Tag Archives: ketogenic

Saturated fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates

“You catch more flies with honey…”

^^^good policy in general, but especially for debating in the realm of nutritional sciences.

 

A short while back, Nina Teicholz discussed low carb ketogenic diets and plant-based diets with John Mackey.  Although I disagree with the dichotomy (keto vs. plant-based), it’s well-worth a watch:

 

 

Three topics that could not be avoided in such a discussion: saturated fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates.

 

 

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Carbs: Low vs. Lower

 

 

This was met with much backlash from the low carb cavalry, because, well, if low is good then lower must be better

I’m not anti-keto; but I’m not anti-science.  FACT.  

 

“…some people are not genetically equipped to thrive in prolonged nutritional ketosis.” –Peter Attia

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Ketoadaptation and physiological insulin resistance

This is where the magic happens.

Rat pups, fed a flaxseed oil-based ketogenic diet from weaning onward – note the drop-off in ketones after 2 weeks (Likhodii et al., 2002):

flaxseed ketogenic diet

What happened on day 17?

Patient history: these rats have been “low carb” their whole lives.

Side note: flaxseed oil is very ketogenic! (Likhodii et al., 2000):

ketogenic rodent diets

Flaxseed oil-based ketogenic diet produced higher ketones than 48h fasting; the same can’t be said for butter or lard.  PUFAs in general are more ketogenic than saturated fats in humans, too (eg, Fuehrlein et al., 2004):Saturated polyunsaturated ketones

Crisco keto (adult rats) (Rho et al., 1999):

shortening-based ketogenic diet

suspect those two rogue peaks were experiment days…

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Lipid Hypothesis 2.0: Eat Butter

The original lipid hypothesis stated, more or less, that lowering blood cholesterol would reduce premature mortality from heart disease.  At the time, it was thought that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat increased the ‘bad’ type of blood cholesterol, so the advice was to restrict those foods.  All of that was wrong.

Time

Lipid Hypothesis 2.0: Eat Butter

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More on physical performance and ketoadaptation

The various studies on how low carbohydrate diets impact physical performance are very nuanced.  Here’s what I mean by that.

Exhibit A. Phinney 1980

Phinney 1980

In this [pioneering] study, obese patients were subjected to a variety of performance assessments in a baseline period, then after 1 and 6 weeks of weight loss via protein-sparing modified fast (1.2 g/kg ideal body weight from lean meat, fish, or fowl; probably around 80 grams of protein/d, 500-750 kcal/d). They lost a lot of weight, 23 pounds on average, two-thirds of which was body fat. There was no exercise intervention, just the performance assessments.

During the ‘exercise to exhaustion’ treadmill exercise, RQ steadily declined from baseline to week 1 to week 6, indicating progressively more reliance on fat oxidation.  This was confirmed via muscle glycogen levels pre- and post-exercise: during the baseline testing, they declined by 15%; after 6 weeks of ketoadaptation, however, they only declined by 2%, while ‘time to exhaustion’ increased by 55%.  After only 1 week of the diet, time to exhaustion plummeted, as expected, by 20%.

This was, as mentioned above, a pioneering study in the field of ketoadaptation. It also challenges one of the prevailing theories of ‘fatigue’ …while carb-adapted, the subjects fatigued after 168 minutes, with muscle glycogen levels of 1.29 (reduced by 15%); while ketoadapted, they fatigued after 249 minutes with muscle glycogen levels of 1.02 (reduced by 2%).  In other words, they had less glycogen to begin with, used less glycogen during exercise, and performed significantly better (running on fat & ketones).

Exhibit B. Vogt 2003

Highly trained endurance athletes followed a high fat (53% fat, 32% carbs) or high carb (17% fat, 68% carbs) diet for 5 weeks in a randomized crossover study. In contrast to Phinney’s study, these participants were: 1) highly trained; and 2) exercised throughout the study.

Maximal power output and VO2max during a similar ‘time to exhaustion’ test was similar after both diet periods.  Same for total work output during a 20 minute ‘all-out’ cycling time trial and half-marathon running time.  Muscle glycogen was modestly, albeit statistically non-significantly lower after ketoadaption; however, ketoadapted athletes relied on a higher proportion of fat oxidation to fuel performance as indicated by lower RQ at every level of exercise intensity:

Vogt RQ

Again, this is the essence of ketoadaptation. Physical performance as good as or better using fat and fat-derived fuels.

One reason Phinney’s glycogen-depeleted ketoadapted subjects may have done so well is their reliance on ketones (probable) and intramyocellular lipids (IMCL) (possible).  In Vogt’s study, IMCL increased from 0.69 to 1.54% after ketoadaptation…

Also, food intake and body fat declined, and training volume increased in the low fat group; whereas food intake increased, and body fat and training volume declined in the high fat group.  Reminiscent of anything?

High fat, low carb -> eat more, exercise less, STILL LOSE BODY FAT.

Vogt data

Sorcery?  No.  Diet impacts more than just mood and body composition – resting energy expenditure increased in the ketogenic dieters.  This isn’t an isolated finding.

Exhibit C. Fleming 2003 

This was another study in non-trained athletes, consuming high fat (61% fat) or control (25% fat) diets for 6 weeks.  The tests were the 30-second Wingate, to examine supramaximal performance, and a 45-minute timed ride, to examine submaximal performance.

This study differed from the previous two in several significant ways.  For starters, peak power output declined in both groups, slightly more so in the high fat group (-10% vs. -8%).  Furthermore, RQ didn’t wasn’t significantly lower during this test in the high fat group, which possibly suggests they weren’t properly ketoadapted.  In Phinney’s study, the large energy deficit ensured ketoadaptation; this study lacked that aspect, somewhat more similar to Vogt’s, although unlike Vogt’s, these participants weren’t athletes which presumably makes ketoadaptation more difficult.

There are many factors at play… I wasn’t kidding when I said these studies are very nuanced!

Exhibit D. the infamous, Paoli 2012 

These were ‘elite artistic gymnasts,’ who could likely beat you in a race running backwards.  The ketogenic phase consisted of 55% fat and much more protein than the control phase (39% fat; protein: 41% vs. 15%). The significantly higher protein content was modestly offset by slightly more calories in the control phase, which reduces the amount of protein required to maintain nitrogen balance.

In this study, performance was, for the most part, ‘maintained,’ with relative increases in a few of the tests; eg, the “legs closed barrier.”  Changes in body composition were more robust: significantly reduced body fat and increased lean body mass after 30 days of ketogenic dieting (with their normal exercise routine).

Paoli data

The major confounder in this study was the use of an herbal cocktail only in the ketogenic diet group; despite this, the results are largely in line with the other studies.  For more on this study, see here.

Exhibit E. the most dramatic one to date: Sawyer 2013 

Please see here for the details, but in brief, strength-trained athletes showed improvements in high intensity exercise performance after only 7 days of carbohydrate restriction.  The nuances of this particular study are discussed more here.

barbell

Collectively, these studies show that physical performance in both endurance and high intensity realms does not always suffer, can be maintained, and in some cases is improved by ketogenic dieting.  Important factors are duration (to ensure adequate ketoadaptation), energy balance, and regular physical activity (athletes and regular exercisers can adapt to burning fat much quicker than sedentary folks).

 

calories proper

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Diet study: American Diabetes Association vs. Low Carb Ketogenic

A randomized pilot trial of a moderate carbohydrate diet compared to a very low carbohydrate diet in overweight or obese individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus or prediabetes (Saslow et al., 2014)

Disclaimer: this study was not ground-breaking; it was confirmation of a phenomenon that is starting to become well-known, and soon to be the status quo. That is, advising an obese diabetic patient to reduce their carb intake consistently produces better results than advising them to follow a low fat, calorie restricted diet.

The two diets:

Moderate carbohydrate diet: 45-50% carbs; 45 grams per meal + three 15 gram snacks = 165 grams per day; low fat, calorie restricted (500 Calorie deficit).  Otherwise known as a “low fat diet (LFD).”

In their words: “Active Comparator: American Diabetes Association Diet.  Participants in the American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet group will receive standard ADA advice. The diet includes high-fiber foods (such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes), low-fat dairy products, fresh fish, and foods low in saturated fat.

Very low carbohydrate diet: Ketogenic; <50 grams of carb per day, no calorie restriction, just a goal of blood ketones 0.5 – 3 mM.

In their words: “Experimental: Low Carbohydrate Diet.  Participants will be instructed to follow a low carbohydrate diet: carbohydrate intake 10-50 grams a day not including fiber. Foods permitted include: meats, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, cream, some nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, and most other non-starchy vegetables. Because most individuals self-limit caloric intake, no calorie restriction will be recommended.

Both groups were advised to maintain their usual protein intake.

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Ketoacidosis

Nutritional ketosis is a normal, physiological response to carbohydrate and energy restriction.  A ketogenic diet is an effective weight loss strategy for many.  Ketoacidosis, on the other hand, is a pathological condition caused by insulin deficiency.  The common theme is low insulin; however, in ketoacidosis, blood glucose levels are very high.  Ketone levels are elevated in both states, although are 10-20x higher in ketoacidosis (~0.5-2 vs. > 20 mM).  Nutritional ketosis and ketoacidosis should not be confused with one another, and a ketogenic diet doesn’t cause ketoacidosis.

In ketoacidosis, gluconeogenesis occurs at a very high rate and the lack of insulin prevents glucose disposal in peripheral tissues.  Skeletal muscle protein breakdown contributes gluconeogenic substrates, exacerbating the problem.  This can cause blood glucose to reach pathological levels, exceeding 250 mg/dL.

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On resistant starch and blood glucose control

For overall health and well-being, fermented foods like sauerkraut and kefir are great.  Especially when following a low carbohydrate diet which is generally low in the types of foods which feed the gut microbiome.

For those with gastrointestinal problems, the gut microbiota is probably involved.  Whether it is bacterial overgrowth or dysbiosis, gut bugs are usually the culprit.  Treatment options vary widely, ranging from global extermination with vinegar & a low fibre diet (as per Jane Plain), or remodeling the microbiome with a prebiotic like galactooligosaccharides.   Probiotics like bifidobacteria can help, too, if they’re administered with either prebiotics or fermented foods (they need something to nourish them in transit).  Dark chocolate is also an excellent vessel.  Resistant starch is another option, although the question remains as to whether or not this is compatible with a low carbohydrate diet.

Resistant starch has been around for a while, and when I was in school it received about 10 minutes of attention during the fibre lecture.  But Jimmy Moore and Richard Nikolay have been talking about it a lot lately so I decided to freshen up on the topic.  In brief, it can be therapeutic for GI issues, but some studies have shown mixed effects on glucose & insulin metabolism.  The former is virtually unarguable, but I found the latter interesting.  And the impact of resistant starch on ketosis is included as well.

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Impact of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet on gut microbiota.

NPR recently reported on a study where the participants ate either a meat-based, fiber-free ketogenic diet or a vegetarian diet and had their gut microflora analyzed.  The low carb diet was much higher in fat, and as such, increased the prevalence of a microbe involved in fat digestion.  “Bilophila.”  The article focused on this one and cited a 2012 study where Bilophila was associated with intestinal inflammation… however, the ketogenic diet increased the levels of Bacteroides and decreased Firmicutes.  These are the two that brought the whole gut microbe-obesity connection into the spotlight.  The microbiome in obese mice is characterized by low Bacteriodetes and high Firmicutes. Fecal transplants from obese mice to lean mice causes them to gain weight.  Little is known about Bilophila relative to Bacteriodetes & Firmicutes, and I suspect the focus was on Bilophila because the authors wanted something negative to say about a meat-based, fiber-free ketogenic diet, and that 2012 mouse study suggested Bilophila could be their answer.

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Dietary protein does not negatively impact blood glucose control.

“Dietary protein-derived amino acids have a purpose, and that purpose is not carbs.”

At a reasonable level of dietary intake, protein is used for the maintenance of organs & tissues.  Lean body mass.  It’s functional.  Protein isn’t stored in any appreciable capacity, and most excess is either oxidized or stored as glycogen.  Theoretically, about 50-60% of protein-derived amino acids can be converted into glucose, mathematically, but it’s not what you think…

“At a reasonable level of dietary intake.”  A recent publication took a look at this (Fromentin et al., 2013).   They set out to determine how much protein is converted to glucose under “optimal gluconeogenic conditions.”  That is, the subjects were 12 hours fasted, which is a physiologically relevant, optimal gluconeogenic condition.  They were then given 4 eggs (~23 g protein) that were labeled with two stable isotopes (15N & 13C, derived from hens fed isotope-enriched diets!).  Throughout the entire study duration, the subjects were infused with a third isotope, 2H-glucose.  By collecting and analyzing the enrichment of isotopically-labeled metabolites like expired CO2, urea, and glucose, the researchers were able to determine the fate of those 23 grams of protein.

Some of the dietary protein-derived amino acids were used for protein synthesis, others were oxidized.  But blood glucose levels did not change.  Nor did the rate of gluconeogenesis.

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