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The “keto” diet, more specifically the ketogenic diet is not a fad. Though a low carb, high fat diet has been touted as a way to lose weight, it is more importantly, a sound way to help your body heal particularly for orthopedic conditions such as arthritis of joints, neck/back pain, sports injuries, tendonitis, ligament issues and degenerative conditions.  

Aside from a ketogenic diet’s ability to burn fat stores, and promote cognitive functioning, it also boosts healing, reduces chronic inflammation, and promotes healing after surgery.

When paired with regenerative medicine incorporating stem cells and platelet rich plasma, a ketogenic diet is a healing powerhouse like a pro-boxer’s one-two punch.

Let’s look at how each of these tools can help to promote overall health, particularly from an orthopedic viewpoint.

The Keto Diet: Burning Fat instead of Carbohydrates

What’s a Keto Diet?

A ketogenic diet is usually called one of the following things:

  • A low carb diet
  • A keto diet
  • The “Atkin’s” diet, but Dr. Atkin’s diet is only one type of low-carb, ketogenic diet

The keto diet isn’t just “low carbs.” It is concentrated in high levels of healthy fats as well. Around 75 percent of calories should be from healthy fats, primarily plant-based for the best nutrient density, with around 20 percent of calories coming from proteins, and 5 percent from carbs.

This can seem odd since the food industry has promoted fat as the greatest evil. It is in fact carbs which are causing epidemic levels of diabetes, obesity, and other health conditions as they induce wild swings in blood sugar levels.

Carbs vs. Fats

Let’s quickly talk about carbs vs. fats more specifically.

A Harvard epidemiologist describes the problem most aptly. Dr. Frank Hu told the LA Times, “The country’s big low-fat message has backfired. The overemphasis on reducing fat causes the consumption of more carbohydrates and sugars. That shift may be the cause of some of the biggest health problems in America today.” [1]

This demonization of fats – including healthy ones – has made us very unhealthy overall.

Moreover, if you want to be a high-performance person (and this isn’t just for athletes) once you increase carbohydrate consumption above the levels that you need for survival or periods of intense physical activity, you lose the ability to rely on the body’s fat burning mechanisms.

You also begin to experience the damaging effects of chronically elevated blood sugar levels, including neuropathy (nerve damage), nephropathy (kidney damage), retinopathy (eye damage), increased cardiovascular disease risk, a potential for cancer progression (tumor cells feed on sugar) and bacterial or fungal infection, in addition to the degeneration of cells.  

Bad Fat and Good Fat, What’s the Difference?

Healthy fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Think hemp seeds, coconut oil, avocados, and nuts. Some animal fats, known as saturated fats are also healthy.

Highly processed fats called trans fats like those found in hydrogenated oils can cause heart disease, an increased cancer risk, and lead to early death.   [2,3,4]

Healthy fats support many important physiological functions, such as:

  • Reducing bad cholesterol
  • Promoting cognitive functioning
  • Boosting lean muscle retention
  • Regeneration of stem cells through anti-inflammatory action (particularly Omega 3 fatty acids) [5,6]

Types of Keto Diets

First, there are a variety of ketogenic diets. Some are used to promote fat burning instead of carb-burning for professional athletes or those who are extremely active.

Other ketogenic diets are inspired by a medical need. For instance, researchers have noticed that a state of ketogenesis in the body may help to eradicate cancer cells.

Some keto diets are used simply to burn fat stores in those who want to lose weight.

Ketogenesis is a biochemical process that happens in our bodies when we consume a small amount of carbohydrates, thus causing the body to turn to another source for energy. Many physicians promote this metabolic state. [7]

When the body’s primary source of fuel, glucose, is inadequate, the body then resorts to fat stores. Fat is broken down to produce usable energy, which then creates ketones, a type of amino acid. Ketones, therefore, are a byproduct of the body being forced to use fat for energy.

Glucose is normally stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. This will become an important point in a moment when we talk about stem cells.

Ketogenesis is a normal metabolic function, but it can be encouraged with proper eating. People mistakenly believe that you don’t eat carbohydrates at all in a ketogenic diet, but this is untrue.

You simply focus on the type of carbs that you eat, keep them to around 20-30 percent of your total calories, and also “carb-load” around 30 minutes to an hour before any intense physical activity.  

This is the standard keto diet, but there are many variations. Each of them has the same goal, however: to cause the body to rely on fat stores instead of glucose for fuel.

The presence of small amounts of ketones in the blood indicates that fat cells are being broken down. Too many ketones are not healthy though.

Some carbs should be consumed so that the body does not enter a state of ketoacidosis. This is when the acid levels in the blood become too high, a condition caused by the rising levels of ketones.

The Benefits of Ketogenesis

A ketogenic diet most closely resembles the metabolic process when we engage in intermittent fasting. There is a huge body of evidence stating that this type of eating can prolong life, reduce oxidative stress, promote healthy aging, and help our cells stay healthy and vibrant much longer. [8]

A ketogenic diet has proven to be helpful in supporting many aspects of our health:

  • Treating depression
  • Treating diabetes [9]
  • Treating epilepsy [10] 
  • Lowering chronic inflammation, the foundation of most disease [11]
  • Promoting sustainable energy


Now let’s look at stem cells.

Regenerative medicine has come a long way. With the use of stem cells and platelet rich plasma new frontiers in medicine are being discovered.

Platelet-rich plasma is a concentrate of platelet-rich plasma protein taken from your own blood. The red blood cells are removed. The platelets contain hundreds of proteins, in fact called growth factors, which can help an injury or degenerative issue heal. [12] 

This is a massive change of direction for regenerative medicine, akin to the discovery of penicillin.

The body can regenerate itself with stem cells and the proteins in your blood plasma. There have been numerous, fascinating articles on the subject lately. Just glimpsing through a few, you can begin to understand the implications for orthopedic conditions.

Harvesting stem cells used to be highly invasive, but it is now a minimally invasive procedure that your surgeon can do to access these powerhouses of regeneration. You can walk in and out of a procedure in a single day.

Stem cells are created at birth as a building block for the rest of our body. They can transform into bone tissue, blood cells, muscle cells, brain cells, ligaments, or anything else the body needs to make us into a human person.

Combining Stem Cells and a Keto Diet

Your own stem cells and platelet rich plasma can be combined with a ketogenic diet to boost healing at an exponential rate, and because you are using your OWN cells, there is practically no chance that your body will reject the therapy.

The ketogenic diet combined with stem cell therapy has been used for a multiplicity of health conditions, from regenerating entire organs to reversing diabetic conditions, but it is also an incredible adjunct therapy after you’ve had surgery, or even to prevent traditional surgery altogether.

Let’s look at an example.

Your orthopedic doctor has recommended knee surgery following a tear in your meniscus from a skiing accident. Your body will immediately enter the healing phase the moment the surgery starts, but it may also have a difficult time healing.  

Surgeries of this kind can also take a long time to heal from and be very costly. There is also a 15-25% chance that the surgery won’t heal long-standing damage. [13]

With the use of your own stem cells and platelet rich plasma used in regenerative medical therapy, combined with a ketogenic diet, you may be able to restore function to an arthritic or painful knee before the first surgery is ever conducted.

Regenerative medicine utilizing stem cells and platelet rich plasma as a therapy for your knee is also the least likely to have complications. Researchers believe stem cells work by:

  • Transforming into usable cartilage cells
  • Suppressing chronic inflammation
  • Releasing proteins called cytokines that slow cellular degeneration and decrease pain

Recovery time is also minimal, and the cost is usually less than traditional surgery.

A ketogenic diet may promote the regenerative power of stem cells, in that it also encourages lowered chronic inflammation, stable blood sugar levels, and cellular regeneration.

Summing it Up

A ketogenic diet, one high in healthy fats and proteins, as well as low in carbs most closely resembles the metabolic process during intermittent fasting. This metabolic state promotes healing, reduces chronic inflammation, causes us to burn fat stores to create a healthy body weight, stops roller-coaster blood sugar levels and supports cellular regeneration.

When combined with regenerative medicine utilizing stem cells and platelet rich plasma as a therapy for orthopedic conditions such as arthritis, sports injuries, etc. the body can heal more quickly in less time. It’s a medical one-two punch that is the subject of continued research. The prospects for this combination therapy are extremely positive and should be considered by anyone looking to cutting-edge science to heal.

Hu, Dr. Frank. A Reversal on Carbs. LA Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2010/dec/20/health/la-he-carbs-20101220
Iqbal, M. P. (1969). Trans fatty acids – a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences30(1). doi:10.12669/pjms.301.4525
Kesteloot, H., Lesaffre, E., & Joossens, J. V. (1991). Dairy fat, saturated animal fat, and cancer risk. Preventive Medicine20(2), 226-236. doi:10.1016/0091-7435(91)90022-v
Nettleton, J. A., Brouwer, I. A., Geleijnse, J. M., & Hornstra, G. (2017). Saturated Fat Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Ischemic Stroke: A Science Update. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism70(1), 26-33. doi:10.1159/000455681
Saini, A., Sharples, A. P., Al-Shanti, N., & Stewart, C. E. (2016). Omega-3 fatty acid EPA improves regenerative capacity of mouse skeletal muscle cells exposed to saturated fat and inflammation. Biogerontology18(1), 109-129. doi:10.1007/s10522-016-9667-3
Aggarwal, B., Prasad, S., Reuter, S., Kannappan, R., R. Yadav, V., Park, B., … Sung, B. (2011). Identification of Novel Anti-inflammatory Agents from Ayurvedic Medicine for Prevention of Chronic Diseases: “Reverse Pharmacology” and “Bedside to Bench” Approach. Current Drug Targets, 12(11), 1595-1653. doi:10.2174/138945011798109464
Marcelo Campos, MD. (2017, July 18). Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you? – Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketogenic-diet-is-the-ultimate-low-carb-diet-good-for-you-2017072712089
The Effects of Intermittent Energy Restriction on Indices of Cardiometabolic Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://ibimapublishing.com/articles/ENDO/2014/459119/
Zhang, Q., Xu, L., Xia, J., Wang, D., Qian, M., & Ding, S. (2018). Treatment of Diabetic Mice with a Combination of Ketogenic Diet and Aerobic Exercise via Modulations of PPARs Gene Programs. PPAR Research2018, 1-13. doi:10.1155/2018/4827643
Aggarwal, B., Prasad, S., Reuter, S., Kannappan, R., R. Yadav, V., Park, B., … Sung, B. (2011). Identification of Novel Anti-inflammatory Agents from Ayurvedic Medicine for Prevention of Chronic Diseases: “Reverse Pharmacology” and “Bedside to Bench” Approach. Current Drug Targets, 12(11), 1595-1653. doi:10.2174/138945011798109464
11 Choi, I., Piccio, L., Childress, P., Bollman, B., Ghosh, A., Brandhorst, S., … Longo, V. (2016). A Diet Mimicking Fasting Promotes Regeneration and Reduces Autoimmunity and Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms. Cell Reports15(10), 2136-2146. doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2016.05.009
Saucedo, James M. Dr. et.al. Platlet Rich Plasma. The American Society for Surgery of the Hand. https://www.jhandsurg.org/article/S0363-5023(11)01597-8/abstract
Bagaria, V., Ilyas, J., Paunipagar, B., Rasalkar, D., & Lal, R. (2011). Arthroscopy Following Total Knee Replacement. Modern Arthroscopy. doi:10.5772/25173

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