Keto Diet for Warfighter Nutrition


The ketogenic diet it’s not just a
health fad or a trick for weight loss but a scientifically sound approach to
nutrition and a credible means of optimizing warfighter health and
performance. Hi, I’m HDIAC subject-matter expert Joel Hewitt here
to discuss how the clinical science of nutritional ketosis and the carbohydrate
restricted ketogenic diet can help our Armed Forces maintain an optimal muscle
to fat body composition, fight chronic conditions like metabolic syndrome, and
even improve cognitive performance on the battlefield.
Let’s take a closer look at the science behind the headlines. The metabolic state
of ketosis, first examined in depth in the 1960s, occurs when the body obtains
its energy primarily from the metabolism of ketone bodies, a series of
water-soluble molecules containing the ketone functional group. When an
individual restricts dietary carbohydrates as happens during fasting
or while on a well formulated ketogenic diet the resultant low insulin state
releases the inhibition on lipolysis and the body begins to produce ketone bodies
at a significantly higher rate. Under the leadership of Professor Jeff Bullock,
researchers at Ohio State University are advancing an understanding of ketosis
and the benefits of the ketogenic diet. Parker Hyde PhD explains the
fundamentals of ketone production. So something that’s really important to
think about is whenever you have a low insulin low glucose state which is what
you get in a low carb ketogenic diet or well-formatted ketogenic diet is you have a
increased ability to burn fat. One of the byproducts of fat metabolism is that
root word keto or you actually have a ketone production. What ketones are is
there 4-carbon, short chain fatty acids that function as a signaling molecule or
a hormone. Well we now know based on some very eloquent preclinical and basic
science studies is that ketones, when they’re functioning as a hormone, are
actually able to have cell-service specific receptor binding.
Whenever they have this binding they can do a myriad of things one. Of the big
things is they’re able to activate a subset of anti-inflammatory neuro
macrophages. Another really interesting thing is that it has a the ability to
potently decrease the nlrp3 inflammasome which is the one of its primary
signaling cascades that’s associated with il-1 beta. The nlrp3 inflammasome is
an important mediator of inflammation and metabolic dysfunction, both of which
are related to obesity. By inhibiting the production of nlrp3 as well as class one
histone deacetylases positively affecting gene expression encouraging
endogenous antioxidant events and through other biological pathways
achieving sustained nutritional ketosis through a well formulated ketogenic diet
can help the warfighter lose excess body fat and improve overall body composition.
Maintaining an optimal weight is a growing challenge for DoD not to mention
the public at large. For example, in 2016 DoD’s recruitment research arm estimated
that 71% of service age citizens would be ineligible for military service without
a waiver primarily due to obesity and an inability to meet physical fitness
standards. Moreover existing dietary nutritional
options available to the warfighter can contribute to the overconsumption of
calories data. From DoD’s annual health-related behavior survey published
in October 2018, show that over half of active duty service members report
consuming carbohydrate and caffeine containing energy drinks in the past
month many of which contain high amounts of sugar. Post-doctoral researcher Rich
Lafontant works alongside Dr. Hyde and Dr. Volek at Ohio State. Next, Rich
explains the findings of his recent research which tested the efficacy of
the ketogenic diet on a militarily relevant population:
We focused on using a 12-week ketogenic diet and training intervention in a
military affiliated group of individuals. In doing so within 12 weeks the
ketogenic diet group had hugely significant changes in body weight,
decrease in body fat percentage, and they were able to maintain the same level of
strength and performance during their training. The body weight and body fat
percentage decrease was on the order of approximately seven to eight kilograms
on average, in terms of body weight loss, and the fat percentage loss was 5%, which is a very significant, very effective weight loss from that amount of time, 12
weeks, usually that’s kind of on the upper end of what you might experience.
Body weight body composition results in the ketogenic diet have been probably the most consistent finding thus far and generally healthy or active population
groups; there are numerous studies, and that seems to be the most consistent or
reliable finding within ketogenic diet research. Beyond mere weight loss or
improved physique, the keto diet could have profound preventative benefits
especially for those operating in high-stress missions.
Next, Rich explains how the keto diet could help those working in one of the
most extreme military working environments, saturation divers.
Environmental stressors for tactical personnel range dramatically, there are
potentially you know for divers, there are some studies in 2014 where some of
the first studies where they looked a,t these are smaller end sizes, but they
investigated the effects of a ketogenic diet and elevated blood ketones on
protection from central nervous system toxicity associated with high partial
pressure diving or closed-circuit diving. There have been some more recent studies, there’s approximately three to four or a handful of studies at this point in
which they’ve shown that elevated blood ketones are protective especially in a
hyperbaria or in a diving cohort. Much of this is due to the decreased
inflammation, and the protection from reactive oxygen species. They did notice
that there was decreased DNA damages after having a ketogenic diet cohort
exposed to this high partial pressure diving that it’s very very common, and
poses this central nervous system toxicity risk. As the researchers are
quick to note, keto diets should not be perceived as a cure-all approach to
health. The benefits of the keto diet may not apply to all groups and it may not
be suited for every individual. There’s still much research left to be done. It
may not apply to all military personnel. We do believe that there are specific
groups just like in the clinical realm that may benefit more than others from
the ketogenic diet. We do not necessarily recommend this as a blanket approach.
There are individuals, there are scenarios where lower carb dietary
paradigms, including ketogenic diet provide added benefit above and beyond that is
what that of what’s recommended now. Thanks for watching! For more informationon the ketogenic diet see the researchers article in the spring 2019
issue of the HDIAC Journal and don’t forget to follow us on social media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *