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Is the keto diet more effective than exercise?

Ketogenic diets are all the rage right now. It’s all about restricting carbohydrates and filling up on healthy fats instead. And everyone and their grandmother are on it.

We’ll know in due time if it’s just another fad like so many before, but for now all indications are that the keto diet is proving to be a fat-burning miracle.

What is the process behind this new wonder diet?

The ketogenic, or keto diet limits carbohydrate intake to no more than 50 grams a day, which comes to a slice of bread or a small cup of white rice.

There’s a reason for restricting carbs so drastically. When you eat carbs your body produces glucose and insulin to process the glucose.

Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy, so when you eat food high in carbs, the resulting glucose is used as a primary energy source. The fat that’s part of the meal is not needed for energy and is therefore stored, hence an increase in body weight.

Now, if we eat a diet high in fat and low in carbs, the body doesn’t have any glucose to turn to for fuel and uses the fat stored in your body instead.  The stored fat is broken down into fatty acids, which, when they reach the liver, are converted into an organic substance called ketones. This metabolic state is called ketosis.

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This is the deal:

A properly maintained keto diet starves the body of carbohydrates, forcing it to live off fats.

If the results are so great, why are so many people reluctant to try the keto diet?

They are clinging to an outdated myth that promotes a low-fat diet.  For years now health experts have recommended a low-fat diet to control obesity, type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Fat has been the enemy for so long that people are reluctant to see it as a friend.

However, research is emerging that points to the benefits of the ketogenic diet.

Research led by Madeline Gibas, an assistant professor at Bethel University focused on Human Bioenergetics and Applied Health Science, wanted to know if a ketogenic diet with no exercise was more beneficial to diabetics and sufferers of metabolic syndrome than the standard American diet with exercise, reports Big Think.

Three groups, women and men between the ages of 18 and 65, all diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, or Type II diabetes participated in the study.

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They were randomly assigned to three groups. For ten weeks the first group had a diet of less than 30 grams of carbohydrates per day and did not exercise; the second ate their normal diet and also did not exercise; the third ate their normal diet but exercised for three to five days per week for 30 minutes a session.

Fig.1. Illustrates data for all individuals, and groups. Individual data is represented by thin lines; group averages are demonstrated by thick lines. The ketogenic group reflects greater reductions than the exercise and non-exercise groups in weight, BFM, BMI, HgA1c, triglycerides and greater increases in the RMR and ketones, as predicted. (Source: Madeline K. Gibas, Kelly J. Gibas, Bethel University, MN, United States)

After ten weeks it was clear that the ketogenic group outperformed the exercise and the non-exercise groups.

The results show that while exercise is beneficial, a sustained ketogenic diet is even better for weight loss as the keto diet was able to really change the metabolic imbalance associated with conditions like metabolic syndrome over the course of the ten-week study.

In their study the researchers point to the following data from research they studied, which must still filter through to all levels of medical care:

  1. Carbohydrate restriction is the best way to decrease blood glucose levels.
  2. The benefits of carbohydrate restriction do not require weight loss.
  3. Dietary fat do not correlate with risk for cardiovascular disease.
  4. Carbohydrate restriction is the most effective method (other than starvation) of reducing serum triglycerides and increasing HDL (vital for heart health).

What does the keto diet look like?

The keto diet just about turns the food pyramid upside down.

Source: Big Think

On the diet, healthy fats should be about 60-75% or more of a person’s daily calories, while protein should be 15-30% and carbs ideally only 5-10%.

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How does the average American diet stack up?

Americans get about 50% of their calories from carbs, 30% from fat, and 15% from protein, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What does this mean for you? It means goodbye to potatoes, pasta and rice at meals and cheerio to pastry treats between meals.

But, also a guilt-free hello to nuts, cheese, butter, bacon and cream.

Not a bad deal, I think.


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Written by Coert Engels

I'm a South African based writer and am passionate about exploring the latest ideas in artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology. I also focus on the human condition, with a particular interest human intuition and creativity. To share some feedback about my articles, email me at [email protected]

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