Nutritional ketosis is a metabolic pathway our bodies can use for energy and optimal health that is more safe and beneficial to us than using glucose as our main energy source.  A ketogenic diet is a high fat, very low carbohydrate diet. It shifts your metabolism and enzymes to use fat and ketones as fuel, rather than glucose. There have been many studies that show positive reinforcement that this is how our bodies are supposed to be fed. Things like grains, legumes and dairy have only been incorporated into our diet the last 8,000-10,000 years. This hasn’t allowed our bodies enough time to evolve and utilize them as a healthy energy source.   This is why some autoimmune diseases exist and is a major reason obesity and heart disease has been rapidly increasing in the last century.

    During the paleolithic era, 1.2 million -10,000 years ago, our ancestors were hunter-gatherers. They ate meat, fruit, vegetable, nuts and seeds. During different seasons, a lot of the time all they could live on was animal fat. A few scientists in the last century have followed and studied groups of people that still live as hunter-gatherers today. Vilhjlmur Stefansson, a Harvard trained anthropologist went into the Canadian arctic to study the Inuit people. He lived and studied with them for 10 years from 1915-1925 and conducted a study with their diets that contained all fat for 8 months of the year, he then claimed that “dietary carbohydrate is nutritionally superfluous in the context of a well-formulated low carbohydrate diet” (Phinny and Volek 14-15).  As a species, to survive during times of famine we are able to use ketones derived from fat as energy.

    There are essential amino acids (protein), there are essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6), but there is no essential carbohydrates. “We don’t ever have to eat any sugar or starch of any kind at all in order to be optimally healthy” (Gedgaudas 9).  Our body is able to produce glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. According to Dr. Michael King, “The production of glucose from other carbon skeletons is necessary since the testes, erythrocytes and kidney medulla exclusively utilize glucose for ATP production” (King, The liver uses fat molecules to make acetoacetate and hydroxybutyrate, the two compounds together are known as a ketone. Once keto-adapted, which takes a full 2 weeks, our brain prefers to function on ketones rather than glucose. The reason being is you don’t get that ‘carb crash’ or ‘brain fog’ because you literally have an endless supply of energy your body is creating for you.

    In the early 1990’s a big fad diet for losing weight was a high carbohydrate, low fat diet. Claiming fat made you fat. The government and FDA got behind this; they were getting paid millions to hype this up to the public. It didn’t matter if they had science and facts to back it up, because they didn’t. That’s when you began to see “fat free” everything. Isn’t it ironic that obesity and diabetes have become an increasing epidemic in the United States? I think not. “The largest most expensive study on the role of fat in the diet was the Woman’s Health Initiative, a randomized, controlled trail in which almost 50,000 postmenopausal women aged 50-79 were tracked for 8 years. Half were assigned to either a low fat diet that was high in grains and the other half was able to eat whatever they wanted. This experiment was nothing short of a major health disappointment. The low fat eating pattern revealed no significant effect on weight loss, or the incidence of heart disease, diabetes or cancer” (Phinney,Volek and Westman 279). There are many reasons a ketogenic diet works well for weight loss. First of all, there are 9 calories per gram of fat and only 4 calories per gram of carb. So 1 gram of fat is going to provide you with double the energy that a carb would, thus you don’t have to eat as much on a high fat diet. Secondly, when carbohydrates are eaten, your pancreas has to release insulin to deal with the glucose in order to process it in the body. Constantly raised insulin blocks the usage of fat and it will automatically get stored. So without eating sugars and starches your insulin will stay at a low level to let fat get used for energy. Controlling insulin levels is important for many other reasons one being type II diabetes. This is when your body stops reacting to insulin. This disease is a major health problem among Americans. Also, “avoiding wide excursions in blood sugar and insulin by burning predominantly fatty acids and ketones can lessen the ‘stress’ response to exercise” (Phinney and Volek 43). Stephen Phinney did an experiment with a group of overweight men. He randomly assigned half of the group to a low-fat diet and the other group to a low-carb diet. They all performed the same exercises. “The low-carb dieters lost significantly more body fat and showed greater decreases in blood insulin levels” (Phinney and Volek 25).

    If you are not looking to lose weight, but still want to achieve optimal health, the ketogenic diet is once again still your best option. “Metabolic syndrome is a collection of markers that amplifies your risk for heart disease, including high blood triglyceride level, low HDL cholesterol level, and elevated glucose and insulin levels” (Phinney, Volek and Westman 277). A high carbohydrate diet causes inflammation in the body. If glucose is constantly being consumed, your body never gets a chance to reduce its inflammation and over time ends up raising the C-reactive proteins. Raised C-reactive proteins are an indicator of the early signs of heart disease. According to the Center for disease control and prevention, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. “A series of low carbohydrate studies, show that improvement in metabolic syndrome is intimately connected with controlling carbohydrate consumption” (Feinaman and Volek 31). While being in ketosis, recovery for exercise is much faster than those on a glucose based diet. “Less metabolic stress, improved fuel flow and healthier membranes translates into faster recovery from exercise and less exercise induced inflammation, immunosuppression, gastro- intestinal distress, insulin resistance, muscle damage and soreness” (Phinney and Volek 43).

    A high fat diet, should you have to worry about cholesterol? The answer is simply no. Cholesterol is an important substance in our body. It’s essential for many different functions in our brain and development. The actual cholesterol number your doctor gives you is unimportant and almost useless. There has never been a direct correlation between total cholesterol count and coronary heart disease. The biggest thing you want to look for is the LDL particle size. “Within the category LDL, there is a continuum of sizes, and research shows that smaller LDL particles contribute more to plaque formation in arteries and are associated with a higher risk of heart disease. “Although low-fat diets tend to decrease total LDL concentration, they tend to increase the proportion of small particles, making them more dangerous” (Phinney, Volek, Westman 287). “Many studies reveal the fact that low cholesterol levels are actually much worse to have than higher ones” (Gedgaudes 79).

    Many people confuse dietary ketosis with ketoacidosis. These two things are as different as night and day. They are completely unrelated, their names are about the only things they have in common. Ketoacidosis is when ketone levels rise to dangerous levels in type I diabetics. This cannot happen while in nutritional ketosis.

    Another amazing thing a ketogenic diet is able to do is reduced or even cures seizures in epileptic children. In 1921, Dr. Wilder at the mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota discovered that a high fat, moderate protein and low carb diet mimicked the effects of starvation and this treatment became very popular. “In 1924, Dr. Peterman from the mayo clinic reported that the vast majority of children started on the ketogenic diet, 83%, were significantly better, with 60% completely seizure-free” (Phinney and Volek 250).  Although there is medication for epilepsy now, the ketogenic diet still remains a safe helpful treatment for these patients. It’s being used in 60 different countries around the world that have multiple ketogenic centers.

    It takes a full 2 weeks to start becoming keto-adapted and seeing and feeling results, but it can take up to 6 months for the full adaptation to occur with all of the enzymes and metabolic functions to transfer from using glucose to fat for fuel. It’s recommended to take in 70-80% fat, 20-25% protein and 5-10%carbs. There are many positive benefits of fueling our body this way, with virtually no researched negative effects to speak of. This is a safe and effective way to live life to the fullest. 


Feinman, R.D, and Jeff S. Volek. Carbohydrate restriction improves the features of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome may be defined by the response to carbohydrate restriction. Nutrition and Metabolism. London. 2005. 31

Gedgaudas, Nora. Primal Body, Primal Mind. Rochester,Vermont: Healing Art Press, 2009. Print.

King, Michael D. Gluconeogenesis: glucose synthesis. Thebiochemistrypage. Feb 8 2013. Website. Feb.11 2013.< http: href?>

“>“Leading causes of death”. Center for disease control and prevention. Jan 11, 2013. Website. Feb. 11 2013. <>.

Phinney, Stephen D., and Jeff S. Volek. The art and science of low carbohydrate performance. Beyond obesity.2012. Print.

——–. The art and science of low carbohydrate living. Beyond obesity. 2011. Print.

Phinney, Stephen D., Jeff S. Volek, and Eric C Westman. The new Atkins for a new you. New York,New York: Fireside, 2010. Print.

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