In the news
Ketogenic and low-carb diets are not the same
Low-carb diets have been around for a while, popularized by Dr. Robert Atkins. It’s surprising to some but ketogenic diets have been around a lot longer – about 200 years longer. Nearly complete restriction of any form of carbohydrate was an attempt to postpone the inevitable fatal outcome of diabetes, which until fairly recently consisted only of type 1, caused by the complete destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It was a rare patient who survived more than a few months until the discovery of insulin in 1921.
In that same year, a diet that severely restricted carbohydrates and conversely increased the intake of fats was found to dramatically reduce the frequency of seizures in persons with epilepsy. That was the mainstay of treatment until effective prescription drugs became available.
When the intake of carbohydrates is reduced to 50 grams or less per day, about as much as is in a couple of Oreo cookies or two bananas, the body uses fat for fuel by turning it into ketones. The brain can only use sugar (glucose) or ketones for fuel. In theory, that uses up stored body fat, leading to weight loss.
Scientists are still not certain why ketosis reduces seizures or even why it leads to weight loss although “using up” fat for fuel makes sense. It’s a lot more complicated than that.
Low-carbohydrate diets such as Atkins or South Beach, especially in their more recent versions, do not rely on the production of ketones. In fact, a later version of The South Beach Diet doesn’t even include the term “ketosis” in the index! A truly ketogenic diet is so hard to maintain and comes with so many side effects that few dieters can maintain it for more than a few months, most not even that long.
In the next blog I’ll describe which foods to avoid if you want to go low-carb. Don’t worry – you won’t feel like you’ve just entered a monastery!
Another annoyance of aging: falls
Falls are among the most frequent and the most serious problems seniors face and there a couple of reasons why they affect us so gravely. The first is that osteoporosis has become so common, affecting about one woman in five in the U.S. and about one in twenty men. When a hip fracture occurs, about twenty-five percent of patients will not survive a year.
An aging population increasingly requires prescription blood-thinners because of conditions such as atrial fibrillation, coronary artery disease, certain types of stroke and deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in large veins, especially in the legs). When the clotting mechanism is compromised, even a seemingly mild head injury can result in severe disability or death. Such was the fate of the above-mentioned Dr. Atkins.
You might consider some changes in your home. Get rid of scatter rugs; put non-skid strips in the bath and shower; install night lights and lighting strips; hand-holds in the bath and shower. (And all these improve your home value!)
This is one more reason to exercise. Physical activity not only strengthens muscles so that you can pick up your feet higher to avoid tripping, it prevents the loss of those nerve endings that enhance balance.
One more thing: we become more sensitive to alcohol as we get older. Alcohol is a major factor in falls among the elderly.