The statistics on eating disorders are alarming. Did you know that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness? While eating disorders can affect anyone, women are disproportionately affected; women ages 15-24 are 12 times more likely to die from anorexia nervosa than any other cause of death. Currently, 70 million people are suffering from an eating disorder. Diet and food culture are often blamed for the high prevalence of eating disorders, but research suggests that the keto diet may actually be helpful. Is it possible that a ketogenic diet could be helpful in treating eating disorders?
What Is the Ketogenic Diet?
The principle of the ketogenic diet is that by consuming your body’s carbohydrates, its main source of energy, you can force your body to burn fat for fuel, thus maximizing weight loss. When you consume foods that contain carbohydrates, your body converts those carbohydrates into glucose, or blood sugar, which it then uses for energy.
Because glucose is the simplest form of energy used by the body, it is always used as energy before your body turns to stored fat for fuel.
In a ketogenic diet, the goal is to limit carbohydrate intake so that the body must break down fat for energy. When this happens, the fat is broken down in the liver to produce ketone bodies, which are a byproduct of your metabolism. These ketone bodies are then used to fuel your body in the absence of glucose.
What Are Eating Disorders?
The term eating disorder is a broad classification of disordered eating patterns and includes anorexia nervosa, bulimia, purging disorders, food avoidance disorders, picky eating, anorexia nervosa, rumination syndrome, muscle dysmorphic disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, feeding disorders, nocturnal eating syndrome, and eating disorders in general.
While eating disorders may not seem fatal on the surface, apparently based on the alarming statistics behind their high mortality rate, these disorders take a heavy toll on the body. Eating disorders can lead to muscle atrophy (including the heart), electrolyte imbalances (which can lead to arrhythmias and heart failure), decreased metabolic rate, infections, constipation, intestinal damage and bowel obstruction, stomach rupture, sore throat, malnutrition, pancreatitis, mumps, hives, perforation of the intestines, stomach and esophagus, fainting, dizziness, sleep apnea, neuropathy, decreased hormone levels, menstrual disorders, osteoporosis , type II diabetes, hair loss or Lanugo, and others.
How Keto Affect Eating Disorders?
While there is limited research on the relationship between the ketogenic diet and eating disorders, some early studies do suggest that it may actually be beneficial. The metabolic state of ketosis mimics the body’s hunger response, which may be helpful for those suffering from anorexia nervosa or any other hunger-seeking/food deprivation eating disorder.
The prevailing theory of using ketones to treat eating disorders is based on the hunger response associated with ketone production, mimicking the anxiolytic feeling an individual may get from hunger. This provides the feeling that someone with an eating disorder may crave without actually endangering someone’s health.
In addition, case studies have shown that people with eating disorders may benefit from a more restrictive diet. Because the general guidelines for ketosis are so straightforward, i.e., limiting carbohydrate intake, many people have reduced food anxiety because they know exactly what they can eat. Strong anecdotal evidence of reduced food-related anxiety, guilt and binge eating supports the use of ketosis for eating disorders.
Keto diet is popular with people for its numerous benefits, and alleviating eating disorders may be one of them. You might try it if you’re suffering eating disorders. But do remember to consult your healthcare provider before you change your diet.