Ketogenic Diet Study on Soldiers Provides Striking Weight Loss Results

This three-month study of the keto diet, which included a rigorous physical training component, resulted in an overall improvement in body composition for active service members.

Aug. 13, 2019
By Elizabeth Bellizzi

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With poten­tial sig­nif­i­cance for the reten­tion and readi­ness of the American armed forces, the keto­genic diet has been tested for the first time among mem­bers of the mil­i­tary and pro­vided strik­ing” weight loss results.

Participants were recruited from the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps and other local groups with a mil­i­tary affil­i­a­tion. The aim was to repli­cate the demo­graph­ics of the American armed forces in respect to age, sex, race and body mass.”

Generally, what we rec­om­mended is that the monoun­sat­u­rated fat be the pri­mary fat source, there will be some ani­mal fat and but­ter, but obvi­ously olive oil is huge, being one of the health­ier (fat sources).- Richard LaFountain, co-author of the study

In a 12-week study, researchers at the Ohio State University (OSU) found strik­ing” results among con­sis­tent loss of body mass, fat mass, vis­ceral fat, and enhanced insulin sensitivity.”

A keto­genic diet is high in fat, low in car­bo­hy­drates (often 25 grams each day) with a mod­er­ate intake of protein.

See Also: Olive Oil Health Benefits

The 29 par­tic­i­pants who com­pleted the study self-selected into either a keto­genic or mixed diet. Participants were on aver­age over­weight, but not obese.

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Mixed diet par­tic­i­pants con­sumed their nor­mal diet and were allowed to increase their intake of whole, non-processed foods. The researchers requested only that they main­tained a min­i­mum car­bo­hy­drate intake of 40 per­cent. There were no lim­i­ta­tions regard­ing caloric intake for either group and all were instructed to eat until they were full.

Keto diet par­tic­i­pants lost greater mass, their mean weight loss was about 7.7 kilo­grams (17 pounds) more than any par­tic­i­pant in the mixed diet group. Average vis­ceral fat vol­ume decreased con­sid­er­ably more in the keto group than a mixed diet.

Richard LaFountain, a co-author of the study report, Extended Ketogenic Diet and Physical Training Intervention in Military Personnel,’ noted that the study dura­tion, which allowed bio­chem­i­cal changes to take place, and the daily blood ketone and glu­cose mon­i­tor­ing were key fac­tors that con­tributed to the increased weight loss.

The amount of daily fat required on the keto diet was a crit­i­cal part of the learn­ing process for participants.

Generally, what we rec­om­mended is that the monoun­sat­u­rated fat be the pri­mary fat source, there will be some ani­mal fat and but­ter, but obvi­ously olive oil is huge, being one of the health­ier [fat sources],” LaFountain said. We incor­po­rated a lot of olive oil with our coach­ing along the way.”

Unlike other keto stud­ies that focus solely on weight loss, the OSU research team wanted to deter­mine if the diet would com­pro­mise phys­i­cal performance.

Based on the weight loss [aver­age of nine per­cent of ini­tial body mass], you might assume that the keto group might have some kind of deficit or might be a lit­tle slug­gish dur­ing train­ing, and their per­for­mance might have been affected by the weight loss,” LaFountain said. We did not see that.”

Keto and mixed diet par­tic­i­pants trained for approx­i­mately one hour with the research team two to three times a week in a stan­dard­ized pro­gram designed to increase whole-body strength and power move­ments impor­tant for mil­i­tary rel­e­vant tasks,” accord­ing to the study.

Although mil­i­tary dieti­tians may not sug­gest a keto diet to all sol­diers they coun­sel, parts of this eat­ing plan have merit in their con­ver­sa­tion about per­for­mance nutrition.

We pro­mote the men­tal­ity of we are sol­dier-ath­letes and cap­i­tal­iz­ing on that ath­letic per­for­mance and really eat­ing for per­for­mance,” First Lieutenant Jennifer T West, the clin­i­cal dietet­ics chief at the Eisenhower Army Medical Center, said. It’s easy for me to ask sol­diers: Think of your top-level Olympic ath­letes. What do you think they’re eating.”

West added that in her clinic they focus on what she called the bal­anced gen­er­ally healthy diet.” This is sim­i­lar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guide­lines, which are fol­lowed by mil­i­tary installations.

If I could make my own plate, right in the mid­dle I would have healthy fats,” West said. Olive oil is def­i­nitely a healthy fat and I’m glad that we’re mov­ing away from the fat-free fad of the past. And now we’re start­ing to real­ize the impor­tance of heart-healthy fat and what that does for our heart, what it does for our brain devel­op­ment. Healthy fats are required for our over­all health.”

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