Imagine eating all the cheese you want. And all the bacon you want. Still hungry? Eat a couple eggs with a side of avocado. But hold the toast. Finally, for dessert, eat a piece of dark chocolate.
Satisfied now? You should be. What these foods have in common is that they are excellent sources of fat. For decades, eating a high-fat diet was thought to contribute to heart disease. However, research in recent years has largely debunked the association. In fact, per Healio.com, a review of several studies published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, suggests that being in the state of ketosis may improve heart health in patients with cardiovascular disease. The findings were particularly true for patients with heart failure.
What is Ketosis?
Either through eating a very low carbohydrate diet or by taking ketone supplements, the body enters a state of ketosis. In ketosis, the body burns ketone bodies for energy. Ketone bodies, or ketones, are fatty acids that are produced by the liver from the breakdown of dietary fats. When the body is deprived of carbohydrates (sugars such as glucose), ketones are supplied to fuel the body’s many functions.
The so-called ketogenic diet limits carbohydrate consumption to roughly between 20 to 50 grams per day. One can of regular cola contains approximately 40 grams of sugar. On a ketogenic diet, dietary fat consists of roughly 75% of total calories; protein is roughly 10-20%, and calories from carbohydrates should not exceed 10%.
Cardiovascular Benefits Of Ketosis
Data from the review includes human trials that suggest ketones exert protective effects for patients with heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
For those worried about the impacts of eating a very high-fat diet, the researchers suggest supplemental ketone bodies may also be effective for producing ketone bodies and offering cardiovascular protection.
Another way to enter a state of ketosis is via intermittent fasting. Unlike prolonged fasts of one or two days, intermittent fasting involves shorter fasts. One of the most popular ways to enter ketosis from intermittent fasting is by not consuming calories from food or drink for 16 hours.
Ketosis: Your Body’s Response To Heart Stress
Ketone bodies require less oxygen for every molecule of ATP generated. ATP is the energy currency of your cells. And if your heart starts failing, it essentially reprograms its metabolism to become more reliant on ketone bodies. So switching to a ketogenic diet is feeding your heart what it needs for energy.
Beta-hydroxybutyrate is one of the main ketone bodies that circulates in your body when you’re following a ketogenic diet. Alternatively, you can take supplements that increase the levels of beta-hydroxybutyrate.
MCT oil, or medium-chain triglycerides, is one such supplement, and is perhaps the most commonly found exogenous (external) source of ketone bodies that you can find in stores. Or, if you’re ordering online, the supplement 1,3-butanediol, as well as ketone salts and ketone esters, may also be purchased in order to elevate ketone bodies. However, exogenous ketone supplements are expensive and may cause gastrointestinal upset.
Problems With Following A Ketogenic Diet
Following a keto diet long-term is notoriously difficult. This is because of two main reasons. The first reason why is called “Keto Flu.” This is when keto dieters first make the switch to a low-carbohydrate diet. Flu-like symptoms may occur when the body transitions from primarily burning glucose to fats. And the second reason sticking with keto is challenging is simply because most Americans are accustomed to eating carbohydrates. Thus, sticking with a keto diet for the long run has very low compliance.
Researchers hope that in the coming years, advances in ketone body therapies will emerge to better treat cardiovascular disease.