The ketogenic diet has gained a lot of publicity in recent years, with many people claiming that it is one of the most efficient ways to burn fat. The premise of the diet is to eat a sufficient to high amount of protein, low carbs, and high amount of fats. Proponents of the diet say that, by eating a high amount of fats, the body becomes a more efficient fat burner as it learns to use fat as energy. Along to using the fat consumed to power through the day, proponents of the diet say that the body learns to use systemic (bodily) fat as energy. However, many people have begun to speak out against the diet because of some possible side effects of a high fat diet. After all - fats, or fatty acids, are acidic and too much fat consumption can bring the body into an overly acidic state, known as ketosis. What is the truth about the diet? Do the positives outweigh the possible negatives, or vice versa?
Under normal conditions, the human body uses carbohydrates as its main source of energy. However, proponents of the ketogenic diet contend that by limiting the amount of carbs consumed and replacing those lost calories with fats, the body becomes a more efficient fat burner, using both consumed fats and systemic fats as its primary energy source. When the body is inundated with fats, the liver begins to break down fats into fatty acids and ketone bodies, and these ketone bodies become the brain’s primary energy source, rather than glucose from the breakdown of carbs. According to a paper published in Behav Pharmacol, an increased bodily concentration of these ketone bodies can dramatically reduce the amount of seizures experienced by those with epilepsy, with some patients reducing seizure occurrence by up to 54%. So, along with turning the body into a more efficient fat burner, the ketogenic diet can even be a substantial, drug free way to treat certain diseases.
So what are the negatives, you might ask? Well, they can be extensive and quite serious, according to some opponents of the diet. Again, breakdown of fats by the liver creates an acidic environment in the body that can usually be offset by a balanced diet. However, consistent intake of a high amount of fats can lead to low pH, or high acidity levels in the body. This can lead to decreased bone density and an increased rate of muscle breakdown. One study found that a ketogenic diet accelerated neurodegeneration in the forebrains of mice – essentially, speeding up the breakdown of neurons in the mice’s brain. Another study found that a ketogenic diet caused in increase in the stiffness of arteries in adults and children who used the diet as a treatment for epilepsy. This may not sound serious, but arterial stiffness is a telltale sign of vascular damage later in life.
So, is the ketogenic diet everything it’s said to be? That's up to you to decide. While it may be beneficial in the short term for both fat loss and the treatment of certain diseases, it can cause damage to multiple bodily systems if used long term.
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