The controversial idea of eating high fats and low carbohydrates that characterizes a ketogenic diet is a fairly new one. The research into ketogenic diets has been overwhelming, but a lot of the studies recommend longer research times to elucidate the long-term effects of a ketogenic diet. While these trials may take many years in humans, scientists that have looked at animal models have determined that eating a ketogenic diet may extend a person’s lifespan.
What The Scientific Studies Say
The major findings of two scientific studies were that long-term association with the ketogenic diet preserved memory and motor function in mice. In terms of scientific evidence, the fact that these two studies verified each other is good news for supporters of the ketogenic diet.
The test compared two groups of mice. One group was fed 70 to 90% fat and the other group was fed 13 to 17% fat with the rest of the nutrients coming from carbohydrates. The group that was fed more fat lived longer on average and more interestingly, performed better on cognitive tests. The question on many people’s minds is if the same findings will apply to humans.
Scientists often use animal models to test certain biological processes that they can’t in humans. Mice are a great animal model because they share similar physiology with humans being that we are both mammals. Most of the genes that a mouse has have been studied in order to link molecular findings to human genes. Needless to say in this case, more research is needed, but it sets the stage for much more advanced research.
Why The Diet Is Controversial
As with any controversy, there are valid arguments for both sides. Scientific and anecdotal evidence has shown that ketogenic diet can help to lose weight, control seizures and as the two recent studies have shown – improve cognitive functioning and possibly extend lifespan. But there are also down sides that have been noted. Some people who tried the diet experienced muscle loss and fatigue. Researchers and dietitians are also worried that people may treat this as a yo-yo/fad diet which could lead to a variety of unhealthy complications.
It is also quite difficult to maintain a perfect ketogenic diet. To maintain a perfect ketogenic diet, a person must consume nearly no carbohydrates at all. When enough carbohydrates are taken in, they can reset the entire process. This means there is little room for cheat meals. It may also be difficult for people to eat out or attend birthday parties and similar events where there is not a ketogenic option in terms of food.
Some experts have also pointed out that following a ketogenic diet may be more expensive and time-consuming.
As with all dietary choices, the decision ultimately rests with the person who is responsible for their own health. Researchers recommend that people try to understand as much as possible about the biology, costs and health impacts of the ketogenic diet.
A healthy middle ground that experts can agree on is that most people need to cut down on the number of simple, sugary carbohydrates and that they should increase the amount of fresh vegetables they eat every day.