Preventing Chronic Disease with a Ketogenic Diet

March 18, 2019

 

 

We’ve all heard the saying “You are what you eat”, but many of us might not realize just how true this saying really is.

We hear more and more the staggering statistics about the poor health of people worldwide.  Over half the population is overweight or obese, 3 out of 4 people over age 75 at risk of prediabetes or diabetes, and over 44% of Canadian adults over the age of 20 have some sort of chronic disease (asthma, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, etc)

We’ve also all heard similar warnings: Drinking 1 daily serving of soda or juice can result in accelerated shrinking and aging of brain (affecting memory) Drinking pop 3 times a day, accelerates aging by 13 years! Consuming highly processed (ie- fries, chicken nuggets, commercially prepared cakes, etc) increases the rate of developing cancer by 10%, or that drinking a glass of wine every night can cause weight gain of 15lbs per year…

The good news is that proper nutrition can help prevent or heal many of these health issues. For example, studies show people who eat Mediterranean diet live on average 4 years longer than the general population. There’s definitely ways to improve your health via diet, and this post explores the ways in which diet can help with preventing one of the most devastating chronic diseases we all fear…

 

Alzheimer’s Disease

 

Some cutting-edge research has been done lately on the effects of a Ketogenic diet and its impact on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

For many years scientists and doctors have been trying to find the cause of Alzheimer’s, a complicated disease of the brain that causes dementia, deterioration of many bodily functions, and an early onset of death.  Scientists know that Alzheimer’s is caused by plaques in the brain that many drug companies have been trying to find a drug to dissolve.

Recently, it has been discovered that Alzheimer’s is a type of “diabetes” of the brain.  Diabetes (in the general sense) means that insulin, which is required to transfer glucose into our cells to use for energy, no longer works properly. Insulin resistance and deficiency occurs in certain areas of the brains, often starting in a specific area and then spreads until it becomes very severe and widespread.

Since glucose doesn’t get into the cells in Alzheimer’s patients, brain cells are starving and can’t carry out their functions due to insulin resistance, creating a host of problems and complications. This is why people with diabetes and Alzheimer’s see so many issues over time with many different aspects of their physiology.

 

Food is Fuel, Literally

 

 

Our brains are amazing organs. They make up only 2% of body weight but use about 25% of our calories, making them an extremely super high functioning and active organ that we should do our best to nourish and protect.

We need to make ATP to carry out the functions of every cell in our body. In order to create ATP a fuel is required. Typically glucose (sugar) is the predominant fuel for all body cells, including brain cells, however with Alzheimer’s patients there is trouble getting glucose into cells (due to insulin resistance), so cells don’t have fuel they need to make ATP  (which creates the energy we need for our cells to communicate and function).

 

The Ketogenic Diet

 

Ketogenic diets are not only low carb, but high fat. Typically on a Keto diet there should be under 30grams of carbs and high quantities of fat consumed each day. There are different “levels” of Keto, (some classic Keto diet followers eat under 20 grams of carbs per day, with nearly 90% of their daily calories coming from fats, whereas more relaxed approaches allow for under 40-50grams of carbs per day and at least 60 grams of fat)  where you want to fall on the spectrum depends what your goals are. The more “extreme” versions of a Keto diet provide higher levels of ketones in your bloodstream.

Ketones are an alternative fuel for the brain, which can bypass the “block” that is seen in diabetic or Alzheimer’s patients. Since ketones don’t require insulin to get into our cells, they can bypass the block and thus get into cells as fuel to create ATP to allow our cells and bodies to function and thrive.

Fun fact: Our brains can switch instantly from using glucose to ketones. Ketones can drop blood sugar and lower insulin levels to normal range over approximately 18 months. One can go into remission of diabetes even after just 2-3 weeks by adhering to a ketogenic diet.

 

MCT and Coconut Oil for the Win

 

 

So how does one switch from using glucose to ketones as our primary source of fuel? It’s all about diet! Reducing sugars and carbs is key (your body can’t use glucose if it’s not being consumed in your diet), but adding plenty of healthy fats is what will make all the difference and allow the conversion of fatty acids into ketones.

MCT oil (medium chain triglyceride) converts to ketones in the liver. This oil is found in coconut and palm oil specifically. Amongst its many other benefits, Coconut oil is also anti-microbial. It contains Lauric acid, which kills bacteria (Scientists believe that certain microorganisms may also be involved in Alzheimer’s), and it also stimulates ketone production, making it a true powerhouse for healthy brain function and diabetes prevention. Yes, Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, but 70%  of it is MCT fat, which gets used up right away as ketones or fuel, and doesn’t “clog arteries” as many nay-sayers like to point out.

So how much should you add into your diet? Start gradually with ½ teaspoon 2-3 times a day of MCT or coconut oil into your diet, and eventually try to get 3-5 tablespoons throughout the day. Don’t consume too much too quickly since can cause some intestinal problems, but when done slow and steadily, you’ll definitely win the race.

 

Some other Chronic Diseases that may Benefit from a Keto Diet:

 

Alzheimer’s disease and Diabetes are certainly not the only chronic diseases that MCT oil or a Ketogenic diet can help.

Cancer cells love glucose and feed off sugar, thus eliminating sugar from your diet may help prevent cancer cells from growing.

Ketogenic diets have been shown to reduce seizures in epileptic patients, and in fact, reports of patients experiencing 100+ seizures a day and following a strict keto diet, helped to eliminate nearly all seizures.

Parkinson’s Disease affects a different area of the brain than Alzheimer’s, but there is similarity in that there is also decreased glucose uptake where the brain makes dopamine. Parkinson’s patients experience tremors, trouble talking, and may eventually develop dementia. There is a problem of glucose getting into cells, but ketones are also able to bypass this block and be taken up as energy by the brain. Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, Autism, Bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia, all are chronic diseases where the brain is unable to use glucose normally, but ketones can bypass this in order to be used as fuel for the brain’s cells.

Our brains and bodies are extremely complex and fascinating organs. Scientists are constantly looking for new answers and methods to find out the causes and cures of the diseases and ailments that affect our population, and every year new exciting research is being discovered. However, one thing remains the same, even during ancient times before modern medicine, these wise individuals knew that our diets hold the answer.

 

“Let Food be thy Medicine, and Medicine be thy Food” – Hippocrates

 

Truer words may have never been spoken!

 

 

 

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