Does a [VERY] Low Fat Diet Really Work?

Fad diets come and go, but eating healthy is the right way to maintain your ideal weight and achieve optimal health. But a pair of new studies might suggest that the right diet might not be what you expected.

This time around, the research is suggesting that putting the body into a somewhat controlled state of starvation, by cutting out almost all carbohydrates, could be the best thing. It is called ketogenesis and there is a good chance you are already doing it.

Published in the journal Cell Metabolism, the two independent studies found that mice on a ketogenic diet did not just outlive mice on other diets, but—and perhaps more importantly—they had better health outcomes overall. The research found that these mice retained more of their mental faculties, had fewer instances of cancerous tumors (found after death), and were simply fitter overall.

But, it is important to note that although we have evidence like this, it does not necessarily directly translate to a fattier diet: it does not give one carte blanche to simply live on fatty foods.

Essentially, while we sleep, our bodies produce acetone form surviving on carbs. The last few thousand years has seen lots of human societal advances resulting in backup energy production for when you don’t have a lot of glucose; your body’s main energy source. The keto diet, then, aims to reprogram your metabolism to gnaw on glucose not only at night but also during the active daytime, too. Thus, when you limit carbohydrates to only a few grams per day, the body is forced to rely on fat for energy instead.

Now, this works for most organs (the lungs, muscles, and heart) but the brain—which consumes about 25 percent of your daily calories—cannot burn fat. Indeed, the brain needs carbs. In the absence of glucose, then, it consumes ketone bodies made in the liver.

What we can actually learn from this study is far more interesting.

“The results surprised me a little,” explains senior author Jon Ramsey. The University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine nutritionist goes on to say, “We expected some differences, but I was impressed by the magnitude we observed—a 13 percent increase in median life span for the mice on a high fat vs high carb diet. In humans, that would be seven to 10 years. But equally important, those mice retained quality of health in later life.”

 

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