The human body is an exquisite machine. During fasting, or when consuming a very low-carbohydrate diet, the body ramps up its production of special molecules called ketones to provide an alternate fuel source. Research is showing that ketones might also be the key to better long-term health.
WHAT IS KETOSIS?
When we fast or consume fewer carbohydrates, the body shifts to a different type of metabolism, using fat stores instead. The liver shifts and breaks down and converts fat to produce greater levels of ketones or “ketone bodies.”
Compounds produced by the liver when the body’s primary fuel sources are in short supply. This “backup” fuel can help power the body when needed.
HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE KETOSIS?
You have generally reached a state of ketosis if your ketones rise up to around 0.5 millimoles/liter or above. Fasting, intermittent fasting, and following a low-carb, high-fat diet, like the ketogenic diet, can all starve the body of glucose and trigger ketosis.
You are considered to be in ketosis when ketone levels in the blood are elevated.
Consuming ketone esters can also trigger ketosis. Ketone esters are synthetic nutritional supplements that can induce ketosis by raising blood ketones without the hard work of following a diet.
WHAT IS A KETOGENIC DIET?
If you want to trigger ketosis, your daily energy intake should be 60-80% fat, 10% or more of protein, and a small amount of carbohydrates. The traditional keto diet focuses on eating animal-based foods like meats, fish, eggs, dairy, and butter along with some plant-based foods such as olives, avocados, oils, and non-starchy vegetables.
But you might also want to consider a plant-based version of the keto diet that is high in avocados, coconut, olives, nuts, and seeds as this version may have more beneficial effects such as lower saturated fats and higher potassium. Whole plant foods contain health-boosting phytochemicals and fiber, as well as a higher proportion of unsaturated fats.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF A KETO DIET
Ketones can help reduce your appetite, meaning you can reduce your calorie intake and still feel full. Not only can this help with weight loss but the high-fat, low-carb, and moderate protein diet can mean less insulin is released, which is generally good for your metabolism. A low-carb intake means that your blood glucose stays steady, which can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Other studies have found that ketones may be beneficial in cognitive health.
The keto diet can also lower triglyceride levels in the blood, the fats from the foods that we eat which stay in our blood, But a high saturated fat intake means that LDL cholesterol levels can also rise. LDL, also dubbed as “bad” cholesterol, collects in the walls of your blood vessels and can lead to heart disease. And while a ketogenic diet can be useful in keeping blood glucose levels low, some research shows that insulin resistance may worsen over time, although improvements in insulin sensitivity have been shown as well.
KETONES AND IMPROVED LONGEVITY
Fasting has been shown to increase lifespan in animal research models since fasting can trigger autophagy, the process in the body when cells discard damaged parts to repair cells and tissues. Autophagy may also contribute to rejuvenating tissues in a way that slows aging. While we need more studies to determine whether ketosis will increase lifespan in humans, researchers already believe there are many potential positive effects of the metabolic state of ketosis.
IS KETOSIS SAFE?
Some health experts and researchers worry about the potential negative effects of ketosis when it’s achieved through a very high-fat ketogenic diet. It might be that a plant-based form of the ketogenic diet or consuming exogenous ketone supplements can decrease some of the downsides of the traditional keto diet. There is so much more to learn about ketones and ketosis, but the future looks promising.