Ketones and the Atkins diet

The way the Atkins Diet or any low-carb diet for weight loss works is by limiting the presence of glucose so as to encourage fatty acids to be converted by the liver into ketone bodies.

When ketone bodies accumulate in the blood, they lower the pH of the blood. This is a state called ketosis, which is basically when glucose use for energy is slowed down and fatty acid use for energy is sped up. If too many ketone bodies build up, however, then hyperketonemia results and possibly dangerous ketoacidosis.

After a good night’s sleep, it’s known that the fasting state will increase amount of ketone bodies a little, because of depleted glycogen stores. But after 2 days ketone bodies can rise 140-fold.

In early starvation, the muscle will use ketone bodies, but then changes to use of fatty acids so that the ketone bodies can be used for the brain. Prolonged starvation causes ketones to become the dominant fuel for the brain, to spare amino acids and loss of muscle.

The dramatic rise of use of fatty acids in ketosis will lead to dramatic weight loss as demonstrated by the Atkins diet. Plus, the satiety resulting from eating high contents of fat and protein may also reduce food intake overall.

But as shown recently, the Atkins diet or a diet high in animal foods, may result in increased risk of all-cause mortality. So, try eco-Atkins?

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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