Ketogenic Life Hack
“Imagine I give you a pill that would make you smart… would you take it?” This is the question nutritionist Maurice Daher asked me along with many of his other clients when introducing the ketogenic diet. It was the question I would have loved to been asked as I was sitting at the corner of a college library, trying to memorize molecular structures for my organic chemistry exam. The diet commonly referred to, as the “Atkins” or “Paleo” diet is as a restricted high fat low carb diet. So what are the promises of going on a ketogenic diet? I was eager to find this out and most, importantly, if it could help me ace my chemistry exam.
Practicing the diet puts the body in a metabolic state where the body is forced to use fat as energy, which leads to the production of ketones. Typically, the body uses carbohydrates as energy by producing glucose and insulin, which causes fat to be stored in the body. The overconsumption of carbohydrates results in extra glucose to be stored which is then converted into extra fat. This stored fat is what results as weight gain, and a foggy and confused brain. The goal of the ketogenic diet is not to deprive the body of food, but to deprive the body of carbohydrates, forcing it to turn to an alternative source of energy- this is known as ketosis. During ketosis the body begins to burn fat for fuel. The liver converts fatty acids into ketones, which leads to the improvement of brain health.
Some people focus on the consumption of food and suffer through cravings, and a feeling of resentment when eating unhealthy foods. This has to do with the fact that unhealthy foods are highly addictive and can be considered dangerous and detrimental to our health. According to the article “The Sinister Science of Irresistible Junk Food” published by Scholastic Choices, written by Michelle Crouch and Antonis Achilleos, “Neurological tests have shown that junk food lights up the centers in your brain [in the same way] as cocaine…that will literally flood your brain with pleasure” (10). This was something I was unaware of as I went through an entire bag of chocolate covered pretzels. Friday nights used to consist of watching endless amounts of rom-coms, and eating my stress and worries away.
Sometimes it takes many years or even a major event to realize that the foods we are incorporating in our bodies can effect the way we function day to day and even affect our cognitive performance. This is exactly what occurred to Daher when he lost vision in his left eye due to a car incident. It wasn’t until then that he was inspired to try the ketogenic diet to help regain his vision. After going on the diet, his vision improved by 85 percent after 25 days. Increased vision in the eye wasn’t the only improvement he was experiencing. He was also seeing the effects the diet had on his mind and noticed his cravings for foods had vanished. “I never thought about food until I felt hungry, I focused more on my work and my customers and never had to open my fridge every half an hour,” Daher said. This was what brought flashbacks to my head of myself getting out of bed at 11pm reaching into my refrigerator for a jar of peanut butter. “On the 7th day I got up before my alarm went off, my body was full of energy,” Daher said.
Ketosis is said to trigger neurons in the brain resulting in improved learning, memory, and thinking. According to an academic article “The Enhanced Warfighter,” published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and written by Kenneth Ford and Clark Glymour, the military is doing far more than improving their technological advancements, but also improving the performance of its participants. The article goes over how the military is now finding ways to improve and enhance human performances and resilience through nutrition and supplementation. “The quantity and quality of dietary choices and distribution of nutrients throughout the day greatly affect muscle performance, body composition, cognitive performance, and feelings of energy or exhaustion” (48). By introducing ketogenic foods in military participants diets, their overall performance on the field drastically changed. As a matter a fact, “Several independent lines of evidence spanning roughly a century of research have led to a mechanistic understanding of how and why rigorous ketogenic diets, which are in clinical use to treat diseases, can boost endurance and stamina when used by otherwise healthy people, including high-performance athletes,” (49). This improvement to the body is not only applicable to those who are in the military, but can be taken advantage of by the average person. Performing and thinking efficiently as a military participant can allow the average person to complete simple tasks such getting up in the morning, or working efficiently.
One of the best overall affects from the diet can be improvement in mental health and mood. In recent years, the diet has attracted attention due to its weight loss benefits. However, participants are also finding ways to use the diet for improving physical and mental health. The ketogenic diet forces the brain to work harder in order to produce ketones. The production of ketones helps heal the brain and stabilizes the brain by providing mental clarity. According to research article “Effects of Two Weight-Loss Diets on Health-Related Quality of Life,” published by the Quality of Life Research, written by authors William S. Yancy, Jr., et al., the ketogenic diet has been used specifically to improve overall mental health. The article states “Simpler dietary instructions… may lead an individual to have greater perceived control, which is related to lower levels of depression, better health-related quality of life…[and] improve vitality and mood,” (287). Clearing the mind and brain through diet is an important health benefit to everyone as it can help those who suffer from health disorder such as stress, depression, and anxiety. Nevertheless, those who suffer from no significant health issues can practice the diet as well. The diet can be beneficial in balancing hormones, which leads to a happier mood. This can be applicable to even those with mental disorders, or even students and adults coping with anxiety and stress.
Going keto has affected myself not only with my weight loss but my overall health. Many people ask me why I decided to go keto, expecting me to tell them a response such as “it makes me thinner and healthier.” It is true that the keto diet does help one become healthier, leaner, and more fit; however, it is not the physical effects that motivate me to stay on the diet. The physiological and mental affects are what keep me on the diet. Before going on a keto diet, I was suffering with major anxiety and stress. I had days where I was snappy and lashed out on those who were close to me such as family and friends. I went through moods swings and did not understand what was wrong with me. I did everything I could to try to make myself feel less anxious, such as going to the gym and speaking to a therapist, but I still felt the same. It wasn’t until I spoke to Adriana, a good family friend, who is a sales representative for a keto inspired company called “Bulletproof.” She explained to me that before the diet, she felt “moody, foggy headed, and was…constantly forgetful.” She went on to say, “after a long work shift, I all of a sudden…hit a wall.” Her similar experience was a reminder that I am not alone. After going on the diet, a significant amount of my anxiety disintegrated, and I was no longer having to rely on prescription medications, or visits with therapist to make myself feel happier. Molecular structures were suddenly easier to memorize, and what was once a mind filled with forgetfulness and confusion had turned into a mind that was optimistic and excited to learn. I was ready to ace my exams, and I finally found my life hack.
Others are discovering this life hack as well, with the diet reaching out to a large audience of people. When visiting a small keto inspired café in San Francisco called “Kitava,” I noticed a family with young children gathered around the table. The children spun their “zoodles” (a replacement for noodles made by spiraled zucchini) with silver forks, completely unaware of the impact the food on their plates would provide them. Those whom occupied the small urban inspired café were passionate of two things: good food and healthy minds. The two children laid their heads against their parent’s shoulders. For a brief moment I felt that I was staring at my future.
Written by: Kiara Mitlin
Crouch, Michelle, and Antonis Achilleos. “The Sinister Science of Irresistible Junk Food.” Scholastic Choices, Jan. 2017, pp. 7-11. MasterFILE Complete, 0-search.ebscohost.com.library.4cd.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f6h&AN=120312902&site=eds-live. Accessed 24 Mar. 2018.
Daher, Maurice. Interview. 3 Apr. 2018.
Ford, Kenneth, and Clark Glymour. “The Enhanced Warfighter.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 70, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 43-53. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.library.4cd.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=93467248&site=eds-live. Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.
Varhan, Adriana. Interview. 8 Apr. 2018.
William S. Yancy, Jr., et al. “Effects of Two Weight-Loss Diets on Health-Related Quality of Life.” Quality of Life Research, no. 3, 2009, p. 281. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s11136-009-9444-8.