Ryan Hall MS, CSCS, Wellness Coordinator
BOOM! Mind blown! Did he just have to pull out the dictionary for those words? For those of you that are still with me after that amazing title up there, thank you. This topic may come out slightly different than some of my previous half rants that I have posted here. What I am going to touch on is something that many people are talking about, trying out, believe whole heartedly in, or flat out think is ridiculous. Oh yeah, I’m going there. Let’s talk a little bit about the idea of low carb/no carb diets. First, let me explain the title:
Hormesis: the term for generally favorable biological responses to low exposure to toxins and other stressors.
Ketone Bodies: three water-soluble molecules (acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone) that are produced by the liver from fatty acids found in untreated (or inadequately treated) type 1 diabetes, prolonged intense exercise, periods of low food intake, starvation, or carbohydrate restrictive diets.
Polyhydoxy Aldehydes: carbohydrates.
The short and sweet is that when blood glucose levels are low, the body can take fat and send it into the blood stream to be used up by most of the metabolizing /exercising muscles as fuel. The cells in the muscles break down the fat into water-soluble chemical products (ketone bodies) through a process called beta oxidation. These ketone bodies are released by the liver and then used by the cells as energy. Unlike fatty acids directly from the body’s fat stores, ketone bodies can pass through the blood brain barrier meaning that they can be used by the central nervous system as well as muscle.
Sounds great, eat protein, minimal fat and don’t eat any carbs, the body will turn our unwanted fat into energy and we all live happily ever after living off of our spare tire. Unfortunately there are a couple of problems. For starters, the liver cannot use ketone bodies as fuel because it cannot break them down. Bummer, liver failure! Second, the brain can only get a portion of its energy from ketone bodies with the rest coming from glucose ie, carbs. Bummer, reduced cognitive functioning! Not to mention that your digestive track would be so bound up by the amount of protein you would have to eat to reach your appropriate calorie intake that you could cause serious internal damage. So what is the upside? Lower, not eliminated, carbohydrate diets with bouts of intermittent fasting have been shown to help the body boost the metabolism of fat from adipose tissue as an energy source, ideally resulting in reduced body fat. Walla, hormesis! So we are back to the well known concept, everything in moderation.