Food & Cooking

Olive Oil and the Ketogenic Diet

Studies on diabetes, obesity, weight loss and cholesterol have shown the ketogenic diet can have a positive impact on fighting the health issues.

May. 31, 2018
By Laura Peill

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Stud­ies on dia­betes, obe­sity, weight loss and cho­les­terol have shown the keto­genic diet can have a pos­i­tive impact on fight­ing the health issues of a dra­matic pro­por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion and, when adopted safely and cor­rectly, allows olive oil to be a reg­u­lar part of a daily lifestyle.

The keto­genic diet is a diet based on the con­sump­tion of pre­dom­i­nately fat, giv­ing less empha­sis to the other two macronu­tri­ents, par­tic­u­larly car­bo­hy­drates. While ratios vary depend­ing on the indi­vid­ual and their goals, con­sump­tion typ­i­cally con­sists of only five to ten per­cent car­bo­hy­drates, fif­teen to thirty per­cent pro­tein and the remain­der of the diet is made up of fat.

The premise behind the diet is sim­ple: a higher con­sump­tion of fat con­verts the body to using fat as its energy source instead of its default, car­bo­hy­drates. The body breaks down fat for fuel, turn­ing it into ketones, or ketone bod­ies, which it can then use in a process known as keto­sis.

Keto­sis is the con­ver­sion of these ketone bod­ies into a usable energy source, com­pleted along an energy con­ver­sion path in the body. Because the body is revert­ing to this alter­na­tive source of fuel, it is impor­tant to not con­sume a high vol­ume of car­bo­hy­drates, as it will con­vert back to using this macronu­tri­ent as fuel.

From a health and dietary per­spec­tive, the pop­u­lar­ity of the keto­genic diet has arrived because, at its root, the body is burn­ing fat for energy. As the body becomes effi­cient in this method of energy extrac­tion, you can reduce the amount of fat you con­sume and the body will start to use stored fat as well as the fat you con­sume to facil­i­tate keto­sis.

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The sim­plic­ity of the con­cept and its poten­tial asso­ci­ated ben­e­fits have become the foun­da­tion of research stud­ies inves­ti­gat­ing the poten­tial effects and impli­ca­tions of the keto­genic diet on var­i­ous pop­u­la­tion groups.

One study looked at indi­vid­u­als who suf­fer from obe­sity and the keto­genic diet as a poten­tial aid in weight loss. The research showed that one of the biggest ben­e­fits of the diet when it comes to tack­ling obe­sity is the indi­rect effect of boost­ing sati­ety.

An increased amount of fat in the diet helps indi­vid­u­als feel fuller for a longer period of time by mod­u­lat­ing blood sugar lev­els. Because fat does not cause a dras­tic spike in blood sugar, and is digested slowly, it pro­vides a sus­tained source of energy, mak­ing peo­ple feel hun­gry less often, and the over­all caloric intake is reduced.

It is a nat­ural pro­gres­sion along the health tra­jec­tory to move from address­ing obe­sity stem­ming from blood sugar reg­u­la­tion to fur­ther address­ing blood sugar reg­u­la­tion dys­func­tion: dia­betes.

Type 2 dia­betes is a long-term meta­bolic dis­or­der that is char­ac­ter­ized by high blood sugar, insulin resis­tance, and rel­a­tive lack of insulin. Insulin resis­tance is when the body is no longer able to secrete insulin nat­u­rally in response to blood sugar increases, and hence blood sugar remains high. This is typ­i­cally a dys­func­tion with the insulin recep­tors, and with changes in diet, includ­ing lower lev­els of sugar and car­bo­hy­drates, it can be con­trolled or reversed.

One of the ways to do this that is yield­ing promis­ing results in research is the keto­genic diet. In a 2017 study eval­u­at­ing the keto­genic diet in the man­age­ment of dia­betes, researchers showed the diet had the poten­tial to decrease blood glu­cose lev­els, the rudi­men­tal key to min­i­miz­ing the occur­rence and diag­no­sis of dia­betes. This was fur­ther sup­ported in a study eval­u­at­ing the long-term effects of the keto­genic diet in obese patients, offer­ing sim­i­lar results in its abil­ity to lower blood glu­cose lev­els, as well as decreas­ing total cho­les­terol and triglyc­eride lev­els.

All of this, of course, comes down to not only con­sum­ing the proper amounts of fat and being mind­ful of car­bo­hy­drate intake but also the types of fat one con­sumes.

One study had indi­vid­u­als con­sum­ing a diet that was 20 per­cent sat­u­rated fat, and 80 per­cent polyun­sat­u­rated and monoun­sat­u­rated fat, essen­tially allow­ing a bal­anced con­sump­tion of healthy and essen­tial fats to max­i­mize the func­tional abil­ity of keto­sis within the body.

With mount­ing evi­dence of fat con­sump­tion being ben­e­fi­cial, focus­ing on fat sources that allow indi­vid­u­als to take advan­tage of these ben­e­fits is a cru­cial step.

One of these sources is olive oil, offer­ing both sat­u­rated and monoun­sat­u­rated fat, as well as the essen­tial fats, Omega‑6 and Omega‑3. Other healthy fat options include avo­ca­dos, flax oil, and nuts and seeds

While the keto­genic diet has shown increas­ing promise for help­ing indi­vid­u­als with cer­tain health con­di­tions in fight­ing dia­betes and in reduc­ing cho­les­terol, con­vert­ing the body to keto­sis and hav­ing it stay there is chal­leng­ing and requires strict adher­ence to macronu­tri­ent val­ues.

Whether or not you adopt a keto­genic diet, it is impor­tant to include a reg­u­lar intake of healthy fats includ­ing olive oil.

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