After reading about 42 articles on the subject, the short answer is, yes.
The question for me is more, is it natural?
Would we have done this 150 years ago? 2,000 years ago? Sure.
It's not a crazy new phenomenon, now it just has a label and with a deeper understanding of the body's processes we can use them to accomplish our objectives, such as losing weight or finding deeper mental clarity and focus.
Oh right so what is it? :)
Most of our bodies are accustomed to running on carbohydrates, and sugar (both convert to glucose that is used for energy. Ketosis happens when you use fat as a fuel source (thus producing ketones) instead of glucose. The liver breaks down the fat, and releases ketones into the blood to be used by the brain and other organs to produce energy. It's considered a new way of eating based on the premise that most people default to using only carbohydrates for fuel. Glucose is also the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy so that will always be chosen whenever it is present. To switch from that default mode, you have to extremely limit carbohydrates and sugar to as little as 20% of the diet, forcing your body to use fat for fuel instead. So this process is like the switch.
Our bodies are so versatile and adaptable! Being able to process either glucose or fat for two different energy sources is a survival adaptation similar to being omnivorous. Whether one source of energy is ALWAYS more efficient I do not know for sure but there are definite benefits to being in ketosis from time to time, to achieve a weight loss goal, heal disease, and achieve higher mental focus. Sometimes when we adapt to use a less-ideal food source that is easier to process as energy that starts to cause a more unnatural response or addictive behavior toward that fuel source.
From Mark's Daily Apple:
"I’m not surprised by any of this. For most of human history, a regular person would be regularly exposed to ketosis. Mostly light and transient, sometimes more protracted. But they were never far from a mildly ketogenic state for many reasons.
- Occasional fasting (the tribe going hungry, the hunter coming up short, the free range pre-1990s child being out all day and forgetting to eat): Full-blown ketosis
- More meals, less snacking: Light ketosis in between meals, assuming fat-adaptation.
- More structured meal times, less eating late at night: More nighttime ketosis.
- Long breastfeeding: Breastfed infants are in a mild state of ketosis (this is different from being on a very low carb diet, which babies are not!).
This was “enough” to keep things in check and, likely, hold off neurodegeneration. Most of us are only learning about ketosis after a half or quarter lifetime of standard Western eating patterns. We’ve been snacking, overweight, unable-to-skip-a-meal sugar-burners, and we probably need a stronger intervention. That’s where ketones, ketogenic diets, and fasting come in."
From Men's Fitness:
"But brain diseases aren’t the only illnesses doctors are beginning to think are metabolic rather than purely genetic in origin. Many common types of cancer— esophageal, pancreatic, colon, kidney, thyroid—are associated with obesity and diabetes, and D’Agostino believes he’s on the path to understanding why.
Cancer cells thrive in high-sugar environments because they rely on glycogen (sugar burned for energy) to survive; type-2 diabetes, especially, provides potential cancer cells with a high-sugar environment. (Interestingly, PET scans detect cancer by finding areas in the body with excess glucose compared with normal tissues.) This suggests not only that glycogen may contribute to cancer, but also that it may be cancer’s Achilles’ heel: If cancer cells become compromised when their host is in a ketogenic state, the body’s own immune responses may be able to effectively fight the disease.
“We think the majority of cancers could be metabolically managed through nutritional ketosis, either as a stand-alone pill or an adjunct to standard care,” says D’Agostino, who has published research showing that ketogenic diets can double the lifespan of mice with metastatic cancers. For a more emphatic take: Leading Boston College cancer researcher Thomas Seyfried, M.D., believes that a ketogenic diet is therapeutically even more valuable in fighting cancer than chemo.
Ketones as an alternative fuel are also under study at USF in the lab under the direction of Dominic D’Agostino, Ph.D. for the treatment of cancer, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), wound healing, oxygen toxicity, epilepsy, and status epilepticus, using ketogenic diets that contain medium chain triglycerides and also ketone esters. The cancer studies are looking at combinations of ketogenic diets with hyperbaric oxygen and glucose lowering substances to further enhance the effect on killing cancer cells, which thrive on glucose but cannot use ketones while preserving normal cells. Results of several of these studies have now been published and others are forthcoming."
It seems unhealthy and Atkins-y to make such an extreme switch. Anything to the extreme can begin to have other negative effects if not done properly. You do not have to resort to living off meat, cheese, and eggs (which are highly acidic and also feed cancer cell growth -- also a diet like this would wreak havoc on your cholesterol!) to achieve this state.
This is great news for avocados, almond butter, coconut oil, nuts and seeds (I have a lot to say about raw seeds -- they are the compressed version of an entire plant meaning they are LOADED with vital nutrients!). There are tons of low-carb vegetables and fruits, and I would never recommend completely removing any natural food, yes even fruit, from your diet permanently, just applying knowledge about each food to your given situation. If you would like direct help applying these principles to your diet, I am happy to help you from a completely holistic, naturopathic perspective keeping in mind any of your goals, restrictions or preferences to make a plan that works for YOU. Contact me for a free consultation (month of April only please!).
As far as brain health goes, the following is taken from "What If There was a Cure for Alzheimer's Disease and No One Knew? A Case Study by Dr. Mary Newport."
"The best diet for the brain isn't necessarily the typical high-carb, low-fat diet recommended by weight loss gurus and fashion magazines. It's a therapeutic diet low in carbohydrate, rich in healthy fats, and nutritionally balanced to enhance brain health.
Combining coconut ketones with a proper diet can stop Alzheimer's dead in its tracks and bring about substantial improvement. This program is designed to provide the brain with all the nutrients necessary to quiet chronic inflammation, stop free-radical destruction, energize the brain cells, and stimulate repair and growth of new brain cells; thus allowing the brain to heal itself."
I first learned about ketosis through Francisco Calero, aka "The KetoLife Coach" who says he was dependent on adderal to function through life until he learned about this lifestyle and also started supplementing with Ketone supplements. I am not too sure about recreating this process and not doing it the natural way, but I do agree that sometimes experiencing the quick fix effects can provide motivation to follow through on the plan and build into the diet slowly without experiencing so much of the pain and suffering of the lifestyle change -- there is a bit of a deprivation stage when you go all in, before you are keto-adapted. ("After a few weeks of reducing carbs, and ultimately insulin production, and increasing the fat in your diet, your genes will receive the message that they should up-regulate the biochemical hardware needed to burn ketones effectively. This is called keto-adapted. At this point the body relies primarily on fat for energy instead of glucose, which is called fat-adapted." -- From holistichelp.net)
4 ways to induce ketosis:
Increasing Fat in the Diet (Try KetoProof Coffee, recipe below)
Short-term Fasting (16 hours)
Start to make the shift to a Keto Diet for a week and see what happens! (Based on the Keto Calculator I am supposed to intake about 90 G FAT 60 G PROTEIN 20 G CARBS per day)
PruvIt Ketones Supplement (The Max formula is completely clean and also comes in caffeine free).
I have to run and will update this post later with MORE info, and a list of healthy fat sources.
As I experiment with my vegetarian version of this diet, I will update you with my meal plans that are working!
Oh but first your Keto Coffee Recipe!
Coconut Oil or MCT Oil – Coconut oil technically is MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride) oil, well about 65-80% MCT anyway. MCT oil is just more concentrated than coconut oil, but both have been shown to aid in fat loss. I use coconut oil because, to me, it gives it a nice taste and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper where I live!
Grass Fed Butter – Cows that have a diet of fresh grass yields butter that has improved consistency and nutritional properties. The increase of fresh grass in the diet proportionally increases the amount of fat content, specifically unsaturated fats, which gives a pleasant firmness. The nutritional quality also increases, it’s loaded with Vitamin K2 and Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
Immersion Blender – Go on and try to mix this up with a fork, you’ll be sitting there for 20 minutes and having terrible results. Oil doesn’t mix with water unless you give it some help. You need a blender to be able to force these 2 liquids together, giving you a finished look like a latte – foamy on the top.
Blend it UP!!
- 2 Cups Coffee
- 2 Tbsp. Grass Fed Unsalted Butter (kindly! just leave if out if you are vegan)
- 2 Tbsp. Organic Coconut Oil (or MCT oil)
- 1 Tbsp. Coconut Creamer (Optional)
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract (Optional)