Ketosis? What's That?
Our body needs energy to function. So where do we get it? We first get that energy from carbohydrates (carbs), which are then converted to glucose. But what if we stop eating carbs? Do we die? The answer is no. Our bodies are incredibly resilient and if our bodies no longer have carbs to turn to for energy, our bodies turn to fat for energy. Even the brain, which burns the most energy of any other organ at about 20%, can easily use fat instead of carbs to keep us functioning. Once you limit your carb intake for long enough your insulin levels drop, your body starts converting fat into Ketones in the liver, and you enter a metabolic state known as Ketosis.
The Ketogenic Diet.
This brings us to the Ketogenic Diet. Originally this diet was developed in 1924 by Russel Wilder who found that it was an effective treatment for epilepsy. Since then the diet has gained some traction for weight-loss. In general a Ketogenic diet is one that is high in fat, low in carbs, with a reasonable amount of protein. Generally, you want your intake to be about 70% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbs for a standard Ketogenic Diet. There are a lot of different ways to approach this kind of diet, some gradually reduce their carb intake over time to make it easier to start the diet, while others quit cold turkey. Regardless, the most important factor in a Ketogenic Diet is a restriction in carbohydrate intake and replacing that deficit with fat. It is important to not replace that deficit with protein as excess protein can be converted to glucose, inhibiting Ketosis.
So, why would anyone do such a thing? Yep, you guessed it weight-loss. Ketosis is a great way to lose weight and burn off that unwanted fat. BUT, it also has other benefits as well. There is evidence that supports that Ketogenic diets provide symptomatic and disease-modifying activity in a broad range of disorders ranging from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease to traumatic brain injury and stroke. (Gasior, Maciej, Michael A. Rogawski, and Adam L. Hartman. “Neuroprotective and Disease-Modifying Effects of the Ketogenic Diet.” Behavioural pharmacology 17.5-6 (2006): 431–439. Print.)