In a world flooded with health trends and diet fads, there is one macronutrient, namely fat, that even to this day, continues to be demonized. While the Atkins revolution attempted to shift the paradigm and served as a highly effective tool for weight loss, it sparked outrage, in which its high-fat intake was mistakenly held responsible for cardiovascular ailments [e.g. coronary artery disease (CAD)]. Furthermore, the Atkins Diet lost momentum upon the emergence of a low-fat, health-conscience society which only exasperated its stigma while promoting restriction of this essential and very important macronutrient. Prior to the Atkins era, another high-fat diet reigned, namely the ketogenic diet, in which its original application for drug-resistance seizures mapped it in medical history as a unique, alternative treatment option. Unfortunately, the development of drugs resulted in the dissipation of the Ketogenic Diet not long after its origination.
In hindsight, the demonization of fat was cemented around the 1940’s by a prominent physiologist, Ancel Keys, who provided a first and lasting link among fat and Coronary Artery Disease known as the “Lipid Hypothesis.” Ingraining this association into society and regrettably carving it deep into the medical future, the fat consumption and resultant coronary artery disease relationship still grips individuals today. While the low-fat rage is still implemented by many individuals, intensive efforts in the research community have revived the ketogenic diet while simultaneously invalidating Ancel Keys’s conclusion. In stark contrast, scientists are now demonstrating that it is the carbohydrate macronutrient that renders demonization as its effects on health, specifically metabolic and cardiovascular, are nothing short of detrimental.
Carbohydrate consumption, which in turn elicits a glucose and subsequent insulin spike, commonly leads to insulin resistance and furthermore type 2 diabetes upon its chronic and excess consumption. The heavy glycation that occurs upon such consumption, coupled with the resultant pro-inflammatory vascular environment, is in fact, what is truly responsible for these cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Intensive studies have catapulted on this new found glory in the scientific community and have thus cracked the cement on the paradigm that has inaccurately demonized fat. As such, in an effort to combat, the epidemic of cardiometabolic diseases, low-carbohydrate and ketogenic diets have re-emerged, not only sparking interest but also rendering itself as a highly-effective alternative form of treatment for a variety of diseases not limited to: type 2 diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury (TBI), Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. As many of the former diseases are often due to a dysfunction in glucose utilization and/or insulin resistance, a ketogenic diet will switch the body’s primary fuel source from glucose to ketone bodies (fatty acid oxidation) resulting in glucose and insulin stability. In addition, the reduction in vascular tissue glycation coupled with the anti-inflammatory properties of ketone bodies provide benefits that unquestionably supersede that of a carbohydrate-rich diet. Moreover, the high-fat consumption which hallmark a ketogenic diet, have also been shown to effectively improve an individual’s blood lipid profile specifically with respect to triglycerides and high-density lipoproteins/“good cholesterol.” As society and medical professionals alike become educated on the immense benefits of the ketogenic diet and its expansive therapeutic benefits, the paradigm shift will only continue to gain momentum.
Dr. Ashley E. Holly holds a B.A. in Microbiology from Miami University and a Ph.D. in Regulatory Biology from Cleveland State University/Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute. During her graduate work in the Department of Molecular Cardiology, Ashley investigated the molecular mechanisms and signal transduction pathways for the activation of cell adhesion molecules called integrins. Her comprehensive training includes structural, biochemical, and cellular biology techniques with a research focus in Vascular Biology. Her current interests include dietary intervention as a therapeutic treatment option as while obtaining a deep molecular understanding of the mechanisms for such application. Adopting the Ketogenic lifestyle, Ashley’s personal mission is to educate as many people as possible on its immense benefits as well as understanding its therapeutic application at the molecular level. Dr. Holly’s thirst for knowledge and desire for continuous growth both personally and professionally has resulted in the pursuit of an MBA degree while maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle as a competitive physique athlete.