Is Ketogenic Dieting For You?

Many benefits come with being on a ketogenic diet, including the reduction of developing cancers, but there are side effects.

A research article titled A Ketogenic Diet Extends Longevity and Healthspan in Adult Mice was published in Cell Metabolism ,(2017;26 (3):  539 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2017.08.005) studies the various beneficial concepts of a high protein, low carb food plan. Dr. John Ramsey with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine found that a high fat diet makes mice live longer. He has found that a high fat, or ketogenic diet not only increases longevity but also improves physical strength. Many bodybuilders follow this type of plan.

Dr. Ramsey who is the senior author of the September 2017 paper said, “We expected some differences, but I was impressed by the magnitude we observed – a 13 percent increase in median life span for the mice on a high fat vs high carb diet. In humans, that would be seven to ten years. But equally important, those mice retained quality of health in later life.”

Ramsey has spent the past 20 years looking at the mechanics that lead to aging, a contributing factor to most major diseases that impact rodents and humans alike. While calorie restriction has been shown in several studies to slow aging in many animals. Ramsey was interested in how a high fat diet may impact the aging processes.

Ketogenic diets have gained popularity for a variety of health benefit claims, but scientists are still testing the theory as to what happens during ketosis when carbohydrate intake is so low that the body shifts from using glucose as the main fuel source to fat burning and producing ketones for energy.

“We designed the diet not to focus on weight loss, but to look at metabolism.” Ramsey said. “What does that do to aging?”

In addition to significantly increasing the median life span of mice in the study, the ketogenic diet increased memory and motor function (strength and coordination), and prevented an increase in age-related markers of inflammation. It had an impact on the incidence of tumors as well.

“In this case, many of the things we’re looking at aren’t much different from humans,” Ramsey said. “At a fundamental level, humans follow similar changes and experience a decrease in overall function of organs during aging. This study indicates that a ketogenic diet can have a major impact on life and health span without major weight loss or restriction of intake. It also opens a new avenue for possible dietary interventions that have an impact on aging.”

A companion study published by the Buck Institute on Aging in the same issue of Cell Metabolism shows that a ketogenic diet extends longevity and improves memory in aging mice.

While there are many good results of a ketogenic diet plan there are side effects. Like any significant change to your diet, when starting a ketogenic diet, it is normal to experience one or more side effects as the body adapts to a new way of eating.

When going on a ketogenic diet, the body has to switch its fuel source from the glucose in carbohydrates to using its own fat stores. This can lead to experiencing some of the following side effects.

LOSS OF SALTS – The changes in fluid balance can typically occur within the first couple of weeks of a ketogenic diet.

This happens as the body uses up its stored sugar (glycogen) which releases water into the blood  that gets passed out of the body through urine. As fluid is passed out of the body, salts in the body can get depleted too.

As a result, you experience a loss of fluid and salts as you move into and maintain ketosis.

Make sure you keep hydrated through the day. Water is the best drink for hydration but tea and coffee are also fine as long as they are not very milky.

Ensure you have enough salt as this can prevent side effects such as headaches and feeling a little dizzy and stomach upset. You are free to add sea salt to your food and can take salts by drinking vegetable or bone broths and bouillons too.

Potassium and magnesium are other important salts. As long as you are eating healthy, natural foods (such as nuts, meat, fish, dairy and a range of vegetables), you shouldn’t have a problem getting enough magnesium and potassium.

BRAIN FOG – Keto-adaption may result in some initial ‘brain fog’, but this will disappear once the body has fully adapted and some people feel sharper at this point.

It is estimated that keto-adaption takes around four weeks on average but the side effects themselves often disappear sooner.

During this time, and especially at the end of the first week, it is likely that you may feel some symptoms that are similar to the flue, such as: brain fog/slow thinking, dizziness, fatigue, racing heart rate when lying down, insomnia, cravings.

If you start a ketogenic plan start slow! Ease your body into the transitions. This will lessen the effects. Gradually lower carbohydrate intake over a few weeks.

CHANGES IN BOWEL HABITS – People going fully into a ketogenic plan can experience constipation. This is often the case with any major change in diet as the body’s own gut bacteria will need to adapt to handle different foods in different amounts.

Bowel habits should usually improve within a couple of weeks. If they don’t, it could be that you’re not getting enough fibre.

Drink plenty of water and consider increasing your fiber consumption of non-starchy fibrous vegetable, legumes, nuts and seeds, as these are all good low-carbohydrate sources of fiber. Also include probiotic supplement into your plan. Which will help the microbes in your gut balanced.

LEG CRAMPS – The development of muscle cramps is a possible side effect of a ketogenic diet. These cramps are typically benign in nature, but they can be bothersome. Causes for leg cramps while on a ketogenic diet is a condition called hyponatremia which occurs when the level of sodium (salt) in the blood is too low. This can be alleviated by the recommendation we gave above about keeping hydrated and having enough salt. Along with magnesium and potassium.

BAD BREATH – Sometimes referred to keto-breath, can sometimes occur as you enter the fat-burning state of ketosis.

Ketones can be released in the breath, s well as in the urine and sweat. Acetone is a form of ketones that when released on the breath may lead to a metallic taste in the mouth or a less-than-pleasant smelling breath.

This is usually temporary and will likely disappear after a few weeks without having to come out of ketosis by reintroducing carbs.

If bad breath is a problem, minty sugar-free gum or breath fresheners can help mask the smell. Another solution is to consider extra rigorous oral hygiene by brushing teeth and using mouthwash more frequently through the day. include brushing the tongue.