The ketogenic diet was originally developed as an epilepsy diet, and follows a low-carb protocol. Although not the same diet, Dr. Robert Atkins popularized a ketogenic weight-loss regimen based on principles similar to those of the original ketogenic diet. Neither the original ketogenic diet nor the Atkins diet leads to elevated testosterone levels. Some studies indicate that the low-carb approach may even lower testosterone levels.
The Ketogenic Diet
In the 1920s Dr. R.M. Wilders successfully treated instances of epilepsy in children using a diet regimen also known as the ketogenic diet. Though Wilders’ dietary approach was successful, medical treatments soon became available and the much more complicated dietary approach no longer took center stage in the epilepsy community. The ketogenic diet is, however, still used to treat epileptics who do not get relief from conventional approaches and is widely used as a weight loss diet.
Mechanism of Action
The low-carb, high-fat ketogenic approach forces the brain to switch from using glucose to using ketone bodies, a byproduct of fat metabolism, as a fuel. This switch in brain metabolism, also known as ketosis, may have a calming effect on neurons, making it less likely that they enter an excitatory mode of the kind that can cause seizures.
The Atkins Diet
Unlike the anti-epileptic ketogenic diet, the Atkins diet is intended to be a weight-loss diet. It provides a higher carbohydrate intake and does not specify any required amount of protein and fat. During the induction phase, the carbohydrate intake is set at 20 grams a day. In later phases, up to 100 grams a day is allowed, so long as weight loss continues. Though the diet allows an unlimited intake of fat and protein, it would not work if you actually ate huge amounts of these foods every day. When the diet is successful, it generates a feeling of satiation after eating smaller portions of food.
There is evidence that both the original ketogenic diet and low-carb weight-loss diets reduce the blood levels of free testosterone. According to an animal study published in the September 2005 issue of “Epilepsy & Behavior,” the original ketogenic diet lowers the blood levels of steroid hormones, such as progesterone and testosterone. Another study of obese women published in December 2005 issue of “Nutrition & Metabolism” found that a low-carb weight-loss diet, such as the Atkins diet, leads to reductions of testosterone and fasting insulin levels. Similar reductions in testosterone levels were found in an older study published in the February 1986 issue of “The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.” The researchers suggest that ketosis is directly correlated with reductions in the blood levels of steroid hormones.
- Johns Hopkins Hospital: Ketogenic Diet Center
- Epilepsy Currents: The Ketogenic Diet: Stoking the Powerhouse of the Cell
- Vanderbilt University: Atkins Diet -- Too Good to be True?
- Epilepsy & Behavior: Ketogenic Diet Decreases Circulating Concentrations of Neuroactive Steroids of Female Rats
- Nutrition & Metabolism: The Effects of a Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet on the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Pilot Study
- Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: Effects of Severe Dietary Restriction on Male Reproductive Hormones