The keto diet originated back in the 1920s when a doctor by the name of Russell Wilder discovered that strictly reducing carbohydrates in the diet showed beneficial effects on epilepsy. With that being said, some evidence suggests that this type of dietary regimen may have originated all the way back in 500 BC.[1]

Since the 1920s, numerous studies have shown the benefits of following a ketogenic diet for a range of neurological conditions, including mild cognitive impairment, Parkinson's disease, Dementia, and more.[2][3][4]

Today, as the diet continues to grow in popularity, investigators are beginning to look at other areas of biology that may benefit from carb-restricted eating, and the results have thus far been quite positive. 

In a recent meta-analysis conducted by Wroclaw Medical University in Poland, researchers surveyed the evidence from studies conducted in the last ten years that focused on the non-neurological benefits of keto and found promising results in several different areas. 

Research shows that ketones may improve weight loss outcomes, cardiovascular health, and blood sugar regulation through mechanisms such as enhanced mitochondrial function, antioxidant capabilities, and improved cellular signaling. 

In this article, we'll highlight what the meta-analysis concluded in these three areas and what this means if you're struggling with any of these metabolic conditions. 

What Is a Ketogenic Diet?

Before we jump into the research, let's briefly go over what a ketogenic diet looks like. 

A ketogenic diet aims to switch your body's metabolic machine from burning glucose (the energy source that comes from carbohydrates) to burning ketones (an energy source produced from fat). 

To accomplish this feat, you must drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake to send your body the signal that a change needs to occur. As long as your body receives carbohydrates regularly, it will continue to use them as its primary fuel source.

Therefore, the ketogenic diet centers around the strict reduction of carbohydrates with increased fat and protein consumption. 

As your body begins to get the message that carbohydrates are scarce, it will slowly begin to use fat as its primary source of fuel, producing energy molecules known as ketones, and you will enter a state known as ketosis

The purpose of ketosis is manifold, but in regards to the study we are examining today, it's important to understand that ketones don't simply act as a source of fuel but provide other physiological benefits, as you'll soon learn. 

The Potential Non-Neurological Benefits of The Ketogenic Diet

In the meta-analysis published in the Journal of Obesity, the researchers found three categories that stood out regarding the ketogenic diet and non-neurological benefits: long-term weight loss, blood sugar control, and cardiovascular health.

Let's dive in. 

Long-Term Weight Loss 

While low-carb dieting has been a weight-loss trend for a while now, the concern around any weight-loss plan is the rebound effect. It can be easy to shed some weight when you start a new diet, but as soon as your body gets used to that way of eating, people tend to just put the weight back on. 

In the meta-analysis, the researchers assessed the result of 12 studies that focused on a very-low-calorie ketogenic diet (VLCKD) for weight loss in obese individuals. The results showed that between 4 and 12 weeks, participants lost an average of 10 kg to 15 kg (22 pounds to 33 pounds). 

While these results are impressive on their own, the astounding part is that in follow-ups that ranged from three weeks to two years, the participants were able to maintain their weight loss along with other anthropometric changes such as lowered body mass index (BMI) and reduced waist circumference.

Blood Sugar (Type 2 Diabetes)

Type 2 diabetes is marked by imbalances in blood sugar caused by your cell's inability to recognize and utilize the hormone insulin. Therefore, due to its naturally low carbohydrate content, the ketogenic diet has become a popular choice for many individuals with type 2 diabetes.

With this in mind, the last decade has produced several studies evaluating the effect of ketogenic diets on type 2 diabetes, including the impact on blood sugar and the improved sensitivity of cells in response to insulin. 

In this current meta-analysis, researchers examined the results of individuals with diabetes following a ketogenic diet, with studies ranging from one week to a full year. Across the board, participants experienced significant reductions in blood glucose, along with HbA1c, which is a marker that measures the average blood glucose over the past three months. 

What's more, the investigators also found a consistent reduction in the requirement for the use of hypoglycemic drugs for those following a ketogenic diet. 

Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is accompanied by higher levels of oxidative stress along with inflammation and dysregulated blood lipids. 

Through its potential anti-inflammatory effects and enhanced regulation of glycemic control (along with other metabolic markers), the ketogenic diet has become an area of interest in the prevention of CVD.

In surveying several studies from recent years, the meta-analysis showed a handful of markers of improvement for cardiovascular outcomes in individuals following a ketogenic diet; these include:  

  • Reduced triglycerides
  • Improved LDL cholesterol levels
  • Maintained or increased HDL cholesterol 
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • The maintained concentration of intercellular adhesion molecule –1 (ICAM-1) when compared to a low-fat diet group (a factor that increases atherosclerotic damage)

The authors note that more long-term studies are necessary before we can confidently claim that the ketogenic diet benefits CVD, but so far, the results are very promising. 

The Takeaway: Is The Keto Diet Right For You?

Thus far, research into the ketogenic diet for metabolic conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease has shown promising results. 

Generally speaking, it appears that following a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet can improve markers that drive metabolic irregularities and assist the body in recalibrating to a balanced state. 

With that being said, each person's body is unique and will respond differently to dietary modifications, which means that whenever you're considering a new diet plan (especially if you have a metabolic condition), it's important to consult with a healthcare practitioner first.  

To learn more about dietary modifications for metabolic conditions, along with other tips and tricks for a healthy lifestyle, visit BioCoach


Review Article: Daria Gołąbek, Katarzyna, and Bożena Regulska-Ilow. "Possible Nonneurological Health Benefits of Ketogenic Diet: Review of Scientific Reports over the Past Decade." Journal of Obesity 2022 (2022).

  1. Wheless, James W. "History of the ketogenic diet." Epilepsia 49 (2008): 3-5.
  2. Choi, Alexander, Mark Hallett, and Debra Ehrlich. "Nutritional Ketosis in Parkinson’s Disease—a Review of Remaining Questions and Insights." Neurotherapeutics 18.3 (2021): 1637-1649.
  3. Phillips, Matthew CL, et al. "Randomized crossover trial of a modified ketogenic diet in Alzheimer’s disease." Alzheimer's research & therapy 13.1 (2021): 1-12.
  4. Krikorian, Robert, et al. "Dietary ketosis enhances memory in mild cognitive impairment." Neurobiology of aging 33.2 (2012): 425-e19.

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