Many people swear by the ketogenic (“keto”) diet and its supposed myriad of positive health effects. Though there are some concerns associated with keto, it has proven effective for many people who adopted the diet, aiding in weight loss, helping reverse type-2 diabetes, and more. A new study out of Yale University has found that adopting the keto diet in short spurts may be the best way to get the most results from it.
The keto diet involves eating a relatively high level of fat and a low quantity of carbohydrates in order to trick the body into a type of ‘starvation mode.’ When in this state, the body will switch over to burning fat instead of carbohydrates; many formerly overweight people report having experienced substantial weight loss on this diet. Benefits may include lowered appetite and inflammation.
According to the new study out of Yale, however, some of these benefits only persist for a short period of time. The diet can potentially have good and bad effects on protective immune cells called gamma delta T-cells, which work to lower inflammation and the risk of developing diabetes. These cells ‘expand throughout the body’ when it is burning fat (ketones, specifically) for fuel instead of sugar.
That change comes with positive effects on health by tackling harmful inflammation and reducing one’s odds of developing diabetes. The benefit is relatively short-lived, however, according to the new study. The team found that mice who continued to eat a keto diet started consuming more fat than they were burning after the first week.
This nixed the positive effects of the gamma delta T-cells and paved the way for weight gain and, eventually, the development of diabetes.
The potential for keto to increase diabetes risk is a known one; in late 2018, researchers in Zurich published a study that warned type-2 diabetes risk was found to eventually increase after several weeks on the keto diet, though the reason for this was unknown.
The Yale findings indicate that adopting a keto diet for short periods of time may be more effective at lowering inflammation and reaping other health benefits than eating the diet continuously for weeks or months on end. Unfortunately, the ideal length of the diet for humans isn’t known at this time; additional research will be necessary.