Ketogenesis or How to Burn Fat Without Fire

I’ve been slightly overweight most of my life.  It was first mentioned to me when I was about 13 by my family doctor.  He suggested I sign up for an after school sport, so naturally I joined the speech and debate club when I got to high school.

In my twenties, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and put on medication.  In my thirties, statins were added.  In between, I starting getting gouty attacks so started on medication to prevent that. Over the years various doctors mentioned diet and life style changes.  I’ve never been big on diets or dieting, but I’ve made a few changes over the years and these days I don’t eat the steady stream of junk that I did in my younger days.

In 2009 I found myself in the emergency room having a gallbladder attack.  The ER doctor ordered morphine and called in the surgical team who removed the offending organ.  Post surgery I found it difficult to tolerate fats in my diet so went on an extremely low fat diet.  Generally I replaced fats with carbs. Over time I let the fat content in my diet increase slightly, but I’ve maintained a low fat, moderate calorie diet since.  I have fruit with cereal for breakfast, salad and yogurt for lunch with a reasonably balanced dinner.

Since 2009 I’ve gained nearly 35 pounds.

A few months ago I got more serious about exercise and now do 45-60 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week – some walking, some exercise bit.  I’ve lost a pound or two and my blood tests show some improvement.  When I saw my doctor to complain about my foot and other problems she noted that a number of the health problems would be improved by weight loss.

“I exercise nearly everyday, barely eat, and still don’t lose weight.  Suggestions?” Was my polite, but annoyed response.

The appointment ended with my doctor referring me to a dietitian.  In later email exchanges, she started suggesting diet plans I might follow.  Most of these didn’t seem much better than what I was doing and most involved large quantities of broccoli – I hate broccoli. I am one of the 25% of the population with the “broccoli tastes horrible” gene.

I suspect out of desperation, my doctor suggested I checkout the Keto diet (a low carbohydrate, high fat diet) which has been shown to be effective for people with certain conditions like metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, epilepsy and other conditions. She sent me a bunch of links to various studies, websites, TedTalks, and talks done by doctors and medical researchers at a conference about the diet.  Guess she was listening when I told her I was an engineer.

I went over everything she sent and decided to do a bit of additional research. I’ve included these links and a bunch more I found at the end of this post as a kind of bibliography for this essay.  This isn’t a formal research paper, but I’ll at least cite my sources.

Before I started reading anything about Keto, my attitude was, “great, another fad diet.”  I could have rejected the whole thing right there, but growth and improvement only happens when we open ourselves to new ideas.  After the first couple of videos and reading one the studies my attitude changed to, “wow, this has real possibilities and the science is looking sound.”

After all this research I’ve concluded that the LCHF (low carb high fat) diet is something I should try.  There is enough evidence to suggest that it could effectively improve my overall health and as a side effect weight loss.  I’’ll emphasize that my primary goal is to improve health and feel better.  Weight loss aids that goal.

I’m not a biochemist so I won’t dive into great detail on the diet.

The premise of the diet is that lowering your carbohydrate intake reduces the amount of fat that gets stored in you body and forces the body to buy fat for energy.  You body has two fuels it can use, carbohydrates that get converted to glucose, and fat that is stored in the body.  The carbs in our diet include refined sugars and grains like wheat and rice.  Fats in our diet come from sources like meats, butter, oils and some vegetables.  How the body treats these inputs are different. 

When you eat a carb, your blood sugar rises and the body releases insulin to convert it.  Some of the carb is burned as fuel, while the excess is converted to fat stored for later use.  This has the effect of lowering your blood sugar and making you feel hungry, so it’s off to kitchen for more food.  This system can go a bit wacky as higher levels of insulin require more sugars and more sugar stimulates more insulin production.  In the long run you end up consuming more carbs and build up more fat in the body.  Since this process produces all the glucose your body needs, you never burn the stored fat.  Over time you gain weight, blood sugars rise, triglycerides and cholesterol also rise.  The long term effect can trigger type II diabetes, heart issues and a thing known as “metabolic syndrome.”

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of problems including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol, high triglycerides, and excess body fat – especially around the waist.  I think I have all of those.  This condition puts you at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.  Charming.

The Keto diet plan is intended to switch your body from primarily using carbs as fuel to fats as fuel.  When you reduce your carb intake, your body switches to using fats through a process known as ketosis where fats are broken into fuel and ketones are produced (which is where the name comes from).

Under the diet, carbs are avoided and replaced with non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins.  On the no list are refined sugars, grains such as wheat and rice, and starchy plants like potatoes and bananas.  On the allowed list are things like fish, vegetables, cheese, meat, poultry, eggs, Greek yogurt, and certain healthy fats.  The fats include things like butter, lard, coconut oil, olive oil and other saturated fats.

This isn’t exactly an Atkins diet, but the two share some similarities including that they restrict carbs.  They differ in other details such as how much protein to consume.

The Keto diet has its critics, but there is a growing number of medical professionals using the diet to treat conditions like type II diabetes, epilepsy, metabolic syndrome, and I even found some doctors using this for some brain cancers.

It’s the research that’s drawn me to this method.  Study after study is knocking over so many long held diet beliefs, such as saturated fat causes heart disease.  For example, this study: Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease and others has shown there is no evidence that consumption of saturated fat is a factor in increased risk for heart disease.  Based on what I’m seeing in the research and my own personal experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that the low fat calorie restricted diet simply doesn’t work and that I need to do something different.

I don’t approach this lightly – it’s serious stuff.  Keto is a major change, an extreme change, and comes with difficulties.  Will I be able to stick to the diet?  Will it work?  There are known issues in the early stages of the diet that have to be managed.  I’m looking at this whole thing as a medical treatment, after all I’m only considering this because of health issues.  I plan to fully engage my doctor in this and get whatever medical monitoring might be needed.

Naturally I am motived and should start right away, so I’ve decided to start in August.  Yup, two months from now, I am going to jump on the wagon.  There are a number of reasons for the delay, upcoming vacation, grandkids coming out, and a date with the oral surgeon in July.  I am not really the kind to rush into things or make radical changes.  My plan is to start a plan of gradually shifting by not eating sugary foods, reduce the grains I eat and start adding a bit more heathy fat into my diet.  Once I’ve healed from the oral surgery, I’ll try the more extreme version and move to ketosis for a while.

It’s all a bit experimental and figure this will be my science project for the year.

Does anyone know the dates for the science fair?

Peace,

Andrew


Works Consulted:

Books:

I’ve not read all of these, but the authors are of interest.  I do have the Dr. Feinman book which is what I’ll read first.

Jeff S. Volek, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, Beynold Obesity LLC, 2012

Eric C Westman, Adapt Program: A Low Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet Manual, CreateSpace, 2015

Richard David Feinman, The World Turned Upside Down: The Second Low-Carbohydrate Revolution, NMS Press-Duck-in-a-Boat LLC, December 12, 2014

Mary T. Newport, The Coconut Oil and Low-Carb Solution for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Other Diseases: A Guide to Using Diet and a High-Energy Food to Protect and Nourish the Brain, Basic Health Publications, 2015

Leanne Vogel, The Keto Diet: The Complete Guide to a High-Fat Diet, with More Than 125 Delectable Recipes and 5 Meal Plans to Shed Weight, Heal Your Body, and Regain Confidence, Victory Belt Publishing, 2017

YouTube Channels:

I’ve not watched everything here, but these channels (in this order) are the ones I found to be the best.  Note that the Epigenix Foundation was a recommended by my doctor.  Good basic research there.

Epigenix Foundation: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkUl8S70DCT66YJ30w75d6A

The Keto Advocate: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQCsL9_c0DwCxhSfctDN5tg/feed

Dr Ken Berry: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIma2WOQs1Mz2AuOt6wRSUw

Leanne Vogel, Healthful Pursuit: https://www.youtube.com/user/healthfulpursuit

Dr. Eric Berg, DC, https://youtu.be/_434ERRbkj8

YouTube Videos:

These are some individual videos I found interesting.  Some recommended by my doctor.  All of these lead me to the channels above.

Eric Westman MD, Duke University: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WendvONj5O0

Jeff Volek PhD, RD, Ohio State University: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cokbiVp3Mg

www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8rrgsABNjE

Keith Runyan, MD, Nephrologist with DM1, following KD, completed Ironman while in ketosis, blogger: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs71l7Dk7u8

TEDx Talk:

Sarah Halberg: www.youtube.com/watch?v=da1vvigy5tQ

Papers and Articles:

Most of these I found while doing follow up research on the above or while reading articles my doctor provided.

2nd Annual Conference on Nutritional Ketosis and Metabolic Therapeutics, Agenda and Speaker information – PDF

KD in Endocrine disorders: Current perspectives (2017)

Acid-base safety during course of a very low-calorie-ketogenic diet

Body composition changes after VLCKD in obesity evaluated by 3 standardized methods

The effect of Low-carbohydrate, KD vs a low-GI diet on glycemic control in DM2

Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of VLCKD (2013)

Effects of a LCKD on PCOS: a pilot study (2005)

Note on Healthline: All of there articles include references to studies, medical journal articles or similar.  I found these to be helpful and many of the items list below I found here.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/23-studies-on-low-carb-and-low-fat-diets

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-reasons-why-a-calorie-is-not-a-calorie

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-things-dietitians-say-about-low-carb-diets

Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease.

Limited Effect of Dietary Saturated Fat on Plasma Saturated Fat in the Context of a Low Carbohydrate Diet

The role of small, dense low density lipoprotein (LDL): a new look

Gluconeogenesis and energy expenditure after a high-protein, carbohydrate-free diet.

Has carbohydrate-restriction been forgotten as a treatment for diabetes mellitus? A perspective on the ACCORD study design

Carbohydrate Restriction has a More Favorable Impact on the Metabolic Syndrome than a Low Fat Diet

Carbohydrate Restriction has a More Favorable Impact on the Metabolic Syndrome than a Low Fat Diet

Separate effects of reduced carbohydrate intake and weight loss on atherogenic dyslipidemia.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I work in the high tech world doing software release engineering Then I got prostate cancer Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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44 Responses to Ketogenesis or How to Burn Fat Without Fire

  1. You’ve motivated me to eat a brownie… Yum!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Margy says:

    I just finished reading a book called “The Power of Habit” – I highly recommend it for people like me who need to lose some weight AND need to change the habits that caused the weight gain in the first place! In my case, it was not enough exercise and too much chocolate – the rest of my diet was not that bad… My new exercise habit (walking every morning) and no more chocolate in the pantry to tempt me, is resulting in a slow but steady drop in weight.

    Wishing you great success with your new routine!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That sounds fascinating I’ll look forward to hearing if your progress.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m really interested in this and am looking into it – so many of these arguments ring true for me. Thank you for drawing my attention to it – and best of luck with your resolution.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Baydreamer says:

    Great post, Andrew, and impressive with the citing. 🙂 I had my gallbladder taken out in 1996 and am fine without it. But I never want to experience that kind of pain again. Then in 2016, I had pancreatitis from a gallstone. I was really sick, but didn’t realize how sick at the time. The same pain, though, and all from a gallstone even though my gallbladder is nonexistent. You learn something new every day. Anyway, I hope the diet works for you, especially to gain better health. Low fat, less sweets (my vice), and more exercise have worked for me when I’ve needed to lose a few pounds. Wishing you all the best, though!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. timsablog says:

    Fascinating post. I have a suspicion that, like so many things medical, people and their metabolisms vary and react differently. I have family currently losing weight on a low fat diet. I hope it works for you and look forward to hearing of your progress. Slow but steady is probably the best weight loss pattern.
    Good luck

    Liked by 2 people

  7. CJ Hartwell says:

    So this is what happens when an engineer is put on a diet — oh, the research done and works cited. Very impressive! Hope it works out for you and isn’t too arduous.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Pied Type says:

    For those concerned, my gall bladder was removed in 1989. I’ve never missed it. Meanwhile, all my doctors are stressing more exercise. Dieting hasn’t been mentioned … yet.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I had a few problems for a few months after surgery, but most of us do just fine. I started with exercise and am feeling better with it. The only reason for the diet is that exercise hasn’t taken me far enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. LuAnn says:

    Good luck to you Andrew. The only question I would have is that since the gallbladder secretes bile so we can digest fats properly, is the diet safe for someone who has had their gallbladder removed? Since you are so analytical and I haven’t delved into this, I’m sure you have the answer to this already.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, that is a big concern. I haven’t found a formal study on that, but some of the doctors who’ve posted videos on Keto have addressed this point. It’s actually the liver that makes the bile, the gallbladder only stores it for use. You’re still getting bile, but at a constant rate with no reserve. This only effects you if you eat a big fatty meal. With a gallbladder you body can use the reserve to digest the meal. Without, a rich meal can cause an upset tummy. Over time the liver figures this out and makes more bile. The doctors I listened too say that it can be a small problem when you first start, but over time the body will adjust. On one Keto forum I’ve seen reports from dieters without a gallbladder that they are doing well with the diet. I’ve seen a few suggestions to switch from 3 meals a day to 5 smaller meals to compensate. We’ll see how it goes.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Carrie Rubin says:

    You’ve certainly done your research. Very impressive. There’s definitely been an important shift in our understanding of carbs and fats. I wish you the best of luck with it.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Flo jo says:

    This is intriguing since diabetes runs in the family and I’m on the cusp. I have been somewhat successful with the sacrificial Nineveh 90: no snacks, no sweets, no alcohol, 30 min. exercise daily. But I love bread. On bad days it’s Nineveh 2 1/2 hours.
    So let me know, in Sept., how you’re doing. Good luck!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. pommepal says:

    That is very impressive research. I lost 12kg very dramatically when I had my teeth
    Pulled out 😱also changed my habits, eating main meal at lunch time, small meal for dinner and using smaller plates. Weight has stayed off for 2 years. But really wouldn’t recommend having teeth out!!! Good luck with your diet

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Taruna says:

    Good luck … do it… your exercise needs the nutrition component to make things work..

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Ray V. says:

    I did the diet in 2015 at the urging of my doctor because of the arthritis is my ankles from years of long distance running. I liked the diet…and lost 40 lbs in 6 months. the beauty of the diet is you are never hungry. Unfortunately, when I came off the diet I resorted to eating the bad stuff again and have gained about half the weight back that lost. I am considering going back on it and wish you well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • For me it’s been frustrating because I eat a seemingly health diet but still don’t lose. Thanks for sharing you experience. I’ll keep you updated. The thing that concerns me the most is how to make this a long term thing – guess that’s the problem with any diet.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Relax... says:

    Wow, impressive researching! I still have my bad-boy gall bladder and am afraid my diet is the complete opposite of Keto, but health-conscious daughter researched it and tried it (may still be on it) and loved it. She was having issues ever since antibiotics (prior to a trip to Africa), which seemed to result in unpredictable bouts of IBS. She felt great on the Keto, had energy galore, and her spirits improved dramatically.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. lorieb says:

    good luck, I believe you really need a lifestyle change more than a diet to successfully lose weight and keep it off. Eliminating sugar, white rice and flour, potatoes etc is a simple way to start.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I applaud your enthusiasm for yet another diet. The only diet that ever worked for me was breaking up with a boyfriend. I lost about 30 pounds.

    Cool.

    Liked by 2 people

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