Learn all of the beauty benefits of the Ketogenic diet.
An estimated 35 percent of Americans aged 20 to 39 years old are struggling with obesity, essentially putting them at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and psychosocial disability, among other disorders (1, 2).
The result has been an upsurge of traditional and unconventional weight loss programs in a bid to improve these health statistics. One of these programs is the Ketogenic diet.
Originally introduced as a treatment for childhood epilepsy, the Ketogenic diet is mainly based on the concept of fasting (3). It is rich in fat, low in carb, and packed with a moderate amount of protein. The idea is to put and keep your body in a metabolic state known as ketosis.
This happens when there is a shortage of carbohydrates in the body, which prompts it to break down stored fat for energy and facilitate short-term weight loss (4).
Beyond Weight Loss
For 67 days in 2014, LeBron James adopted the Ketogenic diet to spectacular results. He developed a massively ripped midsection and went on to win his third NBA Championship ring (5). This is just one example of how increasingly popular the ketogenic diet has become.
With more people turning to it for weight loss purposes, some have reported several other benefits as well. Among these benefits is the effect that the ketogenic diet has on the skin.
Ketogenic Diet And Inflammation
The human body is designed for a cleaner, simpler, and purer world than the one we live in today. Over the last century or so, however, there has been a significant change on the human environment that outpaces our genetic adaptation. Consequently, disease vulnerability has increased exceedingly. The only way to cope with the toxic elements of modern life is through self-protection.
This protection usually comes in the form of an inflammatory response.
Unfortunately, too much inflammation can lead to serious consequences. An immune system reaction can misdirect to healthy tissues and cause significant damage. When these reactions involve the skin, they may trigger inflammatory skin diseases that often appear as ugly rashes (6).
When the body is in ketosis, it utilizes fat instead of glucose for energy. Unlike fat, glucose is inflammatory and can cause the body to:
- Raise inflammation markers (7)
- Produce high levels of insulin (8)
- Trigger chronic stress (9)
- Generate free radicals, which inflame the linings of blood vessels and stimulate the immune response (10)
As it is very low in sugar, eating a ketogenic diet helps to curb unregulated sugar levels that hike the production of insulin and create inflammation. This stimulates a complex biochemical process that counters the effects of inflammation, decreasing the chronic symptoms that are common in most skin disorders today (11).
Ketogenic Diet And Micronutrients
All foods contain both macronutrients and micronutrients, which are essential to the optimal body performance. Macronutrients include fats, proteins, and carbohydrates and are the main source of energy for the body.
Micronutrients, on the other hand, include fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals, phytochemicals, trace elements, and vitamins.
Apart from promoting normal growth and development, micronutrients also play a major role in slowing down the aging process and protecting the body from disease.
Studies have shown that eating a diet that has a complete micronutrient profile can improve the skin, improve bone density, enhance the body’s cognitive function, and reduce the risk of infection, among other benefits (12).
Knowing which foods to incorporate into the ketogenic diet is the key to successful results. Foods such as leafy greens, pastured eggs, organ meats, and grass-fed beef are particularly nutrient dense.
The most important micronutrients to prioritize are:
- Sodium – Sodium helps to control blood pressure, absorb micronutrients, and retain normal water levels in the body (13). The daily recommended dose on a ketogenic diet is 3,000 to 5,000 mg. Sodium among potassium and magnesium is an essential electrolyte you need to keep replenished during the keto diet.
- Potassium – Potassium deficiency can lead to loss in muscle mass, physical weakness, irritability, constipation, and skin problems (14). The daily recommended dose on a ketogenic diet is 4,500 mg.
- Magnesium – This mineral is extremely important in protein synthesis, fatty acid formation, production of energy, and cell reproduction (15). The daily recommended dose on a ketogenic diet is about 500 mg.
- Calcium – In addition to promoting strong teeth and bones, calcium also helps regulate blood pressure, transmit signals between nerve cells, and facilitate blood clotting (16). The daily recommended dose is 1,000 to 2,000 mg.
- B Vitamins – Deficiency in the B vitamins has been linked to psychological disorders like paranoia, confusion, anger, depression and anxiety (17, 18). The ketogenic diet has a strong emphasis on the consumption of meat and greens, so there is little concern over becoming deficient.
- Omega-3 Fatty acids – Omega-3 Fatty acids help with numerous processes, including: Brain development (19, 20), Reducing inflammation (21, 22), Cardiovascular health (23), Reducing blood pressure (24), Transporting oxygen through the blood (25). The daily recommended dose on a ketogenic diet is 4,000 mg.
- Iodine – Iodine is a vital mineral that helps to regulate levels of the thyroid hormone and prevent hypothyroidism, which can cause weight gain and skin problems. The daily recommended dose is 150 mcg.
- Phosphorus – Phosphorus plays a role in numerous cellular functions that help to balance hormones, improve digestion, utilize nutrients more efficiently, and boost energy levels. The daily recommended dose is 700 mg.
- Vitamin A – Vitamin A contributes to several bodily functions, including proper vision, organ growth, and cell reproduction. The ketogenic diet has a wide variety of foods rich in vitamin A, including: Kale, Broccoli, Beef liver, Spinach, Eggs, Fish, Dairy Products
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C contains antioxidant properties, which prevent “bad cholesterol” or LDL from causing damage to the body.
Ketogenic Diet And Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress is when free radicals get into the skin and cause damage (26). Free radicals are molecules or atoms that are unstable due to a missing electron (27). They travel looking for an electron to dispossess from other molecules and atoms.
If they succeed in stealing the electron, the other particle becomes a free radical, leading to a chain reaction of abnormal cell growth and reproduction.
Excessive free radicals in the skin can cause damage, opening the door to a wide range of skin disorders such as acne, rosacea, and accelerated aging (28, 29, 30). The ketogenic diet can help prevent oxidative stress by boosting the body’s antioxidant capacity.
This in turn helps control accelerated aging, cell and tissue damage, and diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s (31). The diet helps to create newer, stronger cells for fighting disease and infection.
Collagen is a crucial factor in these roles. The good news is that many keto diet foods are rich in this essential compound, including:
- Fish and lean meats – Fish and lean meats are high in Omega-3 Fatty acids, which contribute to the natural production of collagen in the body. These foods protect the fatty membrane around the skin cells, leading to a youthful-looking skin. Studies have also shown fish collagen to reduce wrinkles and fine lines (32).
- Avocado – Avocados boost the production of collagen and are great for joint health and cartilage repair (33).
- Eggs – Hen eggs contain collagen that has an extremely beneficial effect on the skin and hair, as well as joint health and connective tissues (34).
- Leafy Greens – Leafy greens come with a spectacular blend of collagen and antioxidants. Kale, spinach and other dark leafy vegetables prevent oxidative stress, which damages collagen and brings wrinkles and premature aging (35).
Ketogenic Diet And Dietary Fats
People often shun fats due to their high calorie count, but not all fats are bad. In fact, healthy fats are one of the most important components of skin health. The goal of the ketogenic diet is to derive more calories from fat and protein than from carbohydrates.
These fats help the skin to retain moisture, leading to a smooth and plump surface (36).
They are also a great source of essential fatty acids, which fortify skin cell membranes to keep the skin soft, elastic, and youthful. In addition to the cosmetic benefits on the skin, fats also aid in the absorption of important antioxidants such as lycopene, beta-carotene, and vitamin E (37).
These antioxidants help to fight against UV damage on the skin, which can cause aging or even skin cancer.
However, it is important to stay away from hydrogenated vegetable oils and deep-fried foods. These foods come with unhealthy trans fats that promote aging and free radical damage (38).
Rather, go for the monounsaturated fats in avocados, almonds, and olive oil, or the Omega-3 fats in fish, walnuts, flaxseed and natural nut butter.
The ketogenic diet has incredible potential benefits for the skin, but these benefits ultimately come down to the individual. After all, everyone has their own type of skin. The freedom to eat certain items on the keto diet might be a problem for some people. For example dairy products such as cheese, cream, and butter may trigger acne in some people.
On rare occasions, keto rash may also occur, which can be a terrible inconvenience for those who experience it. A rather practical solution is to make simpler lifestyle changes such as drinking enough water during the day, cutting back on simple carbs (such as cake, white pasta, and white bread), and steering away from highly saturated fats like butter and margarine.
About the author
An author and health enthusiast Alex Reed is a chief editor at Bodyketosis.com, which mission is to help you to take charge of your weight and health using the ketogenic lifestyle. Through personal experience and extensive research, he offers insightful tips for everything keto.