What Is A Ketone, Or A Ketone Body (KB)?
A KB is formed in the liver through the Krebs cycle, or the citric acid cycle. When there is no glycogen for the body to run off of, the pancreas releases glucagon. Glucagon is a catabolic hormone, since it is used to break down body tissues for energy. In our case glucagon is very important since it is used to convert free fatty acids into the energy substrate called a ketone. Ketones are free fatty acids broken down through a process that involves carnitine and glucagon. After the free fatty acids are processed in the liver the fats have been transformed into beta-hydroxybutyric and aceto-acetic acids, or, what you and I know them as, "ketones".
Does Being In The Metabolic State Of Ketosis Present Dangers?
In reality the benefits of the ketogenic diet heavily outweigh the few pit falls it may have. Some of the points of arguments are:
During the first few weeks of the ketogenic diet the body has to go through the "metabolic shift", as Mauro DiPasquale calls it. While going through this the body will experience a small degree of fatigue and brain fog, but once the body gets used to manufacturing ketones as the main energy substrate the body actually has more energy than it previously had, and you won't have to be fighting through all those low blood sugar crashes that your high carb meals previously gave you. Also when in ketosis, ketones are the preferred energy substrate for the brain over protein.
Blood lipid profile is also a concern on the ketogenic diet due to the staggering amounts of saturated fats in the diet, although the diet can be centered around healthy fats, what is not as fun as eating a egg and cheese omelet fried in butter with bacon on the side! The issue of blood lipid profile is experiencing much debate due to the fact that for some people following the ketogenic diet, they will experience a drop in cholesterol levels, while for some it will increase.
Another point is that since carbohydrates are so restricted during the no carbohydrate portion the issue of micronutrient deficiencies can occur. The best thing to do to avoid this is to make sure you take a high quality multi vitamin /mineral twice a day to insure that you are getting 100% of the daily value. Also supplementing with a fiber supplement is a good idea to make sure you plumbing doesn't get clogged, if you know what I mean. Another course of action one can take is to make sure that on the high carbohydrate period of the diet you consume adequate amounts of fibrous green vegetables, and also quality carbohydrate sources such as brown rice, squash, sweet potatoes, and whole-wheat pastas.
This last focus point is the danger of ketoacidosis. This occurs when the level of ketones in the blood gets out of control, this happens because ketones are acidic only as long as they are floating around waiting to be burned. If the level of ketones in the blood rises out of control it would lower the pH of the blood and this could result in death. BUT, this is not a concern for the non-diabetic whatsoever because for the non-diabetic blood sugar levels are kept low by our bodies and it will only allow so many ketones to be manufactured at one time. In the diabetic person blood sugar can rise as high as 300-2000mg/dl, where as normal being around 80-120. Also when this happens the low insulin to glucagon ratio causes ketogenesis to be stimulated, this is where the person can run into ketoacidosis.
What About The Anti Catabolic Effects Of The Ketogenic Diet?
Every reduced calorie diet is Catabolic, meaning that they can cause you to lose muscle. It's a fact! This is largely due to the fact that on a reduced calorie diet many of the anabolic hormones in the body are significantly reduced. Added to that most dieters do copious amounts of aerobic exercise when dieting which is a very good way to catabolize muscle. So the main thing we can try to do is lose the least amount of muscle possible when dieting, or even possibly rebuild lost tissue, which is where the carb-up comes in. But that will not be discussed in this chapter.
Other than hormonal reasons the main reason why catabolism occurs is because protein will be broken down, or catabolized, to make glucose. This is because the brain uses a boat load of glycogen, upwards of 25% of the body's glucose. Now when carbohydrates are restricted, the body will still need glucose for the brain, so it is forced to breakdown protein mostly from your own muscle tissue.
Now, ketosis is different because when in the state of ketosis the brain will prefer ketones over glucose. For the dieter this is very good because the body will not have to break down protein for energy. In turn the body will be forced to use its fat reserves, a.k.a. your love handles, for its energy. This is why ketosis is such a good method of dieting.