What is a Ketogenic Diet?

On a recent episode of the ABC program Bachelor in Paradise, cast member Blake E. revealed that he’s on a ketogenic diet. Many of Blake’s fellow cast members were left scratching their heads. What exactly is a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet is an eating pattern low in carbohydrates and high in fat. This eating pattern causes the body to produce ketones, which in turn causes the body to use stored fat rather than glucose in the blood for energy. When the body reaches this state of using stored fat for fuel, this is known as “ketosis.” It usually takes an adult about 3-4 days of eating a ketogenic diet to reach this state of ketosis.

Ketogenic diets are similar to the Atkins Diet. People on this diet get most of their calories from protein- and fat-rich foods. They generally avoid foods with simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, regular sodas, sweets, and bread without whole grains. The goal is to eat fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day. Ketonic diets are often used for weight loss.

People on ketogenic diets often lose weight, especially during the first 3-6 months of the new eating plan. This weight loss often happens more rapidly than weight loss on other kinds of weight-loss eating plans, perhaps because the body burns more calories converting fat to energy than it does using carbs for the same purpose. It may also be the case that people eating a high-protein, high-fat diet feel more satisfied than those on low-calorie diets, prompting them to eat less overall.

In many people, eating a ketogenic diet will lower the individual’s “bad” cholesterol while raising the “good” cholesterol. Again, this is similar to the effects of the Atkins Diet. These diets are thought to prompt the body to produce less of its own cholesterol. High “bad” cholesterol is correlated with such health concerns as hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, and heart problems. Some people find they are less likely to have acne breakouts when they eat a ketogenic diet.

The ketogenic diet has been tested as a treatment for several health conditions, including epilepsy in children and Alzheimer’s disease. It has even been suggested that routinely achieving a state of ketosis puts the body at a lower risk for cancer. Research on using ketogenic diets for the treatment of epilepsy have been especially promising, although more research is still needed.

Before starting a ketogenic diet, talk with your doctor or health care provider. Those with Type 1 diabetes need to be especially careful of eating a ketogenic diet because of the risk of their blood sugar becoming dangerously low.

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