What is ketosis and is it healthy?

Ketosis is a natural metabolic state.

It involves the body producing ketone bodies from fat and using them to get energy instead of carbohydrates.

You can enter ketosis following a ketogenic diet that is very low in carbohydrates and high in fats (1).

In addition to rapid weight loss, ketosis can have several health benefits, such as the reduction of seizures in epileptic children (2).

Ketosis is quite complex, but this article explains what it is and how it can benefit you.

What is ketosis?

Ketosis is a metabolic state in which fat provides most of the fuel for the body.

It occurs when there is limited access to glucose (blood sugar), which is the preferred fuel source for many cells in the body.

Ketosis is most often associated with ketogenic and very low carbohydrate diets. It also occurs during pregnancy, childhood, fasting and starvation (3, 4, 5, 6).

To get into ketosis, people usually need to eat less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day and sometimes only 20 grams per day.

This requires eliminating certain foods from your diet, such as grains, sweets and sugary sodas. You also have to cut vegetables, potatoes and fruits.

By eating a very low carbohydrate diet, the levels of the hormone insulin drop and the fatty acids are released from the reserves of body fat in large quantities.

Many of these fatty acids are transferred to the liver, where they are oxidized and converted into ketones (or ketone bodies). These molecules can provide energy for the body.

Unlike fatty acids, ketones can cross the blood-brain barrier and provide energy to the brain in the absence of glucose.

Bottom line: Ketosis is a metabolic state where ketones become the main sources of energy for the body and the brain. This happens when the intake of carbohydrates and insulin levels are very low.

Ketones can supply energy for the brain

It is a common misunderstanding that the brain does not work without the carbohydrates in the diet.

It is true that glucose is preferred and that there are some cells in the brain that can only use glucose as fuel.

However, a large part of your brain can also use ketones for energy, such as during starvation or when your diet is low in carbohydrates (7).

In fact, after only three days of starvation, the brain gets 25% of its energy from the ketones. During long-term starvation, this number increases to around 60% (8, 9).

In addition, your body can use proteins to produce the little glucose that the brain still needs during ketosis. This process is called gluconeogenesis.

Ketosis and gluconeogenesis are perfectly capable of satisfying the energy needs of the brain.

Here is more information about ketogenic diets and the brain: how low-carbohydrate and ketogenic diets improve brain health.

Bottom line: When the brain is not getting enough glucose, you can use ketones for energy. The little glucose that you still need can be produced from proteins.

Ketosis is not the same as ketoacidosis

People often confuse ketosis and ketoacidosis.

While ketosis is part of normal metabolism, ketoacidosis is a dangerous metabolic condition that can be fatal if left untreated.

In ketoacidosis, the bloodstream is flooded with extremely High levels of glucose (blood sugar) and ketones.

When this happens, the blood becomes acidic, which is very harmful.

Ketoacidosis is most commonly associated with uncontrolled type 1 diabetes. It can also occur in people with type 2 diabetes, although this is less common (10).

In addition, severe alcohol abuse can lead to ketoacidosis (11).

Bottom line: Ketosis is a natural metabolic state, while ketoacidosis is a serious medical condition that is seen more frequently in uncontrolled type 1 diabetes.

Effects on epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a brain disorder characterized by recurrent seizures.

It is a very common neurological condition that affects around 70 million people worldwide (12).

For most patients, anticonvulsant medications can help control attacks. However, about 30% of patients continue to have seizures despite using these medications (13).

In the early 1920s, the ketogenic diet was introduced as a treatment for epilepsy in people who do not respond to pharmacological treatment (14).

It has been used mainly in children, with some studies showing remarkable benefits. Many epileptic children have had massive reductions in seizures in a ketogenic diet, and some have even seen a complete remission (15, 16, 17, 18).

Bottom line: Ketogenic diets can effectively reduce epileptic seizures, especially in epileptic children who do not respond to conventional treatment.

Effects on weight loss

The ketogenic diet is a popular diet for weight loss that is well supported by science (19).

In fact, many studies have found that ketogenic diets lead to a much greater weight loss than low-fat diets (20, 21, 22).

One study reported 2.2 times more weight loss for people with a ketogenic diet, compared to those with a low-fat, low-calorie diet (23).

In addition, people tend to feel less hungry and fuller with a ketogenic diet, which is attributed to ketosis. For this reason, it is usually not necessary to count the calories in this diet (24, 25).

More details here: A ketogenic diet to lose weight and fight the disease.

Bottom line: Studies show that ketogenic diets lead to more weight loss than low-fat diets. In addition, people feel less hungry and fuller.

Other health benefits of ketosis

Ketosis and ketogenic diets may also have other therapeutic effects. Now they are being studied as a treatment for a wide variety of conditions (26):

  • Heart disease: Reducing carbohydrates to achieve ketosis can improve the risk factors for heart diseases such as triglycerides in the blood, total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol (27, 28).
  • Type 2 diabetes: Diet can improve insulin sensitivity by up to 75%, and some diabetics can reduce or even stop diabetes medications (29, 30).
  • Metabolic syndrome: Ketogenic diets can improve all the main symptoms of the metabolic syndrome, including high triglycerides, excess abdominal fat and high blood pressure (31).
  • Alzheimer disease: A ketogenic diet may have benefits for patients with Alzheimer's disease (32).
  • Cancer: Some studies suggest that ketogenic diets may help in cancer therapy, possibly helping to "deprive" cancer cells of glucose (33, 34).
  • Parkinson's disease: A small study found that the symptoms of Parkinson's disease improved after 28 days with a ketogenic diet (35).
  • Acne: There is some evidence that this diet can reduce the severity and progression of acne (36).

Bottom line: Ketosis and ketogenic diets can help with a series of chronic diseases, such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's.

Does Ketosis have any negative effect on health?

There are some potential side effects that you may experience with ketosis and ketogenic diets.

These include headache, fatigue, constipation, high cholesterol levels and bad breath (37, 38).

However, most symptoms are temporary and should disappear within a few days or weeks.

In addition, some epileptic children have developed kidney stones in their diet (39, 40, 41).

And although it is extremely rare, there have been some cases of women who breastfeed and develop ketoacidosis probably caused by a low carbohydrate or ketogenic diet (42, 43, 44).

People who take medications to lower blood sugar should consult a doctor before trying a ketogenic diet, since diet can reduce the need for medications.

Sometimes ketogenic diets are low in fiber. For this reason, it is a good idea to make sure you eat plenty of vegetables that are high in fiber and low in carbohydrates.

Having said all this, ketosis is generally safe for healthy people.

However, it does not suit them all. Some people may feel good and full of energy in ketosis, while others feel miserable.

Bottom line: Ketosis is safe for most people. However, some people may experience side effects, such as bad breath, headaches and constipation.

Bring the message home

Ketosis is a natural metabolic state that can be achieved by following a ketogenic diet.

It has a variety of health benefits, including weight loss, lower blood sugar levels and reduced seizures in epileptic children.

However, following a strict diet to induce ketosis can be very difficult. Also, some people experience negative side effects or just do not feel well.

Ketosis is not for everyone, but it can have powerful benefits for certain people.

You can find even more information about the ketogenic diet on this page: The ketogenic diet 101: a detailed guide for beginners.

More about ketosis:

  • 10 signs and symptoms that you are in ketosis
  • Is Ketosis safe and does it have side effects?

Reference: https: //www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-ketosis

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