You may have heard of the ‘Keto diet’ and see the keto hashtag on Instagram where rich – certainly not diet looking – meals and ‘fat-balls’ abound.
You may have heard fans of the diet discussing the ‘macros’ of their meals and fat rather than anything else seems to be key.
But what is a keto or ketogenic diet and why are those following it sure it’s not only helping them get into their best ever shape but also helping them look and feel younger too.
So what is the ketogenic diet and could it make you look and feel younger inside and out? Or, is it just a repackaged version of a diet that’s been around for decades?
Put simply a ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carb diet with a moderate amount of protein.
The reasoning is that modern Western diets, which are high in sugars and carbs, have switched our bodies natural fab-burning abilities off.
Instead of burning the fat, the ketones, we have in our bodies and foods we get our energy from sugar and its derivatives. By eliminating sugar and starches we can turn out fat-burning abilities back on.
Followers consume 50-70% of their food intake in the form of ‘healthy’ fats such coconut oil, grass-fed cow butter, eggs, avocado, and raw nuts.
The majority of the rest of their food would be protein with no refined sugar or high carbohydrate foods.
Starch free vegetables are allowed, mainly with avocado or olive oil dressings, but higher glycemic index vegetables like potatoes and parsnips would be avoided.
There are a number of ways the keto diet can help prevent ageing.
The main one is the way in which the absence of much sugar in sugar or carbohydrate form, means blood sugar levels are reduced.
High blood sugar levels add to aging as they increase tissue damage, including damage to skin and collagen.
Low carb diets have been found to mimic the effect of fasting in the body, which we now know is positive for cellular health, as a number of studies have shown how reducing calorie intake also reduces oxidative damage in the body.
Inflammation within the body has also been linked to ageing. So the fact that lower carb diets have been linked to lower inflammation in our bodies also point to a ketogenic diet helping hold back ageing.
“Anti-ageing scientists are now pretty sure that one of the forces behind the aging and senescence process is the junk protein matter that accumulates in the cells, hampering cellular function,” says Dr Michael Eades, a metabolic medicine and weight loss expert.
“If the junk builds up enough, it basically crowds out the working part of the cell, killing the cell off in the process.
“As this inexorable process proceeds, more and more cells function less and less well until we, as a being, cease to function.
“There are other processes driving the aging function besides this accumulation of cellular debris, but if we can make some headway with cleaning out the junk, then we should be able to make the cells, and by extension us, function better for longer.”
Watch any advert about anti-ageing and there will be talk of free radicals, how they accelerate the ageing process and how antioxidants can help reverse this process.
Free radicals are chemically reactive molecules which can bind to cells. They cause damage and inflammation to cellular DNA and other proteins. In order to stop free radical damage – and therefore slow the ageing process – it makes sense to increase the amount of antioxidants in the body.
Antioxidants work by neutralising and making stable free radicals so they stop damaging the body. A ketogenic diet has been found to increase the production of some antioxidants in our bodies.
Antioxidants are helpful there’s no disputing that. BUT, that’s also a very narrow view of how and why the body ages.
To effectively slow premature ageing it’s important to take an approach that tackles everything – from naturally boosting your HGH levels, to slowing down telomere shortening, glycation and cellular decline which are all processes within the body that we have to keep in mind.