Ketogenic Science : The Science Behind A Ketogenic Diet

A Keto diet or ketogenic diet and therefore a LCHF (low carb high fat) diet is, in essence, a high natural fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate dietary plan. Ketogenic science has been used medically to reduce type 2 diabetes and IR (Insulin Resistance) and there is evidence that it is effective in Autism, epilepsy, cancer and Alzheimers treatments.


“Ketogenesis” means “generating ketones”, which your body does naturally to generate energy from fat when carb sources are sufficiently low (e.g. after intense exercise, long periods of fasting or carbs missing from your diet). “Ketogenic diets” is a way of “hacking your body” into using fat as the energy source rather than carbs.

Ketogenic Science: Ketones

Ketone bodies are three water-soluble molecules (acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and their spontaneous breakdown product, acetone) containing the ketone group that is produced by the liver from fatty acids during periods of low carbohydrate restrictive diets and prolonged intense exercise.

These ketone bodies are readily picked up by tissues outside the liver and converted into acetyl-CoA which then enters the citric acid cycle and is oxidized in the mitochondria for energy.

In the brain, ketone bodies are also used to make acetyl-CoA into long-chain fatty acids.

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Ketone bodies are produced by the liver from the production of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources (not including fatty acids). They are therefore always released into the blood by the liver together with newly produced glucose after the liver glycogen stores have been depleted (these glycogen stores are depleted within the first 24 hours of fasting).

The single most important thing you can change in your life is the food you eat, meaning your diet. More important than exercise! 

Aside from the intense biology lecture. The important bit to remember is that your body needs glucose and can get from other sources, rather than sugar and carbohydrates.

In fact, your body does not need carbs at all. Fats have been proven by the above natural process that we all learnt in high school.

“Normal” heart-healthy diet as recommended by the AHA (American Heart Association), talks about preventing heart disease and recommends what we know today as the normal diet. Eating more than 100g carbs a day.

Your body uses what it can and then send excess energy to fat cells, your liver and muscles will store carbs in a relatively simple storage mechanism called glycogen, which is what most of the carbs you eat quickly get reduced to):

Your brain normally runs on ~100g of glucose per day, so when your liver isn’t able to pump out sufficient glucose for this requirement, it starts producing ketone bodies to get the job done. Roughly ~70% of its energy from these ketone bodies go to the brain.

So, the Keto diet involves significantly reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with natural fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. 

There are 3 key nutrients in our diets

  • Fat
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates


Let’s talk about protein. The lesser discussed nutrient, that is never the less important to manage.


The Role of Protein in Our Diet

protein in keto

Protein although not very well mentioned in most keto diets is at the centre of keto and ketogenic science.

We, in fact, need to make sure we hit the mark on protein intake in our diets. More so that both fats and carbs. In order to digest proteins, there are complex metabolic processes required to break down these proteins for use as essential amino acids.

Proteins are ultimately responsible for muscle repair and growth, so too little protein means muscle degradation and weakness.

Too much protein means weight gain. Meat proteins are absolutely vital in this process and we need protein to survive.

Consuming protein will raise insulin in the same way that carbs do. The excess protein will be converted into glucose, and raise insulin levels, and fat storage. This is especially important for those that are IR (Insulin Resistant).

The Role of Fats In Our Diet

Fats should be the main source of our energy. But will also be used to provide us with that feeling of being full, so we can get through to the next meal.

Dietary fat is the cornerstone of the keto diet. It’s the high fat intake and low carb intake that makes the diet “work” and keeps your body in ketosis.

Since 1977 we have been told to reduce our fat intake, especially saturated fats to reduce cholesterol and our risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The majority of cholesterol circulating in our bloodstream is LDL (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol). The proposed link between LDL and heart disease is the basis behind restricting cholesterol and saturated fat intake, and the use of statin medication.

A keto diet promotes HDL (high-density cholesterol) and reduces LDL, more significantly than these Statin medications. So fat is the main energy source and in fact the major player in our health.

The Role of Carbs In Our Diet

how our bodies use carbs

The great fall in our diets was when we began to farm. This created a sedentary lifestyle for non-farmers and we began our start to quick and easy food. Today our carbs look a lot different to then and our overuse of sugar is just staggering. The carbs we consume are broken down into glucose to be used for energy in our cells and for storage for our brains or is converted to fat for later use.


Insulin is the hormone that handles the process of fats to energy. All carbohydrates are not created equal. Green leafy veg like kale, spinach, broccoli, and fermented foods like sauerkraut all have high amounts of insoluble fibre.

The Role Of Fibre In Our Diet

how our bodies use carbs

Fibre plays an important role in becoming fat adapted, or ketogenic. Insoluble fibre means that it cannot be broken down by the gut bacteria, and does not dissolve in water.

It is indigestible, an “anti-nutrient” because it does not break down and become part of you. Fibre is also great at retaining a lot of water, thereby making stool bulky and softer.  Consuming fibre does not affect blood sugar levels and therefore will have a negligible effect on insulin. This is an important concept when we get to our diet plan.

Unlike sugars and starches, dietary fibre is not broken down into glucose. Instead, this type of carb passes through the body undigested. Soluble fibre is found in oats, legumes and the inner part of fruits and some vegetables.

As we know fibre helps the tummy remain clean and regular. Insoluble fibre does the opposite, and adds weight to your stool, allows things to move faster through the system. This type of fiber is found in whole grains and the skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables.

When glucose, produced through consuming carbs, enters our cells it creates pyruvate.

Fatty acids, however, get transformed into a ketone body called acetoacetate, which then gets converted further into 2 additional molecules called beta-hydroxybutyrate and acetone. The difference between the two is that ketone bodies can produce 25% more potential energy than pyruvate. 


Weight loss Through Diet And Ketogenic Science

The process of weight loss is not as straight forward as counting calories. Our bodies respond differently to 100g (3,5 Oz) of butter, vs 100g (3,5 Oz) of ice cream.

Essentially fat vs sugar. The main driver of this process is hunger. The less hungry you are, the less likely you’ll consume more calories.

So, the fewer insulin spikes you have, the easier your body is able to use fats and give you satiety. Sugar also produces addiction which why you can get Keto flu.

This ultimately means Ketosis occurs as a result of the change in the body’s fuel from carbohydrate to fat. Incomplete oxidation of fatty acids by the liver results in the accumulation of ketone bodies in the body. … Thus, a ketogenic diet is a good regulator of the body’s calorie intake and mimics the effect of starvation in the body.

In a study published in Experimental & Clinical Cardiology Hussein et al were able to show the beneficial effects of a long-term ketogenic diet (24 months). It significantly reduced the body weight and body mass index of the patients. Furthermore, it decreased the level of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and blood glucose, and increased the level of HDL cholesterol. Administering a ketogenic diet for a relatively long period of time did not produce any significant side effects in the patients. Therefore, the present study confirms that it is safe to use a ketogenic diet for a longer period of time than previously demonstrate..

This study also shows that carbs are not needed in our diet!