What is Ketosis?; #7

What is Ketosis?; #7

Disclaimer: I am not a physician and do not make dietary recommendations. I suggest that everyone examine their own unique situation and make health decisions based on what they believe is their best course of action.

The standard American diet is based on carbohydrates. The human body coverts carbohydrates into glucose (a simple sugar) and our body burns (metabolizes) glucose for the energy needed to function.

When carbohydrates are low and glucose stored in the body is depleted, the liver can create glucose from protein through a process called gluconeogenesis (the creation of new glucose). However, that process cannot supply the amount of glucose needed by the brain, which requires a constant fuel supply.

When the body does not have enough glucose (carbohydrates) for a period of time, usually 2-3 days, it begins to change over to a metabolic state called ketosis where it can utilize ketones produced by the liver, fat that is eaten, and fat stored in the body to provide its energy requirements.

Although carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel, when total carbohydrate intake is lower than 50g/day, the body turns to its backup fuel source – ketones.

Here is a common progression of events:

  1. The daily Standard American Diet includes more carbohydrates (sugar) than the body can burn.
  2. Our body chemistry reacts by storing excess sugar as fat.
  3. Our body regulates blood sugar within a very narrow range. If blood sugar levels are too high, the pancreas manufactures insulin which controls the sugar level in the blood by helping the body store sugar.
  4. Given excessive carbohydrate intake, over time a person will normally gain weight. However, some people may or may not appear to be overweight because some people store excess sugar internally as fat around body organs. 
  5. If excess carbohydrate intake continues without moderation, our body can become less responsive to insulin. This condition is often called insulin resistance.
  6. If blood sugar levels remain high and a doctor makes a diagnosis of diabetes, additional insulin is often prescribed to bring blood sugar levels back to within a normal range.

When people who are not diabetic and don’t have a metabolic disorder such as diabetes embrace a ketogenic diet, they often do so because of the following beliefs:

  1. Elevated blood sugar levels and excess body fat are or have been caused by a diet that is too high in carbohydrates.
  2. Blood sugar levels can be restored to normal by eating less sugar (fewer carbohydrates).
  3. If a ketogenic diet is adopted, low carbohydrate levels will cause the body to burn ketones and fat instead of carbohydrates (sugar).
  4. When a ketogenic diet is maintained, weight loss normally occurs.

For additional information on ketosis and ketogenic diet, check out the following YouTube videos:

  1. Dr. Stephen Phinney on Nutritional Ketosis and Ketogenic Diets
  2. Dr. Stephen Phinney - 'Recent Developments in LCHF and Nutritional Ketosis' (Part 1)
  3. Dr Eric Westman, Duke University Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss and Brain Performance
  4. Dr. Tim Noakes – Challenging Conventional Dietary Guidelines

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Blog Posts:

The American Dilemma ─ Fat and Getting Fatter; #1
Calories In vs Calories Out to Lose Weight? -It’s complicated; #2
Calories In vs Calories Out; #3 – The Issues
Nutrition vs. Weight -- What Should I Do?; #4

Weight Loss – Deciding What is Fact and What is Fiction; #5
A Commonsense Explanation of Weight Gain and Weight Loss; #6

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