Ketosis and Fasting: What Are Ketones? When it comes to maintaining good health, one word everyone should be familiar with is ketones. Ketones are produced from the burning of fat cells for energy. They help to downregulate cellular inflammation, repair the gut and heal the brain. Ketones can also impact our DNA, turning off bad genes while simultaneously activating the good ones, allowing us to live longer, healthier lives.
What makes this remarkable is these benefits are achieved by the body naturally, without taking any doctor-prescribed medicines or supplements.
Ketosis and Fasting: What Are Ketones?
The Power of Ketones and Ketosis
When doing an extended fast of 24 hours or more, the body will begin to use ketones in order to survive. After approximately three days of fasting, the body becomes fully adapted to using this powerful source of energy. At this point, ketone levels are far higher than when compared to the amount found when a person isn’t fasting.
As a result, the health benefits from ketones are increased dramatically.
While the popularity of ketosis and fasting diets are increasing, it should be noted that ketone levels during these diets don’t reach the amounts seen in studies on extended fasts. When fasting, ketones levels can be up to four times higher than with a typical ketosis diet.
The groundbreaking research on ketones over the last five years has led many to believe periods of ketosis are needed to live long, healthy lives. Hundreds of years ago, our ancestors were forced into ketosis because they either lacked food altogether or the type of food they needed (low carb choices like meats and fats) was unavailable at the time. Today, we must actively choose to take advantage of this survival mechanism that is scientifically proven to benefit us in so many ways.
Ketosis and Fasting: Benefits of Ketones
There have been many studies on the effects and benefits of ketones in the body. Here are a few findings:
Ketones and inflammatory dermatologic disease.
Studies indicate ketones “modulate the NRPL3 inflammasome,” which “may influence mTOR activity.” As a result of these findings, the researchers concluded ketones may be useful to dermatologists when treating various skin diseases.1
Suppression of oxidative stress.
Studies indicate both fasting and calorie restriction increased global histone acetylation in mouse tissues, which offered “substantial protection against oxidative stress.”2
Enhanced neurovascular function.
A study of the ketogenic diet on mice found that it may enhance brain vascular function, increase beneficial gut microbiota, and reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s Disease.3
Many studies have been performed in an attempt to determine if ketosis and calorie restriction can extend a person’s life. After reviewing their findings on experiments with mice, researchers concluded: “that increasing the levels of ketone bodies will also extend the life span of humans and that calorie restriction extends life span at least in part through increasing the levels of ketone bodies.”4
Positive effect on neurological disorders.
A 25-month study was conducted on six patients who were diagnosed with transporter protein 1 deficiency syndrome (Glut1D). Researchers studied the effects of the ketogenic diet on seizure control, cognitive functions and other neurological disorders. At the end of the study, it was discovered that five patients became seizure-free with the onset of ketosis, and the anticonvulsants were discontinued.5
Ketosis and fasting have been shown to stabilize mood. In one study two women who were diagnosed with type II bipolar disorder were able to maintain ketosis for 24-36 months respectively. Both women saw their moods stabilize in a manner similar to if they had taken medication, with no adverse effects. Researchers concluded that the ketogenic diet “is a potentially sustainable option for mood stabilization in type II bipolar illness.”6
In addition to the well-documented studies listed above, research indicates ketosis and fasting can help with the following health issues:
- Weight loss
- Obesity and Hyperlipidemia
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Fatty Liver Disease
Ketosis and Fasting: Ketones and Your Gut
Over 2500 years ago, the Greek physician Hippocrates said: “all disease begins in the gut.” While this claim is often debated, many health issues have been linked to the gut and gut health:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Skin conditions
- Acid reflux
- Mental health disorders
- Weak immune system
- Heart disease
- Type II diabetes
- Obesity/weight gain
By diversifying the gut microbiome, ketones help to heal the gut naturally at the cellular level. Ketones burn very clean and like natural gas on a stove, makes them an efficient energy source. This helps to downregulate inflammation and also decreases the risk of illness and disease. Working out while fasting can also have health benefits.
On average, if a person goes into a fasted state while already in ketosis, they won’t have the typical three day adjustment period of intense carbohydrate cravings. Instead, the body will prefer to consume fat, and will immediately begin burning this virtually unlimited source of energy. This makes fasting much less of a struggle in terms of hunger and the desire for eating the wrong foods.
In addition to intermittent fasting, here are several ways to get into ketosis:
- Decrease carbohydrate consumption
- Consume adequate amounts of protein
- Take an exogenous MCT Oil
- Increase healthy fat intake (avocado, olive oil, butter, lard, etc.)
- Add coconut oil to the diet
Fasting and ketosis have been used for centuries as a way to heal the body both physically and mentally. By incorporating this ancient healing method into their lifestyle, a person can be one step closer to improving their overall health.
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2Shimazu T, Hirschey MD, Newman J, He W, Shirakawa K, (et el) Suppression Of Oxidative Stress By Β-hydroxybutyrate, an Endogenous Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23223453
3 David Ma, Amy C. Wang, Ishita Parikh, (et al.) Ketogenic diet enhances neurovascular function with altered gut microbiome in young healthy mice Sci Rep. 2018; 8: 6670. Published online 2018 Apr 27. doi: [10.1038/s41598-018-25190-5] PMCID: PMC5923270 PMID: 29703936 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Wang+AC++ketogenic
5 Gumus H, Bayram AK, Kardas F,(et al), The Effects of Ketogenic Diet on Seizures, Cognitive Functions, and Other Neurological Disorders in Classical Phenotype of Glucose Transporter 1 Deficiency Syndrome. Neuropediatrics. 2015 Oct;46(5):313-20. doi: 10.1055/s-0035-1558435. Epub 2015 Aug 12.
6 Phelps JR, Siemers SV, El-Mallakh RS The ketogenic diet for type II bipolar disorder. Neurocase. 2013;19(5):423-6. doi: 10.1080/13554794.2012.690421. Epub 2012 Oct