tbsp) daily of virgin olive oil,  and 200-400 ml of red wine daily ( a cup or 8 fluid ounces  equals 240 ml).  On at least four days of the week, the primary protein food is fish.  On those four days, you don’t eat meat, chicken, eggs, or cheese.  On up to three days a week, you could eat non-fish protein foods but no fish on those days. 

How’s this different from my Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet?  The major differences are that mine includes one ounce (28 g) of nuts daily, less fish overall, and you can mix fish and non-fish protein foods every day.

Regular exercisers were excluded from participation, and my sense is that exercise during the diet trial was discouraged. 

What Were the Results?

Metabolic syndrome resolved in all participants.

Three of the original 26 participants were dropped from analysis because they weren’t compliant with the diet.  Another one was lost to follow-up.  Final analysis was based on the 22 who completed the study.

Eight of the 22 participants had adverse effects.  These were considered slight and mostly appeared and  disappeared during the first week.  Effects included weakness, headache, constipation, “sickness”, diarrhea, and insomnia. 

Average weight dropped from 106 kg (233 lb) to 92 kg (202 lb).

Body mass index fell from 36.6 to 32.

Average fasting blood sugar fell from 119 mg/dl (6.6 mmol/l) to 92 mg/dl (5.1 mmol/l).

Triglycerides fell from 225 mg/dl to 110 mg/dl.

Average systolic blood pressure fell from 142 mmHg to 124.

Average diastolic blood pressure fell from 89 to 76.

So What?

A majority of people labeled with metabolic sydrome continue in metabolic sydrome for years.  That’s because they don’t do anything effective to counteract it.  These researchers show that it can be cured in 12 weeks, at least temporarily, with the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet.

ResearchBlogging.orgVery-low-carb diets are especially good at lowering trigylcerides, lowering blood sugar, and raising HDL cholesterol.  Overweight dieters tend to lose more weight, and more quickly, than on other diets.  Very-low-carb diets, therefore, should be particularly effective as an approach to metabolic syndrome.  It’s quite possible that other very-low-carb diets, such as Atkins Induction Phase, would have performed just as well as the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet.  In fact, most effective reduced-calorie weight-loss diets would tend to improve metabolic syndrome, even curing some cases, regardless of carb content

Most physicians recommend that people with metabolic syndrome either start or intensify an exercise program.  The program at hand worked without exercise.  I recommend regular exercise for postponing death and other reasons.

Will the dieters of this study still be cured of metabolic syndrome a year later?  Unlikely.  Most will go back to their old ways of eating, regaining the weight, and moving their blood sugars, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterols in the wrong direction.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Pérez-Guisado J, & Muñoz-Serrano A (2011). A Pilot Study of the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet: An Effective Therapy for the Metabolic Syndrome. Journal of medicinal food PMID: 21612461

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Dr. Jay Wortman Chooses Ketogenic Diet for His Type 2 Diabetes

 The Low Carb Diabetic blog posted a video of Dr. Jay Wortman discussing treatment of his own type 2 diabetes with a very-low-carb ketogenic diet.  Well worth a listen if you’re skeptical about whether it works.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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