Does The Ketogenic Diet Work

December 12, 2018
Does the Ketogenic Diet Work

The Ketogenic diet promotes weight loss by restricting your daily carbohydrate intake and increasing your daily fat intake.

It first originated in the 1920s when doctors developed a diet that could help treat children with drug-resistant Epilepsy. This dietary form of treatment was then used for another 2 decades. It successfully reduced the number of and intensity of seizures; then, antiepileptic drugs were introduced, and the diet form to help epileptic children near disappeared.

In the past 15 years, the ketogenic diet has grown popular in use as a fast way to lose weight because carbohydrates are deemed “bad.”

The Science

Since the ketogenic diet focuses more on fat intake and restricts carbohydrates, it causes your body to go into “physiological ketosis.” This metabolic condition releases ketones (or ketone bodies) into the bloodstream, which burns stored fat in the body rather than glucose from carbohydrate sources.

These ketone bodies are made in the mitochondrial matrix in the liver, where they generally take about 2-4 days after eating 20-25 grams less of carbohydrates per day to be released into the bloodstream.

Ketogenic Diets and Alzheimer’s Disease

Although it is not confirmed, the higher amount of fatty acids consumed, associated with keto diets, has improved brain function in patients with epilepsy. When higher carbohydrate meals were introduced to these patients, their brain function decreased.

Upon more detailed analysis, one study found that administering small amounts of medium-chain triglycerides to patients with Alzheimer’s Disease improved their memory. This was due to levels of plasma in β-hydroxybutyrate created by oxidation of these medium-chain triglycerides. The ketosis diet contains high levels of these β-hydroxybutyrates, so it is assumed that the ketogenic diet may improve or even reverse the effects Alzheimer’s disease has on the brain.

Ketogenic Diets and Parkinson’s Disease

Just as with Alzheimer’s Disease, it can be assumed that the ketogenic diet works for Parkinson’s Disease as well.

In one recently published study, patients with Parkinson’s Disease were exposed to the ketogenic diet for 28 days. Everyone agreed that they felt improved mood and relief from their Parkinson’s symptoms. The Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale, used during the experiment, acquired a mean of 43% in symptomatic reduction.

It can then be assumed that consuming greater amounts of essential fatty acids can, in fact, lower one’s development of Parkinson’s Disease risk.

Foods To Eat On A Ketogenic Diet

The following foods are derived from unprocessed, whole sources. Fat acquired from candy, pre-packaged snacks, deli meat, and bacon does not equivalate to the natural forms of essential fatty acids this diet suggests.

Does The Ketogenic Diet Work
  • Meat — but not any more than you need. Excess protein leads to glucose production, which causes your body to have difficulty going into ketosis.
  • Fish and Seafood — wild-caught fish contains fewer carbs than farm-raised fish. Salmon is one of the best sources for a keto-based diet as it is an especially fatty fish.
  • Eggs — organic is your best bet health-wise, and although you probably won’t eat this many eggs, it is recommended that no more than 36 eggs per day are consumed.
  • High (Natural) Fat Sauces — those containing oil, butter, and coconut fat are best. It is especially recommended to use fatty dressings for salads and mayonnaise alongside your favorite savory meal.
  • Above Ground Vegetables — Broccoli, tomatoes, leafy greens, eggplant, zucchini, and cauliflower all count. Root vegetables like potatoes, beets, and carrots contain too many carbohydrates for the ketogenic diet requirements.
  • Full Fat Dairy — Butter, cheese, yogurt, and cream qualify as ideal fat sources for the keto diet. Milk dissolves into milk sugar quickly when drinking, which is why it is advised not to include it; however, adding a splash to your coffee now and then is okay.
  • Nuts — avoid cashews and pistachios as they are higher in carbohydrates than other nuts. Brazil nuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts are best when following a keto diet.
  • Berries — served with real whipping cream are within the guidelines of a keto diet.

Transitional Effects On The Ketogenic Diet

Transitional effects when going on a ketogenic diet are usually not comfortable. As your body slowly eliminates carbohydrates and using glucose as a source to burn energy, there have been reported cases of lethargy, sleep problems, constipation, nausea, and vomiting.

Short Term Use

Does the ketogenic diet work short-term?

The most beneficial results from applying the keto diet to your daily lifestyle have been proved by short-term cases. Hunger becomes controlled as the higher protein and fat intake increases satiety as the ketones are released into your bloodstream, increasing metabolic efficiency. This allows you to lose weight in a fairly fast manner.

There have been studies that imply, when used correctly and as directed by a medical professional, that obese patients can benefit from following a keto diet as well. Like those with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, ketosis can improve brain impairment and mood caused by being overweight. The lethargy associated with the transition stage to this diet was reported to pass quickly concerning the mood-boosting effects.

Those with insulin resistance can benefit as the keto diet cuts out glucose from dietary carbohydrates, allowing for improved glycemic control.

Long Term Use

Less common are studies on the effects long-term use of the ketogenic diet has on the human body. Upon further analysis, however, this diet may very well be restricted to short-term use only.

Even though the Ketogenic diet can improve mood and brain function, its effects on the rest of the body are uncertain. The only true tests of the ketogenic’s long-term effects on the body were tested on mice and rats.

After 22 weeks of being on the diet, weight loss was not present. Instead, the fatty liver disease increased triglycerides and cholesterol numbers were pertinent and the possibility to develop type 2 diabetes over time. This is possible because the long-term ketosis done on the mice proved glucose intolerance resulted from the pancreas’s inability to excrete insulin efficiently— doing permanent damage to the body’s metabolism. Furthermore, the ketosis diet could cause kidney stones, impaired growth, osteoporosis, and hyperlipidemia. Read more about the study here:

More long-term side effects can include muscle loss and hormonal changes, including insulin and reproductive hormones.

In women especially, blood can turn acidic when following an ill-advised keto diet plan that can lead to many health concerns that cause harmful effects on your hormones and metabolism.

Robert Atkins, the creator of the Atkins Diet, which focused on high consumption of proteins and fats and lower consumption of carbohydrates (much like the ketogenic diet), died at 72 of a heart attack. A report from the New York examiner’s office, 1 year after his death, revealed that he had a history of hypertension, heart attacks, and congestive heart failure.

Blood Levels – Chart Comparison

The following chart compares the nutrient intake of a standard RDA daily intake to that of a ketogenic diet.


Keto Diet Recommended Diet
Calories 1,827


19-25: 2,200

26-50: 2,000

51+: 1,800



19-25: 2,800

26-45: 2,600

46-65: 2,400

65+: 2,200

Total Fat % of Caloric Intake 73% 20%-30%
Saturated Fat % of Caloric Intake 44% Less than 10%
Trans Fat % of Caloric Intake N/A N/A
Total Carbohydrates % of Caloric Intake 7% 45%-65%
Sugars (total except as noted) N/A N/A
Fiber 15.05 g


19-30: 28 g

31-50: 25 g

51+: 22 g



19-30: 34 g

31-50: 31 g

51+: 28 g

Protein % of Caloric intake 17% 10%-35%
Sodium 1,258 mg Under 2,300 mg
Potassium 1,747 mg At least 4,700 mg
Calcium 347 mg


19-50: 1,000 mg

51+: 1,200 mg



1,000 mg

Vitamin B-12 1.52 mcg 2.4 mcg
Vitamin D 9.07 mcg 15 mcg

The following chart compares the blood levels of glucose, insulin, KB conc, and pH when on a normal, ketogenic, or diabetic ketoacidosis diet.


Blood Levels Normal Diet Ketogenic Diet Diabetic Ketoacidosis
Glucose (mg/dL) 80-120 65-80 >300
Insulin (µU/L) 6-23 6.6-9.4 ≈0
KB conc (mmol/L) 0.1 7/8 >25
pH 7.4 7.4 <7.3


Medical Reviews

According to U.S. News Best Diet Rankings, a panel of health experts evaluated 40 diets and ranked them as #1 being the best and #40 being the worst in each category. These were the results of the ketogenic diet.

  • Best Diets For Healthy Eating — #40
  • Best Diabetes Diets — #33
  • Best Heart-Healthy Diets — #35
  • Best Weight-Loss Diets — #23
  • Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets — #13
  • Easiest Diets to Follow — #38
  • Best Diets Overall — #39

Some quotes from the panel of health experts:

  • In referencing the keto diet to the Best Diets for Healthy Eating category, it was said to be “extremely incomplete. Any diet that recommends snacking on bacon can’t be taken seriously as a health-promoting way to eat.”
  • In referencing the keto diet to the Heart-Healthy category, “Minimally effective. [Dieters will give up fruits, whole grains, and starchy, non-starchy vegetables which] is the opposite of what we want for diabetes and heart disease prevention.”
  • In referencing the diet’s safety, the experts advised against individuals with heart disease, kidney disease, and severe diabetes from following this diet, “This plan could be dangerous for some.”

Should You Do It?

Using the above research as a guideline, it is safe to say that the ketogenic diet may be okay for certain individuals to use the short term (especially children with epilepsy and individuals with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease), under close medical evaluation but is not recommended long term as there is a lack of adequate evidence to prove it is safe for humans to maintain.

Does The Ketogenic Diet Work

Then, the keto diet can be very well known as a fad diet or yo-yo diet. This means it simply provides quick weight loss but restricts essential nutrients that promote an overall healthy functioning human body that can eventually do more damage than good.

Fad diets have a long history of increasing mortality as the severe restrictions of essential nutrients can decrease the quality of organ, bone, and muscle functions. It is always recommended to follow a diet that includes plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables of varying colors, healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and avocados, and proteins like legumes, tofu, and fish as the most beneficial way to live a longer, happier life.


The content in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. I, the author of Back to Your Roots Herbs, am not a medical professional. As such, the information shared and studies referenced in this article should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or health illness. Before acting on the information presented here, please consult with a healthcare professional. A medical professional or the Food & Drug Administration has not evaluated any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods, supplements, essential oils, or lifestyle changes that have not been evaluated by a medical professional or the Food & Drug Administration. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. I, the author of Back to Your Roots Herbs, will not accept responsibility for the actions or consequential results of any action taken by any reader.

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