Ketogenic Diet and Obesity

By recent ASU nutrition student Alysia Nelson

Part of an ongoing series of articles on the Ketogenic Diet



There is an epidemic across the United States, known as obesity. Obesity is linked to the increased risk of numerous diseases including: cardiovascular and metabolic disorders such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, atherosclerosis, and certain cancers.1 Even though this epidemic is incredibly apparent, current strategies for maintaining a healthy lifestyle are failing. Everyone is unique in their genetics and habits and despite constant recommendations from health care organizations, the obesity rate remains a problem. This could be due to back and forth ideas of nutrition leaving the ideal diet for obesity still under debate. A ketogenic diet, studied many times in recent years, has shown to have a solid physiological and biochemical basis enabling the perfect diet for effective weight loss combined with the improvement of many disease risks.1

Excessive weight gain can be a contribution of genetic predisposition in a combination of inactive lifestyles and a high caloric intake.1 Calories are provided by fat, carbohydrates, and proteins and is represented as a unit of heat energy.2 The body uses this heat energy as a way to fuel the body, similar to how gasoline fuels cars.2 Fats hold the highest amount of calories per gram, totaling 9, where protein and carbohydrates hold 4.2 Eating more calories than you burn leads to weight gain.2 This is why caloric intake is so important when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. It is also why exercise is important, exercise allows the body to burn more calories than it would normally. In a ketogenic diet, the formula of calories comes from 70% fat, 20 % protein, and 5% protein. Now you might be thinking, doesn’t eating an excess amount of fat make you fat?

We were once told that diets high in fat led to weight gain and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and this unproven theory seems to still hold weight amongst individuals. Not all fats are created equal, and that is something very important to understand. There are two types of fats: unsaturated and saturated fats.3 Unsaturated fats, including polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, are the healthy fats that have shown a relationship in the increasing of HDL “good cholesterol” reducing risk of heart disease.3 Polyunsaturated fats can be found in vegetable oils, omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts), plant sources.3 Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive oil, canola oil, peanut oils, olives, avocados, hazelnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.3 Saturated fats can be another source of healthy fats, including (meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs).3 In over 72 published studies on fats and heart disease, polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and saturated fats had no effect on heart disease.3 In fact, people who consumed these types of fats had higher HDL “good” cholesterol and lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels.3 The one fat that contributed to heart disease: artificial trans fats (engineered by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them solid) typically found in processed foods.3

One diet that has gained recent popularity for its health benefits, the ketogenic diet, proves to be a sufficient diet for weight loss and overall improvement of increased risk for disease.1 There is strong supporting evidence that ketogenic diets used for weight loss is both safe and effective.1 When exposed to a ketogenic diet, an individual enters a natural metabolic process called: ketosis.1 During ketosis, ketone bodies allow the breakdown of stored fats to be converted and used for energy as opposed to glucose, blood sugar.1 This is the reason why weight loss is so rapid during exposure to this diet. Another contributing factor is dietary fat, containing more calories per gram, has been shown to have satiating effects and a ketogenic diet shows effects on appetite control hormones.1

A ketogenic diet can serve as a treatment for obesity. Not only does the ketogenic diet has proven effects on weight management, but it can also be argued that ketones protect brain impairment caused by obesity.1 There is also evidence that participants on a ketogenic diet have experienced positive effects on mood and energy.1  A ketogenic diet also focuses on high-quality and unprocessed foods which is important when it comes to proper food sourcing. Instead of patients feeling unsatisfied and left hungry, a ketogenic diet can provide delicious nutrition with the bonus of feeling full of obese patients.

1 Paoli, A. (2014, February 19). Ketogenic Diet for Obesity: Friend or Foe? Retrieved from

2 Ayoob, K., & Einstein, A. (2009, February 01). What Is A Calorie And Why Is It Important To Know How Many Calories There Are In Certain Foods? Retrieved from

3 Doheny, K. (2014, March 20). Dietary Fats Q&A. Retrieved from

Editor’s Note: Fill Your Plate neither endorses or supports this type of diet, but encourages readers to always consult with your doctor regarding special diets, this series shares one nutrition student’s experience with the diet.

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