Is Keto the Magic Inflammation Pill?

The keto diet is everywhere at the moment, and rightly so. People are getting started on keto meal plans left right and center, and other people are on the 'it's another fad diet' train. However, the keto diet is anything but a fad, and weight loss is ONE of its benefits, but certainly not the most exciting. Inflammation is being pointed out as the underlying cause of more and more autoimmune and lifestyle diseases.

As it turns out, a well formulated keto diet meal plan is one of the top tricks to lower this insidious condition in our bodies BEFORE the disease process takes hold, and to reduce symptoms and sometimes REVERSE the disease process once it does.  

16 -July 2020, by Bronwyn MacRitchie

The Keto Basics

A keto diet primarily comprises high-fats (55% to 60%), moderate protein (30% to 35%), and very low carbohydrates (5% to 10%) (1). This results in the creation of ketones in our livers. This diet allows our bodies to burn fat for fuel rather than glucose.

Normally, our cells utilize blood sugar as a source of energy produced from carbohydrates present in our diet. In the absence of carbohydrates, our bodies break down stored fat to produce ketone bodies (2). Most cells efficiently use these ketone bodies to generate energy, and the body can create its own glucose for the few cells that DO need glucose through gluconeogenesis (turning protein into glucose) and also from the glycerol bonds in the triglycerides being broken down.

The Keto Diet in Dubai

The keto diet focuses on reducing carbohydrates as much as possible and increasing the amount of fat. Besides its weight loss related benefits, a healthy keto meal plan offers several advantages over a prolonged period. More and more restaurants in Dubai and the UAE are including keto meal plan options in their menus as the diet becomes more and more popular in the region.

As more information about the benefits of the keto diet are becoming well known here in the UAE, keto is becoming a healthy food staple in Dubai. However we still need to be very careful about what a product or restaurant labeled 'keto' actually contains or uses in the ingredient list, as not everyone's understanding of the impact of certain ingredients is the same. So we may THINK we are eating a keto diet, but still be consuming some foods which are FEEDING disease (by increasing inflammation) rather than FIGHTING it... such as vegetable oils or sugars hiding behind 'sugar free' labels.

One of the main benefits of adopting a keto diet meal plan is the ability of the diet to lower overall inflammation in the body.

So what exactly is inflammation?

Inflammation acts as a natural cellular response from our immune system of the body to recognize and respond to injury and infection. The obvious signs of acute inflammation are identified as redness and swelling with heat and pain (3).

Acute inflammation presents beneficial effects in that it sends extra resources from the body to the affected area to promote healing and restore homeostasis. Inflammation only becomes a problem when it becomes chronic. This is when it remains overactive for a long period. The body continues sending resources to heal the damage done, but the damaging offender (or often offenders) remains present, undoing any healing progress the body has made. This chronic inflammation, where the body can no longer afford the resources to hold off the damage caused will often result in the beginning of an auto-immune disorder or may put us at risk of one of the many lifestyle diseases plaguing the population taking hold, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, many common cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease.

So what might a damaging offender look like?

5 Common causes of chronic inflammation:

  1. Chronically elevated Blood Glucose or Insulin
  2. Vegetable Oils
  3. Sugar
  4. Stress and Sleep Deficiency
  5. A Sedentary Lifestyle

Inflammation and immunity

During inflammation, a group of protein complexes known as NLRP3 inflammasomes forms to mediate immune responses against microbial infection and cellular damage. This inflammasome plays a significant role in innate immunity by fighting against the newly exposed pathogens (bacteria, fungi, and viruses) for a long time.

What we have seen with the corona virus is that people whose bodies have already formed one of these auto-immune or lifestyle diseases have very little ‘power’ left in their immune systems to muster up a strong enough approach to a new virus or pathogen entering the body, making them far more likely to succumb to the virus

How does keto lower inflammation?

When you’re following a keto diet plan, your body enters the state of ketosis. This means your body will produce beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) in the liver. BHB has has a direct effect on inflammation. BHB activates genes that improve mitochondrial function and decrease oxidative stress.

It also inhibits the NLRP3 inflammasome that is a part of our innate immune system. This inflammasome starts an inflammatory response in several disorders including autoimmune diseases, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, and auto-inflammatory disorders.

Ketosis activates the AMPK pathway (activated protein kinase) to regulate energy and inhibit the inflammatory nuclear factor in kappa light chain enhancer of activated B cells (nf-kB) pathways. This protein complex controls the transcription of DNA, inflammatory cytokine production, and cell survival (4).

One of the main benefits of adopting a keto diet meal plan is the ability of the diet to lower overall inflammation in the body. A 2020 study in mice shows that an acute increase of ketones in the blood can improve cardiac function in patients by lowering cardiac inflammation (5). The elevated circulating ketones improve heart failure outcomes through the reduction in cardiac inflammation. Mounting data suggests that the presence of ketones in the blood as a result of a keto diet offers a novel therapeutic approach for controlling pain and peripheral inflammation (6).

The keto diet, or fasting which also induces the creation of ketones in the liver, has been used for hundreds of years as a treatment for epilepsy and other brain disorders. The science is now catching up and showing us the mechanism by which it does this. The keto diet begins the molecular process to reduce brain inflammation. It is now being used with more regularity to treat and protect against against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (7). The development of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases starts with chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, which are greatly reduced by the keto diet. Alongside this, the greater weight loss has a positive correlation with the larger the anti-inflammatory effect (8).

The keto diet not only promotes the formation of these anti-inflammatory ketone bodies, but a well formulated keto meal plan is also associated with plenty of anti-inflammatory foods that help to fight against inflammation. This includes eggs, processed meats, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, sausages, cheeses, fatty fish, nuts, butter, spinach, chard, kale, broccoli, seeds, and fibrous vegetables.

In conclusion, a well-balanced keto meal plan could be a significant asset to changing your lifestyle with an overall view to lowering your chronic inflammation and reducing your chances of auto-immune diseases being activated or lifestyle diseases taking hold. The keto diet will help most people to achieve weight loss goals and decrease neuro-degenerative activity 2. The anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant response of the keto diet may prevent and ease chronic pain and abate many auto-immune diseases and their symptoms throughout the body. As a type-2 diabetes patient, you can easily control your blood sugar (and even reduce your medication with the supervision of a doctor) by choosing keto as your healthy food plan in Dubai. If you have any underlying health conditions we strongly recommend undertaking your keto diet journey with the help of one of our recommended health professionals.

References

  1. Dhamija R, Eckert S, Wirrell E. Ketogenic diet. Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences. 2013 [accessed 2020 Jul 12];40(2):158–167. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/. doi:10.1017/S0317167100013676
  2. Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you? - Harvard Health Blog - Harvard Health Publishing. [accessed 2020 Jul 13]. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketogenic-diet-is-the-ultimate-low-carb-diet-good-for-you-2017072712089
  3. Freire MO, Van Dyke TE. Natural resolution of inflammation. Periodontology 2000. 2013;63(1):149–164. doi:10.1111/prd.12034
  4. Ludwig DS. The Ketogenic Diet: Evidence for Optimism but High-Quality Research Needed. Journal of Nutrition. 2020;150(6):1354–1359. doi:10.1093/jn/nxz308
  5. Byrne NJ, Soni S, Takahara S, Ferdaoussi M, Al Batran R, Darwesh AM, Levasseur JL, Beker D, Vos DY, Schmidt MA, et al. Chronically Elevating Circulating Ketones Can Reduce Cardiac Inflammation and Blunt the Development of Heart Failure. Circulation. Heart failure. 2020;13(6):e006573. doi:10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.119.006573
  6. Ruskin DN, Kawamura M, Masino SA. Reduced pain and inflammation in juvenile and adult rats fed a ketogenic diet. PLoS ONE. 2009;4(12):1–6. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008349
  7. Bao M, Zhang K, Wei Y, Hua W, Gao Y, Li X, Ye L. Therapeutic potentials and modulatory mechanisms of fatty acids in bone. Cell Proliferation. 2020;53(2):1–28. doi:10.1111/cpr.12735
  8. Pinto A, Bonucci A, Maggi E, Corsi M, Businaro R. Anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of ketogenic diet: New perspectives for neuroprotection in alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidants. 2018;7(5). doi:10.3390/antiox7050063

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Bronwyn MacRitchie

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