Keto is not just great for weight loss, there are many other benefits too, and there are some pretty big ones which may surprise you.
Surprising Benefits of Keto Beyond Weight Loss
9-Mar 2022, by Lee Sandwith
The Amazing Keto Diet
As we’ve discussed many times before, the vast majority of people follow a keto diet to lose weight, and that’s not surprising as switching to keto, or even just a more general low-carb diet, is extremely successful for weight loss.
We’ve also talked extensively already about the massive potential as an intervention to metabolic disease and type 2 diabetes.
This has been demonstrated extensively in the literature, most famously through the Virta Study, one of the most credible and scientifically solid studies in the world.
Given the high prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the UAE and wider middle east, this is a very important topic and the main focus of this article.
But beyond weight loss, metabolic disease and type 2 diabetes, there are many other health benefits of which you might not be aware.
In this article we cover some of the main ones, starting with the brain.
Keto and The Brain
The brain’s main fuel source is glucose but whilst there are some areas of the brain where glucose is essential, ketones can provide as much as 70% of the brain’s energy needs (1).
And it doesn’t just function, the brain performs extremely well using ketones and it has even been suggested that ketones supply energy to the brain in a more efficient manner than glucose (2) and that ketones may actually be the brain’s preferred fuel source.
In fact, the original ketogenic diet was developed in the 1920s to treat drug-resistant epilepsy in children (3) and whilst the exact mechanisms are unknown, keto is a proven intervention for seizures which is used to this day.
Some other examples of what keto and ketones might be used to treat are:
- Brain injury
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Memory function
- Parkinson’s disease
ketones supply energy to the brain in a more efficient manner than glucose and may be the brain’s preferred fuel source.
Keto often gets a bad rap in the press but if you dig deep, there is actually a lot a lot science to back this up and lots of interesting research ongoing in this field.
Personally, one of my favourite benefits is the mental clarity and focus you experience when in ketosis.
This is because ketones are crossing the blood brain barrier and being used in a much more efficient manner than glucose (4).
You can experience this mental boost by simply following a very low carbohydrate diet, or by consuming exogenous ketones if you’re into experimenting with supplements.
Keto and Hormone Imbalance
Next on the list is hormones.
Many people, especially women, have started experimenting with keto as a way to manage hormone imbalances (5).
PCOS is a common disease affecting around 10% of women which can cause issues with fertility, weight gain, menstruation and excess facial and body hair.
PCOS is much more common in women with excess weight, type 2 diabetes, previous gestational diabetes and other conditions related to insulin resistance.
As keto has been proven to improve all of these conditions, it’s no surprise that the diet has the potential to treat PCOS.
Cancer Therapy and Keto
The next major opportunity is cancer.
Cancer was previously thought to be a genetic condition but there is mounting evidence to suggest that cancer is actually a metabolic disease, that is, nutrition and lifestyle may play a major role. (8,9,10)
This is a very controversial topic so we won’t get into much detail here, it’s just worth being aware that there is a lot of noise in the scientific community about the potential of the ketogenic diet as a cancer intervention.
Last but not least for this article is inflammation.
For the most part, inflammation in the body is actually a good thing.
There are two different types of inflammation: actute inflammation and chronic inflammation.
Acute inflammation is where there is an immune response to something going wrong inside the body, such as a virus or infection.
This type of inflammation is actually a good thing.
Conversely, chronic inflammation occurs when it shouldn’t, for example it can be triggered by: Exposure to toxins, Chronic stress, Obesity, Autoimmune disorders and nutritional inputs such as vegetables oil and refined carbohydrates.
This type of inflammation is associated with numerous health problems, including heart disease, arthritis, depression, Alzheimer's disease, and even cancer.
The good news is that there is mounting research to suggest that switching to a keto diet could also help reduce chronic inflammation (9).
Whilst the ketogenic diet has exploded in popularity over recent years due to it’s powerful potential as a tangible weight loss intervention, there are many more health benefits associated with keto.
There are hundreds of studies in the literature demonstrating the power of keto as an intervention for many health conditions.
My view has always been that keto might not be for everyone, however, there is a case that keto is emerging as “the lifestyle” for anyone seriously interested in health, wellness and longevity.
About the Author
Lee Sandwith holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Nutrition and is a registered nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition. You can book a free 30 minute consultation with Lee here.
- White H, Venkatesh B. Clinical review: ketones and brain injury. Crit Care. 2011 Apr 6;15(2):219. doi: 1186/cc10020. PMID: 21489321; PMCID: PMC3219306.
- Jensen NJ, Wodschow HZ, Nilsson M, Rungby J. Effects of Ketone Bodies on Brain Metabolism and Function in Neurodegenerative Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21(22):8767. Published 2020 Nov 20. doi:3390/ijms21228767
- Martin-McGill KJ, Jackson CF, Bresnahan R, Levy RG, Cooper PN. Ketogenic diets for drug-resistant epilepsy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Nov 7;11(11):CD001903. doi: 1002/14651858.CD001903.pub4. Update in: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020 Jun 24;6:CD001903. PMID: 30403286; PMCID: PMC6517043.
- Versele R, Corsi M, Fuso A, Sevin E, Businaro R, Gosselet F, Fenart L, Candela P. Ketone Bodies Promote Amyloid-β1-40 Clearance in a Human in Vitro Blood-Brain Barrier Model. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Jan 31;21(3):934. doi: 3390/ijms21030934. PMID: 32023814; PMCID: PMC7037612.
- Gupta L, Khandelwal D, Kalra S, Gupta P, Dutta D, Aggarwal S. Ketogenic diet in endocrine disorders: Current perspectives. J Postgrad Med. 2017;63(4):242-251. doi:4103/jpgm.JPGM_16_17
- Cincione RI, Losavio F, Ciolli F, et al. Effects of Mixed of a Ketogenic Diet in Overweight and Obese Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(23):12490. Published 2021 Nov 27. doi:3390/ijerph182312490
- Paoli A, Mancin L, Giacona MC, Bianco A, Caprio M. Effects of a ketogenic diet in overweight women with polycystic ovary syndrome. J Transl Med. 2020;18(1):104. Published 2020 Feb 27. doi:1186/s12967-020-02277-0
- Weber DD, Aminzadeh-Gohari S, Tulipan J, Catalano L, Feichtinger RG, Kofler B. Ketogenic diet in the treatment of cancer - Where do we stand?. Mol Metab. 2020;33:102-121. doi:1016/j.molmet.2019.06.026
- Dowis K, Banga S. The Potential Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet: A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2021;13(5):1654. Published 2021 May 13. doi:3390/nu13051654
- Hagihara K, Kajimoto K, Osaga S, et al. Promising Effect of a New Ketogenic Diet Regimen in Patients with Advanced Cancer. Nutrients. 2020;12(5):1473. Published 2020 May 19. doi:3390/nu12051473