Mark Consuelos, Kourtney Kardashian, Al Roker, and Halle Berry are just some of the celebrities that have gone keto—following the much-touted low-carb, high-protein diet. But you don’t have to be rich and famous to reap the rewards of this eating plan. No matter who you are, you’ll want to know the risks and benefits before committing, and learn about the important glutathione connection.
What Is Keto?
The ketogenic diet (keto as it’s commonly known) deprives the body of carbohydrates and relies mainly on fat, sometimes up to 90% of a daily diet. The roots can be traced back to the 1920s (originally used to help patients with epilepsy) and remind some carb-cutting dieters of the once-trendy Atkins plan. But in contrast to Atkins, keto works with a higher percentage of fat use, more moderate protein intake, and minimal (under 20 grams) to zero carbohydrates. Meat (including beef, pork, and bison), non-starchy vegetables (including peppers and broccoli, among others), and some nuts and nut butters are all keto-friendly and used in daily meal plans.
Ketones. Ketosis. What Exactly Does It Mean?
Ketones are essentially fuel molecules generated by the body when there are no carbs to use as fuel. The body produces them when fatty acids are broken down (from fat) as energy sources.
The keto diet aims to get to ketosis, the body's process utilizing fat (as opposed to carbs) for energy. When blood glucose levels and insulin levels are low, such as during fasting or low carbohydrate intake, fat breaks down to fatty acids as fuel. Fatty acids are carried into our cell’s mitochondria, where they are used as fuel to make adenosine triphosphate, know as ATP (the primary energy molecule of all cells). In using fats to produce energy, the excess fatty acids are diverted to make molecules called ketones or ketone bodies.
You might have heard of these as many supplement manufacturers sell these ketone bodies as a separate supplement. The best-known ketones are acetoacetate (AcAc) and 3-beta-hydroxybutyrate (3HB). AcAc and 3HB can be used for energy, especially by brain cells, and are touted to increase weight loss that the keto diet stimulates. The goal: get the body running on fat and you will lose fat (and pounds).
What to Know When Starting Keto
With any new diet or eating plan, you’ll want to check with your doctor before you begin. This is particularly true for diabetics and people living with chronic illnesses who after receiving the go-ahead for the diet, will also want to carefully follow the eating plan under the supervision of their physician.
People often start the diet with a 1- to 2-day water-only fast. If you want to know if you are in ketosis, you can test your blood with a blood ketone meter (similar to a glucose monitor that uses a drop of blood) or urine (utilizing urine strips). If you embark on a serious keto diet and want to be sure you’re doing right, you’ll want to invest in these testing kits. (They can be purchased on Amazon
.)Ketosis is typically considered to be a reading of 0.5 mm/L ketones (mainly the 3HB) in blood.
The next step after fasting is to reduce carbs dramatically (usually under 20 grams a day). What’s 20 grams? You can eat a portion of fruits or several portions of non-starchy vegetables before getting to 20 carbs. But a piece of bread or large potato will get you there in just one serving. That’s why you might see a keto follower indulging in bacon, but not pasta, bread, rice, or potatoes.
Benefits of Keto: More Than Just Weight Loss
We’ve all seen the dramatic weight-loss pics, and keto is being used to shed pounds. But slimming down isn’t the only benefit. Here are some of the other benefits of keto:
• Helps control epilepsy. (This is how keto got its start in modern medicine.)
• Offers neuroprotection, possibly protecting the brain against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In animal studies, the keto diet stimulates an increase in glutathione, alpha-lipoic, and CoA production in the brain cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memories. It is thought that this is how the keto diet protects the brain and aids in patients living with these diseases.(1)
• Increases energy and alertness levels, as brain cells use ketones for fuel.
• Lowers total cholesterol levels, increases “good cholesterol” HDL, and lowers “bad cholesterol” LDL.(4)
• Improves blood sugar levels. This is important for all of us, but especially for Type 2 diabetics, who may experience lower levels of fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C.
• Detoxifies your system. Losing fat means also losing the fat-soluble toxins that have accumulated over the years. (That means you will start to shed heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, aluminum, arsenic, and nickel, as well as organotoxins like pesticides, plastic-associated molecules, like BPA, and others that are typically stored in fat.)
Conquering Weight-Loss Resistance and the Keto Plateau
Many people lose a fair amount of weight quickly on the keto diet, often 10-15 pounds, but then hit a plateau and can’t lose any more. In addition, they start to feel “blah” and lose energy. They may experience joint pain, headaches, depression, and diminished mental clarity. This could be the reason why many people quit the keto diet too early. What causes this and how can it be avoided?
As mentioned above, when engaging on a keto diet you will begin to lose fat, which mobilizes heavy metals and other toxins and releases them back into circulation. Studies have shown that the accumulation of heavy metals, which are stored mainly in fat, might be a significant contributor to obesity which makes us overweight in the first place.(2) When weight loss is very rapid, the levels of toxins and heavy metals released from fat back into blood circulation can overwhelm our ability to remove them from our bodies (detoxification). In addition, these heavy metals may prevent you from losing weight.
Mercury, lead, and other heavy metals are known inhibitors of energy production in mitochondria. This process can become frustrating, but there are things you can do to eliminate this problem. There are a couple of key steps you can take:
• Neutralize—The first step in feeling better and overcoming the effects of circulating heavy metals is to neutralize them. Our bodies use glutathione as the main molecule and defender for this very purpose. Glutathione attaches to heavy metals but also to other “organotoxins”—BPA, pesticides, mold toxins, and more—and deactivates them. This process is called “conjugation” and is a key step in what is called Phase 2 of the detoxification pathways our bodies use. Conjugation with glutathione not only also makes these toxins more water-soluble and, in the process, helps our bodies eliminate them through bile and urine.
• Eliminate—Once your liver has done the job of processing the heavy metal-glutathione conjugates, it pushes these toxic compounds into bile. When we eat, especially fatty foods, bile is pushed out into the small intestine to digest fat. The problem is that bile is heavily reabsorbed back into the liver together with the heavy metal conjugates. To avoid this issue, it is wise to bind bile with fiber (preventing it from being reabsorbed) and thus permanently removing heavy metals and other toxins from our bodies.
What Type of Fiber Should I Use?
Psyllium husk binds heavy bile and stops it from being reabsorbed (along with the heavy metals). You can also use a synthetic fiber like PGX90 (2.25 grams), which has a several-fold, higher-binding bile-binding capacity than other fibers, and is the preferred fiber recommended by the well-known detoxification expert Dr. Joseph Pizzorno.(3) Besides detoxification, other advantages of fiber are:
• Makes you feel full and eat less.
• Lowers cholesterol. When fiber binds bile and eliminates it along with the toxins it contains, the liver has to make new bile. To do so, the liver uses cholesterol, which has the beneficial effect of lowering total cholesterol levels.
In addition to these measures, it is important to keep well hydrated as the kidneys are the other major player in elimination and water ensures flow of these toxins into urine and out of the body.
What Type of Glutathione Should I Use and How Much?
When we are toxic, our natural glutathione levels can quickly get depleted because heavy metals and organotoxins bind glutathione, and this process can overwhelm our body's ability to recycle or make more. The problem with taking glutathione orally is that it is easily digested and destroyed by digestive enzymes, so glutathione powder in capsules is not the best way to increase blood levels. The best way to take glutathione orally is through a liposomal glutathione formulation.
Liposomes are microscopic spheres made of natural phospholipids with glutathione intentionally trapped in the center. The phospholipids are comprised mostly of phosphatidylcholine (PC), a complicated molecular name that essentially means cell membranes' main building blocks. Liposomes increase the absorption of glutathione dramatically, and the levels gradually build up over time. Liposomal glutathione won't throw you out of ketosis and will protect you against heavy metals.
In addition, you can also get the following benefits from liposomal glutathione:
• A sustained boost in energy
• Increased mental focus, memory, and cognition
• Better sleep
• Increased Immunity
• Fewer wrinkles and brighter, more elastic skin
Is Keto for You?
Food is fuel. How the body processes food can have a dramatic effect on one’s health and well-being. All bodies are different. Stay up to date with your health, consult your physician, and determine if the keto lifestyle (including careful meal planning) is for you. You may be on the path to not only weight loss, but also myriad health benefits to help you thrive and live your best life.
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