The 90’s called…Dr. Atkins wants his diet back. High protein diets have been popular in weight loss for some time. Currently, the “Ketone Diet” is having its 15 minutes of fame. These diets emphasize low carbohydrate high protein consumption. The reduced carbohydrate intake reduces insulin production and is successful for weight loss. However, there are some important physiology facts to keep in mind for this weight loss strategy.
First, the brain receives 20% of blood flow each minute which means it requires lots of “fuel” to carry out its duties. The brain is dependent on glucose not ketones for energy. Glucose is found in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a broad range of foods spanning broccoli to table sugar.
Ketone bodies are a product of fat metabolism, fat accompanies protein. The leanest hamburger is 7-10% fat. What percent of bacon or rib eye is fat? Low carbohydrate intake coupled with high protein and fat consumption requires both protein and fat are converted into glucose for the brain. The hormone cortisol is responsible for this conversion.
Cortisol is referred to as the “stress hormone.” It activates liver enzymes for the conversion. Cortisol is a proteolytic hormone, meaning it breaks down our bodies’ own proteins to produce glucose. Prolonged cortisol secretion has been shown to weaken the immune system.
Ketone bodies lower blood pH making it more acidic (ketoacidosis). This puts more work on the kidneys. The physiology textbook states that there are 4 times when the body produces ketones for energy: Diabetes, starvation, prolonged cardiovascular exercise, and diet-induced. Short term, the Keto diet is successful for weight loss, but one should question the deleterious effects on the body in pursuit of health and wellness.