The ketogenic diet, which is also known as the “keto” diet or “nutritional ketosis,” is a diet that consists of high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates. The ultimate goal in a ketogenic diet is to shift a body's metabolism so that it metabolizes fat as opposed to sugar. Eventually, after reducing the intake of carbs and replacing them with fat, a body goes into ketosis, which is when it produces molecules called ketone bodies. When the body gets deprived of carbohydrates, which the Body Reboot book goes into more detail about, the body begins burning fat for fuel. This process is known as ketogenesis and takes place when the liver converts fat into molecules known as “ketones.” The brain uses these ketones for energy.
The keto diet has many benefits, from weight loss to possibly preventing disease such as diabetes from developing. The ketogenic diet may also have the ability to improve acne. A topic that has been debated for years is whether high sugar diets lead to acne and more frequent breakouts. Now it is more widely accepted that this is indeed the case. However, by following a keto diet, insulin spikes are reduced and may improve acne in people who may experience frequent breakouts from high sugar diets. It could also help with plaque psoriasis.
In fact, one study, in particular, showed that a low-glycemic diet could improve psoriasis:
Although the pathogenesis of acne is currently unknown, recent epidemiologic studies of non-Westernized populations suggest that dietary factors, including the glycemic load, may be involved.
The objective was to determine whether a low-glycemic-load diet improves acne lesion counts in young males.
Forty-three male acne patients aged 15-25 y were recruited for a 12-wk, parallel design, dietary intervention incorporating investigator-blinded dermatology assessments. The experimental treatment was a low-glycemic-load diet composed of 25% energy from protein and 45% from low-glycemic-index carbohydrates. In contrast, the control situation emphasized carbohydrate-dense foods without reference to the glycemic index. Acne lesion counts and severity were assessed during monthly visits, and insulin sensitivity (using the homeostasis model assessment) was measured at baseline and 12 wk.
At 12 wk, mean (+/-SEM) total lesion counts had decreased more (P=0.03) in the low-glycemic-load group (-23.5 +/- 3.9) than in the control group (-12.0 +/- 3.5). The experimental diet also resulted in a greater reduction in weight (-2.9 +/- 0.8 compared with 0.5 +/- 0.3 kg; P<0.001) and body mass index (in kg/m(2); -0.92 +/- 0.25 compared with 0.01 +/- 0.11; P=0.001) and a greater improvement in insulin sensitivity (-0.22 +/- 0.12 compared with 0.47 +/- 0.31; P=0.026) than did the control diet.
The improvement in acne and insulin sensitivity after a low-glycemic-load diet suggests that nutrition-related lifestyle factors may play a role in the pathogenesis of acne. However, further studies are needed to isolate the independent effects of weight loss and dietary intervention and to further elucidate the underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms.
The Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 study revealed that a low-glycemic diet might help improve plaque psoriasis, but mentioned that more studies on the topic are needed. However, from the results, it seems like the improvement in acne could take place by switching to a low-glycemic diet, such as keto.
Similarly, Steve Phinney, MD, Ph.D. had a chat with Popsugar and mentioned there are several stories of people having more energy, clearer skin, and reduced symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. However, he thinks there needs to be more concrete data connecting the improvements to the ketogenic diet.
According to Dr. Phinney, “Inflammation is directly associated with conditions such as certain forms of acne and arthritis.” Dr. Phinney expressed that it's very possible that reducing inflammation through nutritional ketosis could improve “a whole host of conditions,” including acne. There are many variables that cause acne, and if inflammation is what triggers your breakouts, an anti-inflammatory diet could help manage them.
Another important aspect of the keto diet is incorporating skin-boosting foods, such as spinach, cucumbers, and avocados. These foods, in particular, also happen to be good for the skin.
“Many foods that are beneficial for the skin can be included in a keto diet,” said Alisha Temples, licensed nutritionist at Fueled and Fed Nutrition . “These foods include non-starchy vegetables like spinach, collard greens, cucumber, and cauliflower,” she explained. Other foods include plant-based fat sources like olive oil and avocado, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, she added.
Inside also mentions that the keto diet pouts emphases on eating good fats which may prevent skin sun damage. Eating foods that prevent sun damage is also excellent for people who are more prone to skin cancer.
“The keto diet focuses on good quality fats, including omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids that benefits the skin and can prevent sun damage,” Daniels added. When on the keto diet, you avoid trans fats that are found in fried and processed foods, she said. These foods can cause inflammation, acne, redness, and a loss of collagen, she added.
Acne Einstein mentions that a low carb diet likely helps treat acne. However, it's also important to keep in mind that sometimes acne also gets linked to PCOS or other hormonal abnormalities. So even if a low carb diet improves acne, there are still other health concerns that can cause it So in other words, despite the health benefits of going on the keto diet, acne may not entirely vanish.
Clearly there’s a case to be made for using low carb diets to treat acne. They can be especially helpful for acne patients who are overweight or otherwise insulin resistant, because high insulin level stimulates skin cells and release and bioavailability of androgens and IGF-1, the two other hormones linked to acne. Reducing carbohydrate intake drastically reduces many hormones linked to acne.
Ruled.Me adds to the above studies' belief that the keto diet may improve acne and other skin conditions by mentioning an article where Italian researchers looked into how the keto diet may improve acne. They discussed it on Karger:
In a 2012 article, a group of Italian researchers looked at the potential benefits of ketogenic diets for acne. They found that keto is able to treat acne in three ways:
By reducing insulin levels. Ketogenic diets decrease insulin levels, often dramatically. For more on how the ketogenic diet does this, check out our article on the topic.
By calming inflammation. Inflammation is what makes acne so red, sore, and tender. Low-carb and ketogenic diets have been shown to reduce inflammation.
By decreasing IGF-1 levels. Restricting carbs helps keep IGF-1 levels low. This will help regulate sebum production and prevent pores from getting clogged.
Another added skin bonus from the keto diet? You may have the added benefit of experiencing youthful looking skin, according to Cosmetics Guru blog:
Healthy fats are not only good news for eczema and psoriasis, it’s just what your skin needs to glow with youthful radiance. Healthy omega 3 and 6 fats help to hydrate, nourish and repair skin cells from the inside out. Hydration helps to promote the formation of collagen for a plumper, more firm complexion, while this low sugar diet prevents the breakdown of important structural proteins.
GreenMedinfo cites a study by Denham Skulachev, who believe the key to aging less is by taking care of our mitochondria. If you don't know what mitochondria is, it's organelles found in the cells of every complex organism. They produce about 90% of the chemical energy that cells need to survive. It also has a lot to do with skin aging. You're in luck, though, because it just so happens that one crucial aspect of taking care of our mitochondria may be through the keto diet.
In 1999, another anti-ageing expert, Professor Vladimir Skulachev of Moscow State University, proposed a similar theory on ageing which he calls ‘Phenoptosis'. In this theory, mitochondrial death from reactive oxygen species leads first to cell death, then organ death and that then kills the whole organism. The bottom line of these theories is if we want to live longer, we need to look after our mitochondria.
According to Denham and Skulachev, if we want to live longer, we need to look after our mitochondria. A growing number of studies seem to suggest that one way of doing this may be through a ketogenic diet. Its effects on mitochondrial function are almost too good to be true.
1) It increases mitochondrial numbers: A ketogenic diet has been shown to increase numbers of mitochondria within rat hippocampal neurons.
2) It raises anti-oxidant levels: A ketogenic diet increases the levels of anti-oxidants within mitochondria.
3) It reduces reactive oxygen species: A ketogenic diet reduces levels of reactive oxygen species both through increasing anti-oxidant levels and through an uncoupling mechanism via a protein found on the inner mitochondrial membrane.
Dail Mail mentions in an article that aging may slow down by cutting out sugar, which the keto diet also emphasizes. If sugar does affect cell regeneration, eating a low carb diet should counteract those effects.
A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that these ageing effects typically start at age 35 and increase rapidly after that. Kirsty Price, a divorcee from Beckenham in Kent, drastically reduced the sugar in her diet four years ago and credits it for making her look younger. The 50-year-old says she frequently gets mistaken for someone much younger, and it’s not just because of the effect the diet has had on her waistline.
The mother of two says sugar used to play a huge part in her diet. ‘I’d eat anything and everything. I always had cakes and biscuits in the house. Then four years ago, I decided to go on a diet to lose the weight I had gained and never lost. I lost four stone and it kick-started my interest in nutrition. My research led me to some information about how sugar affects your cell regeneration.
In closing, positive reports of the excellent skin effects of the ketogenic diet continue to come out but more studies are needed on the topic. If future studies continue to confirm the diet's positive effects on a body and how it may slow aging, then the keto diet has the potential to be the holy grail in our quest to look younger, longer. Continue to read more studies and learn more about how the keto diet may enhance your health in more ways than one!
At the time of writing this post, we're currently giving away free copies of the Body Reboot book because it's our mission to increase awareness and to help people lose weight and get healthy! If you help us cover the cost of shipping, we’ll send a copy to your door FREE. Go over to this page to see if there are any copies left.
Sources: GreenMedinfo, DailyMail.com, NCBI: Am J Clin Nutr. 2007, Insider, Popsugar, Cosmetics Guru, Acne Einstein, Ruled.me, Nutrition and Acne: Therapeutic Potential of Ketogenic Diets — Karger
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