The Keto Diet – Changing Gene Expression for Health
by David Perlmutter, M.D., Board-Certified Neurologist, #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author, Fellow of the American College of Nutrition
Being on a ketogenic diet, or “going keto” seems to be pretty popular these days, and with good reason. Favoring dietary fat to power your body’s cells, as opposed to using sugar or carbohydrates, seems to have some pretty powerful health benefits.
We do know that when fat is used as a fuel, in contrast to sugar or carbohydrates, there seems to be much less production of damaging free radicals. In addition, it looks as if a more ketogenic type diet actually is associated with less inflammation, the cornerstone of some of our most dreaded conditions.
When the body is adapted to a fat burning program, in other words, “keto-adapted,” it means that the body is able to mobilize fat and create molecules to power the body’s cells, and these are called ketone bodies, the most important of which is beta-hydroxybutyrate.
But new research recognizes the importance of beta-hydroxybutyrate as being much more than simply an efficient cellular fuel. It turns out that beta-hydroxybutyrate is actually a powerful modulator of gene expression. Beta-hydroxybutyrate changes the expression of our DNA, further reducing inflammation and enhancing the way we get rid of dangerous free radical chemicals by increasing our production of antioxidants.
So as we learn more and more about the health benefits of a more ketogenic diet, it now appears that yet another explanation, changing our gene expression, may explain why this is happening.
In brand-new research, from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, investigators used laboratory mice that had a genetic defect that typically leads to progressive decline in brain function. The study showed that the genetic defect could actually be corrected by either injecting the animals with beta-hydroxybutyrate, or simply putting them on a ketogenic diet. This is pretty powerful information in that it demonstrates the ability of a dietary change to override what would have otherwise been the health destiny of these animals.
Going full-blown keto might be challenging for some people. But at the very least, trending in this direction means making the decision to reduce your consumption of sugar and carbohydrates. There is certainly a profound body of research now that favors this dietary approach.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that while it is certainly a great idea to reduce your carbohydrates, you certainly want to make sure you’re getting an adequate amount of prebiotic fiber in your diet even though prebiotic fiber is considered a carbohydrate. By definition, your body won’t be using the carbohydrate as if you’ll source, but you absolutely will be nurturing your gut bacteria and, as such, paving the way for health. Often, people have trouble staying on a ketogenic program. When you are careful to add in adequate amounts of prebiotic fiber, staying on the program is much less challenging.