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Boost weight loss and metabolism with Paleo plan: Ketogenic diet debate

Do ketogenic diets have enough veggies?
Do ketogenic diets have enough veggies?
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

When it comes to weight loss research, understanding precisely how to boost dieters' metabolisms safely has become the ultimate quest. Now several Florida scientists feel that they have uncovered several new options, including the Paleo low carb diet, reported the Post Crescent on Aug. 25.

"If we can increase thermogenesis, or the body's ability to burn calories and stored fat, we could stave off obesity and its many related ills," said Dr. Steve Smith, scientific director for the Florida Hospital-Sanford Burnham Translational Research Institute. And he's enthusiastic about the benefits of low carb diets as a way to achieve that goal.

Dr. Smith currently is conducting a trial to determine precisely how and why low carb diets trump low fat diets. "Something about eating a low-carb diet causes people to burn more calories in ways we don't yet understand," he noted.

The study will compare weight loss on a standard American diet of 50 percent carbohydrates, 15 percent protein and 35 percent fat to a diet of five percent carbohydrates, 15 percent protein and 80 percent fat. And while the results aren't yet known, Dr. Smith says that you can boost your weight loss based on what his team has discovered thus far.

Reduce your carbohydrate intake, boost healthy fats and eat more protein. "Go Paleo," said obesity researcher Sheila Collins, professor at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. "Cavemen didn't have many carbs around."

A healthy diet can do more than help you win at weight loss. A new study shows it also can help strengthen your immune system as you age, reported Psych Central on Aug. 25.

Scientists at University College London have detected a link among nutrition, metabolism, immunity and the aging process. They hope that they can use the results of their research to develop diet therapies to improve the immune system.

The new research builds on a previous study conducted by Arne Akbar, Ph.D., which indicated that aging in immune system cells is controlled by the p38 MAPK molecule. Because it halts selective cellular functions, the compilation provides hope for those who want to enjoy long, healthy lives.

"One new possibility for their use is that these compounds could be used to enhance immunity in older subjects," said Akbar. "Another possibility is that dietary instead of drug intervention could be used to enhance immunity since metabolism and senescence are two sides of the same coin."

In terms of metabolism boosters and weight loss, high fat low carb ketogenic diets have become increasingly popular. Some dieters advocate combining a Paleo plan with a ketogenic diet. But Sarah Ballantyne, who has a doctorate degree in medical biophysics, disagrees.

Author of "The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body," Sarah said in an exclusive interview that she is concerned about the "effect of nutritional ketosis on hormones. We know that there are numerous connections between insulin and leptin (levels and sensitivity), cortisol and the production of estrogen and progesterone. We need both insulin and leptin to be in the happy-medium range in order to optimally regulate estrogen and progesterone."

However, a ketogenic diet typically involves low levels of insulin and increased levels of leptin, said Sarah. "The combination of low insulin and high leptin can suppress production of estrogen and progesterone."

She cites studies of nutritional ketosis in adult women with refractory epilepsy that revealed irregular menstrual cycles and/or amenorrhea (losing your period altogether) as primary side effects. "Animal studies suggest that the increased leptin (which not only regulates hunger but also the body’s adaptation to fasting/starvation) is the culprit behind these hormone changes," Sarah noted.

In addition, Sarah contends that while Paleo diets provide generous servings of vegetables, ketogenic diets do not include enough vegetables. "The one universal correlation between diet and disease is that the higher your vegetable intake, the lower your risk of disease."

Moreover, Sarah expresses concern about the impact of the low levels of fiber. "Low vegetable intake can have a profound negative impact on the gut microbiome. While the USDA recommends the consumption of 25g of dietary fiber per day, experts such as Dr. Jeff Leach from the Human Food Project think that 50g to 200g is a better target to support a healthy diversity of good bacteria and other important probiotic microorganisms."

In addition, Sarah expresses concern about metabolic flexibility. "I believe metabolic flexibility means being able to easily switch between using carbohydrates for fuel and fat for fuel, depending on what’s available in the body at that time. To achieve this flexibility, both macronutrients need to be consumed in moderation (caloric intake should be appropriate, blood sugar levels must be well-regulated, and stress needs to be well-managed)," she said.