Fat is an essential nutrient to support the functioning of our body. It also supplies 9 calories per gram of fat consumed, which can serve as storage reserves for the body, to be used when required. It is necessary to help and absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Many people are confused about the types of fats and what may be good or not so good.
So I have prepared the following to try and simplify the subject (you may need to magnify the diagram below in your reader):
However bear in mind that consuming concentrated fats in the form of oils (such as olive oil, coconut oil etc) is not recommended. Basically these oils are all the product of refinement, and are nutrient deficient, and therefore not in their natural form for the body to be able to use. It is always better to consume the foods in which the oils are present rather than the extracted oils from those foods.
Your Health and the High Fat Low Carb (Ketogenic) Diet, And Its Effect on Cancer.
The ketogenic diet has the effect of altering the body’s metabolic profile away from the glucose-dominant energy that most people adopt as their ‘normal’ diet (low fat, high carbohydrate), and which is typically recommended by health authorities in line with their various ‘food pyramids’.
Cancer requires large amounts of glucose to thrive and depends on the high levels of insulin, induced by the typical high glucose ‘normal’ diet, for its growth. The ketogenic diet creates a state of ketosis in the body that reduces glucose metabolism and insulin, and which serves to arrest and reduce cancer growth. The ketone-bodies produced have also been shown to directly damage and even to kill cancer cells and reduce the ability of cancer cells to proliferate. Ketones inhibit glycolysis, which is the first step in the breakdown of glucose to extract energy for cellular metabolism, which is an important energy pathway for cancer.
It is well know that chronic inflammation plays a huge role in cancer development and progression, as well as many other chronic metabolic, cardiovascular, and neurological diseases. The ‘normal’ high glycemic and high insulin diet promotes inflammation, whereas the ketogenic diet is anti-inflammatory and therefore serves to correct chronic inflammation. Therefore the ketogenic diet can be effective for many chronic disorders.
So what exactly is a ketogenic diet? Very simply it is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet which forces the body to burn fats for energy rather than carbohydrates. It seems to have become the ‘diet du jour’ in many trendy circles. There seem to be many different opinions what high-fat actually means, and also which fats are the right fats. You are encouraged to do your own research and consult your own trusted health professional on the matter.
There are three primary forms of ketones in your body, acetone, acetoacetate, and beta-hydroxybutryate. Each of these compounds do different things in the metabolism of ketosis and can be measured individually with differing techniques.
Using strips for urine analysis, acetoacetate can be measured. But urine analysis may not be sufficiently accurate as the kidneys go through some adaptation after a few weeks of ketosis and reabsorb more of the ketones rather than excrete them. The most accurate measure is blood analysis of the primary ketone beta-hydroxybutryate. There are several handheld meters that can accurately beta-hydroxybutryate levels in the blood. Acetone or acetate is another ketone body produced from the metabolism of beta-hydroxybutyrate to acetoacetate and then into acetate. While not directly responsible for ketone metabolism and more of an indirect measure, acetate has been found in recent research to correlate very closely to levels of beta-hydroxybutyrate in the blood.
From the perspective of some of the ‘experts’ and particularly that of Professor Jeff Volek, one of the world leaders in this research area, a state of metabolic ketosis may vary between individuals. A good guide for nutritional ketosis is defined as serum ketones (beta-hydroxybutyrate) ranging from 0.5 to 4.0mM (millimolar), with the optimum level being between 1.5 to 3.0mM. For those wishing to pursue this diet it is recommended that ketone levels be measured so that you can be sure if your body is actually in a state of ketosis.
One combination of macronutrients (according to Jeff Volek) that would result in a state of ketosis is 70-75% fat, 15-20% protein, and 5-15% carbohydrate. It will vary from person to person. The level of carbohydrates should be that which allows your body to be in a state of ketosis, which is likely to be around 50grams per day, depending on your lifestyle and medical condition. His suggestion is that the small amounts of carbohydrates should come from a combination of protein based foods, vegetables, nuts and seeds, fruits, and others rather than from refined, packaged or convenience-food sources.
The 15-20% protein content is your own decision based on what your source of preferences may be for your own health, and is likely to represent 1 to 1.5 grams daily per kilo of body weight (if not already overweight). Although there are many differing opinions regarding optimum protein levels and sources. If protein level is too high it can inhibit a state of ketosis.
On the subject of the 70-75% fat it is a more complex consideration. Which types of fats should you emphasize on a low carbohydrate diet? The main three types of fatty acids are:
· saturated fats (SFA),
· mono-unsaturated fats (MUFA), and
· poly-unsaturated fats (PUFA).
The PUFA include the essential fats omega-6 and omega-3. Typically the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 for most of the population on a ‘normal’ diet is up to 20:1. Ideally this should be more in balance near the 1:1 ratio.
If we look at the approximate composition of SFA, MUFA and PUFA stored in most adipose tissue of the body we can see that it is typically in this proportion:
· MUFA 55%
· SFA 27%
· PUFA 18%
Therefore the type of fat that has the highest storage content in most people is MUFA. On a low carbohydrate diet where the primary function of fat is for fuel the emphasis should be on MUFA and SFA as the primary fuel. PUFA is essential but not in a very high quantity – perhaps a teaspoon per day.
To emphasize the levels of MUFA and reduce the amounts of PUFA would mean avoidance of the commonly used vegetable oils – safflower (78% PUFA), soybean (60%), corn (57%), peanut (34%), canola (28%), etc, – and to instead use foods and oils with a higher content of MUFA, such as olive oil (75% MUFA), olives (77%), avocados (71%), nuts (60-80%), lean beef (50%).
Foods high in SFA include coconut oil (92% SFA), butter (68%), cheese (66%), cream (66%), palm oil (52%), beef fat (50%).
There is a lot of information and misinformation about SFA. So should we be concerned about saturated fats (SFA)? Those who say SFA is not good for health, and those who say SFA is good for health are both somewhat correct. A high blood-level of SFA is a sign of poor health as it encourages insulin resistance and indicates fat metabolism is impeded. Usually this happens on a high carbohydrate diet that also includes reasonable high levels of fats. However on a low carbohydrate diet SFA is burnt, not accumulated, is not stored in the blood, and there is usually low insulin sensitivity.
Another important point is that on a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet it is important to emphasize salt in the diet. This is due to the change in the way the kidneys handle salt in the presence of the low insulin associated with the ketogenic diet. It means the kidneys will excrete more salt. So the body loses sodium from the blood as well as volume of plasma, which can cause many of the side effects of the ketogenic diet that people may experience – tired, headache, dizzy, high heart rate, etc. This can also lead to potassium deficiency and other mineral imbalances. So it is important to have sufficient salt in the diet, in the presence of ketosis.
As you can see this is a big subject with many considerations. Especially if we consider fasting which is another way of initiating ketosis. The bottom line is that to protect your own health you need to learn and know what you are doing before blindly following the latest ‘diet du jour’.
I hope this helps by way of an introduction to the subject.