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Medical and Therapeutic Applications of Ketosis: An Overview

Michael Paden Smith

Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body uses ketones as an alternative fuel source to glucose. When dietary carbohydrate intake is limited, the body turns to ketones, produced initially by brief breakdown of muscles tissue and then by lipolysis of adipose tissue. Fasting is also a means of inducing a state of ketosis. The ketogenic diet, a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, severely restricts carbohydrate intake and has been used to treat various health conditions, such as epilepsy, for over a century. Although the ketogenic diet is controversial, due to its strict dietary protocols, laboratory and clinical research suggest that there are many therapeutic benefits to be reaped through its implementation. Children with epilepsy have had their seizures reduced or completely controlled from maintaining a state of ketosis. Ketosis is also shown to help reduce tumor size in certain cancers. Additionally, certain types of athletic performance have been shown to be enhanced through a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet and body composition has dramatically improved in clinical research of subjects on a ketogenic diet with an almost universal reduction in body fat. One of the most promising areas of ketogenic research is on the neuroprotective effects of ketosis in patients with traumatic brain injury and neurological disorders. The full scope of ketogenic therapy is yet to be realized.