What is Ketogenic Diet?

After going through a lot of so called keto diet experts, I have realised that most of them have no idea what exactly is the aim of keto diet and how is that achieved.

Which is actually normal and fine, as they’re mostly non-doctors or non-medical professionals, and we don’t expect them to know what’s going on inside the body.

What is the origin of Keto Diet?

The concept of keto diet existed among medical professionals for ages. We just didn’t call it keto diet. We had different names for it, and different versions for it. Every medical professional or group of doctors would prefer one type of diet and discard the other.

For example I personally don’t endorse or suggest the classic keto diet which is recommended by non medical professionals. I support more of a custom version, which is technically not a classic keto diet. But as it achieves the real objective of the keto diet, that’s why we can list it under the ketogenic diet category.

What is the aim of Ketogenic Diet?

Keto diet mainly aims at two things:

  1. Putting the body metabolism into ketosis mode
  2. Reducing the release of Insulin to minimum

Why are they important? Well they are, especially the release of insulin.

What is the role of insulin in our body?

Insulin has one simple task, it takes out nutrition (carbohydrates / glucose) in the blood and puts it inside cells and tissues.

However when the sugar level is too high, or the supply is continuous and abundant, it leads to more insulin release and thus more glucose influx into muscles, liver and other cells.

What happens when there is surplus glucose and insulin?

So practically speaking, insulin pushes glucose inside the cells. But now imagine what would happen if the cell doesn’t need that much energy and glucose? It will try to do two things:

  1. It will being developing insulin resistance. Means it will do some changes to it’s cell membrane, which will lead to less affect of insulin on that cell and tissue, thus less glucose will go inside that cell
  2. It will signal the body (and itself) that the energy is surplus, so start converting it to fat and save it for a later stage

This is where the problem begins. So technically, insulin is a major cause of fat production in the body. If there is low insulin, then there will be less fat production in the body, and thus we will be covered from one side, that our body will atleast be not producing more fat.

How lack of insulin triggers ketosis?

If the body lacks carbohydrates in diet, then insulin release is minimum, and thus body looks for other sources of energy from diet such as proteins and fats.

However the cycle of metabolism of fats and proteins is different from that of carbohydrates. Although they do get converted to one another in some complex cycles, but we will ignore that part for simplicity here.

So body then starts using fats and proteins (both, but mostly fats if they are available in abundance) and the end product of the fat metabolism is ketone bodies, hence the term ketosis and the diet which leads to it is thus called ketogenic diet (ketones producing diet).

Is ketosis harmful?

Yes. Ketosis and presence of ketone bodies in body is harmful beyond a certain level. This is why I mentioned in the beginning that most of the non medical professionals who talk about keto diet don’t understand how ketosis works and what are the disadvantages of it.

We need to keep a balance of ketones in our body when we are in ketosis mode. Beyond a certain limit, it’s very harmful and can be fatal too to some individuals.

Also due to this reason, me and other doctors like me don’t recommend the classic keto diet which is promoted by non-doctors. I prefer to prescribe a customized version of diet which seems similar to keto diet but has a different touch to it, to prevent harmful affects of high ketone bodies in the body.

Is Atkins diet Ketogenic diet?

If you’re old enough, you might have seen the Dr Atkins diet. It achieved a similar objective of putting body in ketosis and reducing the insulin release. However it was not doing it in the same way as classic keto diet does.

So if we talk about gross mechanism, it might seem same, however there is a subtle difference.

Classic keto diet focuses on reducing the release of as much insulin as possible from the body, while atkins diet aims at ketosis only, but don’t be fooled, it did care about the practical affects of insulin too, but that’s slightly complex to share here as it will become an endocrinology lesson instead. So we will keep it for some other post.

What is the ideal way to do keto diet?

Ideal way is to talk to a qualified medical physician who understands keto diet and how your body works. Discuss your case with your doctor and see what best and balanced options do you have to reduce your diet using the ketogenic method and provide you with a customised keto diet plan. You can contact us for appointment on our facebook page or by commenting on this blog with your email id and we will get back to your.

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