You've probably seen influencers praising the benefits of the ketogenic diet on social media, and celebrities sharing their weight loss stories after going keto. But the ketogenic (keto) diet has been around since the 1920s. Dr. Russel Wilder was the first person to use the keto diet as a way to treat epilepsy seizures in children at the Mayo Clinic, and he coined the term for this low-carb and high-fat eating plan.
Today, most people hear about the keto diet because of its other benefits, like body fat loss and better heart health. By focusing on low-carb foods and fats, you can go keto and enjoy these health benefits.
1. Helps Body Fat Loss
One of the most popular reasons for going keto is to lose fat, and there's a lot of research that backs this up. The keto diet helps decrease appetite, so you're less likely to overeat and pack on more pounds. It actually lowers hormones like insulin and ghrelin that stimulate your appetite. Feeling hungry is one of the main reasons why so many other diets fail, but the ketogenic meal plan keeps you full, so it reduces cravings.
A study from the British Journal of Nutrition found that following a very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet led to more fat loss than following a low-fat diet, and researchers believe that keto may help fight obesity. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health points out that the keto diet forces your body to work harder and burn more calories as your metabolism converts protein and fat into energy.
2. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
The keto diet decreases insulin and blood sugar levels. A carbohydrate-restricted diet used to be one of the main ways to control diabetes before modern medications became available. The connection is simple: Carbs raise blood glucose levels, so going keto lowers them because it's a low-carb plan.
When researchers compared the ketogenic diet with the low-glycemic index diet in patients who had type 2 diabetes, they learned that those on the keto plan had lower glucose levels and lower body weight. Moreover, after six months on the keto diet, 95 percent of the patients decreased or even eliminated their diabetes medications.
3. Benefits the Brain
Research shows that the keto diet benefits the brain. For instance, people with Alzheimer's disease have problems using carbs as energy for their brains, so their cognitive function starts to decline. But a study found patients with Alzheimer's may be able to use ketones instead. Another study showed that the keto diet enhances memory in those who have age-related memory problems.
The keto diet is also used as a treatment for children and adults who have drug-resistant epilepsy, which is a brain disorder. A study published in The Lancet Neurology found that children who experienced daily seizures between the ages of 2 and 16 years old saw a significant reduction in their symptoms after three months on the keto diet. Compared to a control group, the children on the keto diet had 75% fewer seizures. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, both adults and kids can benefit from the keto diet if they have uncontrolled seizures.
4. Helps Fight Cancer
Recent research has shown that the ketogenic diet may be a helpful part of cancer treatment therapy by preventing tumor progression. The keto diet may also prevent cancer cachexia, also known as wasting syndrome (weight loss and muscle loss), that many cancer patients experience. The high-fat content in the keto diet nourishes cancer patients.
Another factor impacting cancer is the insulin hormone which can promote cell growth, including cancerous cells. So, lowering insulin through the keto diet appears to slow down cancer progression. In fact, cancer cells consume more glucose than normal cells, but they aren't able to use ketones for energy. Additionally, ketones seem to be able to suppress the growth of tumor cells.
5. Improves Heart Health
The keto diet improved high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels in one study. HDLs are the good type of cholesterol that you want more of in the body. At the same time, this diet helps reduce low density lipoprotein (LDL) levels that aren't good for your heart. The ketogenic diet is also able to lower triglyceride levels, which is another benefit.
When discussing heart health, it's important to consider the impact that obesity and type 2 diabetes have on the cardiovascular system. Both obesity and diabetes can increase inflammation in the body and the risk of heart attacks, stroke and heart disease. However, the keto diet helps people lose fat, so they avoid or eliminate obesity. In addition, the keto diet helps lower blood sugar levels and fights diabetes. Both of these diet features benefit the heart.
Consider Switching to a Keto Diet
From helping you lose body fat to improving your heart health, the keto diet has many benefits. Research has shown that this diet can decrease appetite, lower blood sugar levels, treat seizures, fight cancer and lower bad cholesterol. Consider switching to the keto plan to experience the advantages yourself.
Lana Bandoim is a freelance writer and editor. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and chemistry and more than a decade of writing experience. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Yahoo News, Business Insider, Lifescript, Healthline and many other publications.