The ketogenic diet has recently been published for weight loss and improvement of blood sugar control, but a new study finds that women do not show these metabolic effects on this diet with very low fat content and very low carbohydrates. The results of the animal studies will be presented on Sunday at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in New Orleans, La.
"Our findings in mice suggest that women in a ketogenic diet are less likely to have a higher fat loss than men and that they are more likely to have a malfunction of blood sugar control," said researcher Jesse Cochran, a researcher at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa. "These results can help explain the differences in the effectiveness of this diet across the sexes."
A ketogenic diet, sometimes called a keto diet, was originally used to treat epilepsy, which greatly limits the consumption of carbohydrates (starches, sugars and fiber) and proteins. This means that the body from the burning of carbohydrates is redirected to the energy it naturally does, burning the stored fats. The liver converts fat into ketone bodies in a process called ketosis.
"Most ketogenic diet programs for weight loss have been conducted in a small number of patients or only in male mice, and therefore the differences in sexuality due to the response to this diet are not clear," said senior researcher E. Dale Abel, D., Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Iowa and elected president of the Endocrine Society.
When he worked under the supervision of Abel, Cochran studied both men and women. It was fed either with a ketogenic diet or as a regular diet. The control diet contained 7 percent fat, 47 percent carbohydrates and 19 percent protein by weight, keto diet 75 percent fat, 3 percent carbohydrates and 8 percent protein by weight. After 15 weeks of feeding, female mice on the ketogenic diet did not show any changes in body weight and, in comparison with females on the control diet, impaired blood sugar control. In male mice, body weight on ketogenic diet decreased, while blood sugar control was maintained. However, men on ketogenic diet showed signs of worsened fat-free liver disease.
When speculating that estrogen plays an important role in the different response to ketogenic nutrition, Cochran removed the ovaries of some females and tested both diets. Compared with mice that fed the control food, mice with ovariectomy on the ketogenic diet had decreased body weight and body fat.
"This finding shows that postmenopausal women could have better results in weight loss with a ketogenic diet compared to younger women," said Cochran.
Abel recommended that people who are thinking about ketogenic food should first talk to their doctor or dietitian, and note that some people feel worse, while on this diet or have problems with it.