The ketogenic diet
“Ketogenic” means making ketones. Ketones are a fuel made in the liver from fat. The ketogenic diet was almost unheard of even 10 years ago. As a practicing GP, it simply wasn’t on my radar as a means of helping my patients.
HOW WRONG I WAS!
An alternative fuel is sugar. The consumption of sugar in the western world increased so much in the 20th century that it became the default fuel. Many people these days burn very little fat. It mostly got stored for the winter that never comes! Which is why we get fat.
I didn’t realise any of this. In my ignorance, along with 99%+ of all other doctors, I spent my whole professional career giving my patients the wrong advice about why they were fat, what to do about type 2 diabetes, why they were having heart attacks. It’s a bit late to apologise, but how I wish I had been one of the few very early adopters.
Unfortunately, the medical profession is so conservative that most doctors are still giving the wrong advice. Change will be very slow while there is so much pressure from the senior members of the profession for their students to continue to believe what they taught them. Big pharma provide the majority of postgraduate medical training for doctors. Together with agribusiness, the sugar industry and governments supporting these industries their first priority is to their shareholders and a business model which depends on maintaining the status quo.
But there is change and it is happening from the grass roots. There is a massive flow of information on the internet about the ketogenic diet, enough to totally confuse all but the most discerning. And the flow rate is increasing.
I have submerged myself in this topic for over 5 years. I do believe I have a really good understanding of the basic science.
So, what is the ketogenic diet? The body is designed to burn two forms of fuel, glucose, which comes from carbohydrate and ketones which come from fat.
This is how it works. We are like a hybrid car, either a sugar burning machine or a fat burning machine. We can switch rapidly from one fuel to the other, but we can’t burn both simultaneously. What is more, the body always burns glucose (sugar) before it burns fat.
I used to think that was because sugar was somehow superior to fat. In reality, it is because sugar in the blood stream is so damaging that the body prioritises its removal. After all, in your whole blood stream is just one teaspoon of sugar. If your blood regularly contains two teaspoons, we call that type 2 diabetes. The body is far more tolerant of fat and burns it more efficiently.
I actively promote a ketogenic diet but, for me, the emphasis is on the fat burning in the cells of the body not the ketones floating round in the blood stream.
Fat burning starts when the blood sugar drops to a basic level and insulin production ceases. Only then is the body free to burn fat. That’s a pretty important bit of information if you are overweight.
There is much more to be said about the ketogenic diet. There are many whole books on the subject. But, at least, this is a start. I'll be explaining more about it elsewhere on this website.