There are many benefits of the keto diet but one area where it really shines is in how it improves your metabolism. By shifting the body from a state of glycolysis (where it runs on blood glucose) to ketosis (where it runs on fat), you can transform how your body uses energy. This pays off in several ways:
It is easier to lose body fat and keep it off long-term.
It improves insulin sensitivity and makes it possible to overcome diabetes.
It lowers inflammation, giving you an anti-aging effect so that you stay young and healthy.
Let’s look at each of these benefits in turn:
Reduce Insulin & Lower Diabetes Risk: Although a high-carb diet does not cause diabetes, removing carbs is a powerful treatment for reversing insulin resistance and studies show it can be used to overcome type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when cells become resistant to insulin. Remember that insulin is a hormone that works like a key, binding with cell receptors to allow glucose that is circulating in the blood to enter into cells to be used for energy. As cells become resistant to insulin, glucose levels rise, triggering the pancreas to release more insulin to regulate blood glucose. In later stages of the disease, insulin secretion may become impaired and insulin injections or medications are necessary.
For type 2 diabetics, a ketogenic diet can help manage the condition and may allow you to get off medication. Because the ketogenic diet removes dietary carbs, it results in an automatic reduction in insulin as glucose levels go down. In as little as 2 weeks, a 2005 study of overweight diabetics found that a keto diet normalized glucose levels and increased insulin sensitivity by 75 percent.
Over the longer term, metabolic function improves, and in some cases, insulin sensitivity of tissues can be restored, allowing keto followers to go medication-free. For example, a 2008 study found that a 6-month ketogenic diet allowed type 2 diabetics to lose 11 kg of body weight and improve A1C levels by 1.5 percent. Ninety-five percent of the participants were able to reduce or eliminate their diabetes medication.
Lose Excess Body Fat: Changing your body is never easy. The happy news is that by shifting your body into ketosis, you eliminate many of the miseries that accompany low-calorie diets.
For example, diets high in fat and low in carbs blunt hunger, leading people to automatically eat fewer calories. This renders calorie counting and restriction unnecessary when trying to lose body fat.
Another benefit is that keto diets may help preserve metabolic rate when losing fat. Any time you lose weight, as much as 60 percent of the weight lost is from lean mass. Scientists theorize that ketosis has a protein-sparing effect and less muscle is lost during weight loss. This is important because using muscle for energy reduces metabolic rate and strength.
Keto diets are also advantageous because they may shift your emotional relationship with food. Foods high in carbohydrates, especially processed carbs, stimulate reward centers in the brain so that you crave these foods even when your body does not need additional calories. Eating carbs gives you a hit of dopamine—the neurotransmitter that plays a role in motivation and reward-oriented behavior—making you want more. The pattern becomes unconscious, making it easy to overshoot calorie needs so that you pack on pounds.
Of course, keto diets also ratchet up fat burning, allowing your body to access fat stores for energy as blood glucose and insulin levels drop. This is critical because it means that your body is metabolically flexible and you are no longer a slave to eating carbohydrates to sustain energy levels.
Improve Longevity/Slow Aging: As people get older, many accept weight gain and physical degeneration as part of aging. When you eat a large portion of your diet from refined carbs and sugar, it is true that gaining a few pounds a year is inevitable. Combined with a lack of physical activity, this dietary profile encourages a rapid and precipitous decline into disease.
Additionally, the high blood sugar levels that are associated with a higher carb intake encourage the body to produce complex proteins fittingly called AGEs (an acronym for advanced glycation end products). In simple terms, glycation is browning, such as the yellowing that occurs when you cut an apple in half and let it sit. In this case, the injured plant tissue is exposed to oxygen, which reacts with the amino acids in the apple to cause oxidation and a change in color.
Glycated proteins act like free radicals, circulating in the body and damaging cells and DNA. They interfere with cell function, accumulate in the skin, causing wrinkles, and damage blood vessels. AGEs are also implicated in the development of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and metabolic syndrome.
Ketogenic diets can be protective by lowering insulin and reducing oxidative stress and the production of AGEs that damage skin and other tissues. Preserving lean mass and minimizing the fat gain that coincides with reduced activity levels also has a youth-preserving effect.
The keto diet fundamentally changes your metabolism, shifting it to be able to burn body fat for energy.
The keto diet leads to a drop in insulin levels, making it a great tool for managing, and in some cases, overcoming diabetes.
The keto diet is useful for fat loss because it has an appetite-dampening affect while sparing lean mass and maintaining metabolic rate.
Because the keto diet lowers insulin and blood glucose levels it can reduce age-related fat gain and slow aging of the skin and other tissues in the body.
If you want tips for starting a keto diet, check out our new book, The Keto Diet Handbook that provides everything you need including recipes and strategies for getting through the difficult keto adaptation period.
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