What is Ketosis?

Shape Up For Life Success Weight Management

What is Ketosis?


First, a simple explanation of the process: the carbohydrates you eat
are converted to glucose, which is the body’s primary source of energy. Whenever
your intake of carbohydrates is limited to a certain range, for a long
enough period of time, you reach a point where your body draws on its alternate
energy system, fat stores, for fuel.

This means the body burns fat and turns it into a
source of fuel called ketones. (Ketones are produced whenever body fat
Is burned.) When you burn a larger amount of fat than is immediately needed for energy,
the excess ketones are discarded in the urine. Being in ketosis means your body
has burned a large amount of fat in response to the fact that it didn’t have
sufficient glucose available for energy needs.

Dietary ketosis is among the most misunderstood concepts in nutrition because it is often confused with ketoacidosis, which is a life-threatening condition most often associated with uncontrolled insulin-deficient Type 1 diabetes. In the Type
1 diabetic, the absence of insulin leads to a toxic build-up of blood glucose and
an extreme break-down of fat and muscle tissue. This condition doesn’t occur in
individuals who have even a small amount of insulin, whether from natural
production or artificially administered. Dietary ketosis, however, is a natural adjustment to the body’s reduced intake of carbohydrates as the body shifts its primary source of energy from
carbohydrates to stored fat.

The presence of insulin keeps ketone production in
check so that a mild, beneficial ketosis is achieved. Blood glucose levels are
stabilized within a normal range and there is no break-down of healthy muscle
tissue. The most sensitive tests of ketosis (“NMR” and “blood ketone level”) show that
everyone is in some degree of ketosis every day, particularly after not
eating overnight and after exercising.

Ketosis is the body’s survival system. It is not an
abnormality nor does it present any medical danger, except to a Type I
insulin-dependent diabetic. The body functions naturally and effectively while in a state
of dietary ketosis. Some of the benefits many people experience while in a state of dietary ketosis for intentional weight loss may include rapid weight loss, decreased hunger and
cravings, improved mood, increased energy and, as long as protein in
take is adequate, protection of lean mass.

On a different note: Recently, a great deal of attention has been paid to the
benefits of ketosis to medical conditions other than obesity. For example, The Boston Globe ran a story on January 15, 1996 describing how ketosis has become an important therapy for childhood epilepsy.

“No one is sure why it works, but the high fat/low protein/low carbohydrate diet seems to push the body into a starvation-like state called ketosis,” says Dr. Gregory Holmes, director of the epilepsy program at Children’s Hospital in Boston. “Patients are first “starved” for several days to deplete the body’s stored sugar, then put on the diet, which contains almost no carbohydrates. Soon, because the body has no glucose for fuel, cells begin burning fat from the diet instead, which slows the frantic firing of brain cells.” “Burning fats in the absence of glucose leads to the production of fatty molecules called ketone bodies. Most children stay on the diet for two years, he says. When it works right, seizures rarely return, even after normal diet is resumed. So far, there is no evidence that the diet raises the risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease or stroke.”