The obesity epidemic is reaching catastrophic proportions. For example, the rate of obesity in the USA skyrocketed from 13.4% in the early 1960s to 34.3% in 2007-8, with most of this occurring after 1980. One of the reasons behind this is the decision made in the 1970s to promote a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet (LFHCD) as the one true solution to weight loss. In 2006, the Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial was published, and showed just how ineffective it is for so many people. Almost 49,000 women in their 50s, 60s and 70s followed either their normal diet, or a diet where they had to limit fat to less than 20% of their energy intake, plus eat six servings a day of grains (how?). There were no significantly different results in changes to their weight, even over a nine-year study period!
Enter the Ketogenic Diet
Some may argue that older women "aren't supposed to" be able to lose weight, but research on the Paleo diet proves otherwise. This article, however, is about the ketogenic diet, which has been found to effectively aid weight loss in obese volunteers. A study on 83 obese people found that strictly following the ketogenic diet for 24 weeks led to an average weight loss of 14.36 kilograms, far better than the above study. In another, 64 obese people followed a ketogenic diet for 56 weeks (around one year and one month). Thirty-one of them had type II diabetes. After these 56 weeks, those with diabetes lost around 24 kilograms, and those with normal blood sugar levels lost about 30 kilograms on average. In other happy news for the diabetic volunteers, their blood sugar levels dropped into the normal range! And in both of these studies, the weight loss was sustained; they did not gain it back.
How Does the Ketogenic Diet Work?
Conventional low-fat diets work on the "kilojoules in, kilojoules out" theory, while the ketogenic diet works on hormone pathways. Elevated levels of insulin can lead to weight gain, but the ketogenic diet can reduce this and regulate levels of other hormones involved with metabolism to promote a healthy body composition. During menopause, falling oestrogen results in rising insulin, meaning that a ketogenic diet can be the difference between a youthful figure and persistent belly fat. A trial on 50 women compared a standard, kilojoule-restricted diet to a low-carb diet. The low-carb diet started off as containing 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, which increased by 10 grams each week, up to 140 grams by the end of the study period. Both groups lost a similar amount of weight, but the low-carb group had greater improvements to their blood levels of fats and cholesterol. This study, however, took the low-carb diet group far out of ketosis, when many people have their own "sweet spot" for their ideal weight. Some need to be in ketosis at 30 or 40 grams of carbohydrates every day, while others may do their best on a low-carb diet at 50, 70, or 100 grams and so on. As for other menopausal problems such as hot flashes, there is a theory that the brains of post-menopausal women cannot deal with using sugar for energy as well as younger women, and so may require some ketones. Coconut or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil can substitute for the full ketogenic diet, if it is not right for you.
Once again, the evidence shows that diets higher in fat can be far more effective in helping you maintain a healthy weight than conventional, high-grain diets. If you would like support on your own weight loss journey, contact me here or on my Facebook page.