"Ketogenic diets have become incredibly popular. Early research suggests this high-fat, very low-carb diet may benefit several health conditions.
Although some of the evidence is from case studies and animal research, results from human controlled studies are also promising.
Here are 15 health conditions that may benefit from a ketogenic diet.
Epilepsy is a disease that causes seizures due to excessive brain activity.
Anti-seizure medications are effective for some people with epilepsy. However, others don’t respond to the drugs or can’t tolerate their side effects.
Of all the conditions that may benefit from a ketogenic diet, epilepsy has by far the most evidence supporting it. In fact, there are several dozen studies on the topic.
2. Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome, sometimes referred to as prediabetes, is characterized by insulin resistance.
You can be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if you meet any 3 of these criteria:
Large waistline: 35 inches (89 cm) or higher in women and 40 inches (102 cm) or higher in men.
Elevated triglycerides: 150 mg/dl (1.7 mmol/L) or higher.
Low HDL cholesterol: Less than 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/L) in men and less than 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) in women.
High blood pressure: 130/85 mm Hg or higher.
Elevated fasting blood sugar: 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) or higher.
People with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and other serious disorders related to insulin resistance.
3. Glycogen Storage Disease
People with glycogen storage disease (GSD) lack one of the enzymes involved in storing glucose (blood sugar) as glycogen or breaking glycogen down into glucose. There are several types of GSD, each based on the enzyme that is missing.
Typically, this disease is diagnosed in childhood. Symptoms vary depending on the type of GSD, and may include poor growth, fatigue, low blood sugar, muscle cramps and an enlarged liver.
4. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a disease marked by hormonal dysfunction that often results in irregular periods and infertility.
One of its hallmarks is insulin resistance, and many women with PCOS are obese and have a hard time losing weight. Women with PCOS are also at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
People with diabetes often experience impressive reductions in blood sugar levels on a ketogenic diet. This is true of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Indeed, dozens of controlled studies show that a very low-carb diet helps control blood sugar and may also provide other health benefits.
In a 16-week study, 17 of 21 people on a ketogenic diet were able to discontinue or decrease diabetes medication dosage. Study participants also lost an average of 19 pounds (8.7 kg) and reduced their waist size, triglycerides and blood pressure.
In a 3-month study comparing a ketogenic diet to a moderate-carb diet, people in the ketogenic group averaged a 0.6% decrease in HbA1c. 12% of participants achieved an HbA1c below 5.7%, which is considered normal.
Bottom Line: Ketogenic diets have been shown to reduce blood sugar in people with diabetes. In some cases, values return to a normal range, and medications can be discontinued or reduced.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.
In recent years, scientific research has suggested that a ketogenic diet may help some types of cancer when used along with traditional treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Many researchers note that elevated blood sugar, obesity and type 2 diabetes are linked to breast and other cancers. They suggest that restricting carbs in order to lower blood sugar and insulin levels may help prevent tumor growth.
Bottom Line: Early research suggests some people with autism spectrum disorders may experience improvements in behavior when ketogenic diets are used in combination with other therapies.
8. Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a nervous system disorder characterized by low levels of the signaling molecule dopamine.
The lack of dopamine causes several symptoms, including tremor, impaired posture, stiffness and difficulty walking and writing.
Because of the ketogenic diet’s protective effects on the brain and nervous system, it’s being explored as a potential complementary therapy for PD
Many studies show that very low-carb, ketogenic diets are often more effective for weight loss than calorie-restricted or low-fat diets.
What’s more, they typically provide other health improvements as well.
10. GLUT1 Deficiency Syndrome
Glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1) deficiency syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, involves deficiency of a special protein that helps move blood sugar into the brain.
Symptoms usually begin shortly after birth and include developmental delay, difficulty with movement and sometimes seizures.
11. Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) most commonly results from a blow to the head, a car accident or a fall in which the head strikes the ground.
It can have devastating effects on physical function, memory and personality. Unlike cells in most other organs, injured brain cells often recover very little, if at all.
Because the body’s ability to use sugar following head trauma is impaired, some researchers believe the ketogenic diet may benefit people with TBI
12. Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) damages the protective covering of nerves, which leads to communication problems between the brain and body. Symptoms include numbness and problems with balance, movement, vision and memory.
One study of MS in a mouse model found that a ketogenic diet suppressed inflammatory markers. The reduced inflammation led to improvements in memory, learning and physical function.
As with other nervous system disorders, MS appears to reduce the cells’ ability to use sugar as a fuel source. A 2015 review discussed ketogenic diets’ potential to assist with energy production and cell repair in MS patients.
Additionally, a recent controlled study of 48 people with MS found significant improvements in quality of life scores, cholesterol and triglycerides in the groups who followed a ketogenic diet or fasted for several days.
More studies are currently underway.
Bottom Line: Studies about the potential benefits of a ketogenic diet for treating MS are promising. However, more human studies are needed.
13. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common liver disease in the Western world.
It is strongly linked to type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity, and there’s evidence that NAFLD also improves on a very low-carb, ketogenic diet
14. Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia characterized by plaques and tangles in the brain that impair memory.
Interestingly, Alzheimer’s disease appears to share features of both epilepsy and type 2 diabetes: seizures, the inability of the brain to properly use glucose and inflammation linked to insulin resistance
15. Migraine Headaches
Migraine headaches typically involve severe pain, sensitivity to light and nausea.
Some studies suggest migraine headache symptoms often improve in people who follow ketogenic diets
Bottom Line: Some studies suggest that migraine headache frequency and severity may improve in people following a ketogenic diet.
Take Home Message
Ketogenic diets are being considered for use in several disorders due to their beneficial effects on metabolic health and the nervous system.
However, many of these impressive results come from case studies and need validation through higher-quality research, including randomized controlled trials.
With respect to cancer and several other serious diseases on this list, a ketogenic diet should be undertaken only in addition to standard therapies under the supervision of a doctor or qualified healthcare provider.
Also, no one should consider the ketogenic diet a cure for any disease or disorder on its own.
Nonetheless, the ketogenic diets’ potential to improve health is very promising."
Please note, the above is not Franziska's full article, it only gives 'snippets'.
All the best Jan