Insulin is a hormone that lets your body use or store sugar as fuel. Ketogenic diets make you burn through this fuel quickly, so you don’t need to store it. This means your body needs -- and makes -- less insulin. Those lower levels may help protect you against some kinds of cancer or even slow the growth of cancer cells. More research is needed on this, though.
Take action: Aerobic exercise has always been regarded as critical to improving brain health, but strength training is also key. In fact, the two modes of exercise benefit the brain differently, which is why it’s best to do both. In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Aging Research, the authors found that both cardio exercise and strength training improved spatial memory (for example, remembering where objects were placed in a room) in women ages 70 to 80. Cardio alone improved verbal memory (for example, being able to remember a list of words after a distraction). And in a 2012 study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, women in their 70s who strength-trained improved their associative memory, meaning that they remembered pairs of pictures that they had been shown earlier. This is the kind of memory that allows you to remember two pieces of information at once, like picturing not just your keys but also where you placed them.
Imitation meats have been around for a while, but new ingredients and manufacturing methods allow them to more closely resemble the taste and texture of actual meat, putting them on the mainstream map this year. The proof is in the Impossible Burger, which made its nationwide debut at White Castle this fall. There are environmental and health advantages to reducing meat consumption (especially red meat), however, these meat pretenders are highly processed and it’s always better to consume food in its whole and more natural form. There may be a time and place for imitation meats—say, you want to make your plant-based diet a bit more convenient from time to time—but make sure you’re keeping an eye on sodium, which can get high.
The popular low-carb diets (such as Atkins or Paleo) modify a true keto diet. But they come with the same risks if you overdo it on fats and proteins and lay off the carbs. So why do people follow the diets? "They're everywhere, and people hear anecdotally that they work," McManus says. Theories about short-term low-carb diet success include lower appetite because fat burns slower than carbs. "But again, we don't know about the long term," she says. "And eating a restrictive diet, no matter what the plan, is difficult to sustain. Once you resume a normal diet, the weight will likely return."
Physicians of ancient Greece treated diseases, including epilepsy, by altering their patients' diet. An early treatise in the Hippocratic Corpus, On the Sacred Disease, covers the disease; it dates from c. 400 BC. Its author argued against the prevailing view that epilepsy was supernatural in origin and cure, and proposed that dietary therapy had a rational and physical basis.[Note 3] In the same collection, the author of Epidemics describes the case of a man whose epilepsy is cured as quickly as it had appeared, through complete abstinence of food and drink.[Note 4] The royal physician Erasistratus declared, "One inclining to epilepsy should be made to fast without mercy and be put on short rations."[Note 5] Galen believed an "attenuating diet"[Note 6] might afford a cure in mild cases and be helpful in others.
There are three instances where there’s research to back up a ketogenic diet, including to help control type 2 diabetes, as part of epilepsy treatment, or for weight loss, says Mattinson. “In terms of diabetes, there is some promising research showing that the ketogenic diet may improve glycemic control. It may cause a reduction in A1C — a key test for diabetes that measures a person’s average blood sugar control over two to three months — something that may help you reduce medication use,” she says.
The next time you want to grab a fattening snack, reach for some sugar-free gum instead. Chewing some types of gum gives you fresh breath and can also help manage hunger, control snack cravings, and aid in weight loss. (Keep in mind, however, that excess sorbitol, a sugar alcohol sometimes used in low calorie gums, can have an laxative effect in some people.) Although gum might make you eat less, it doesn't mean you can stop eating right. A good diet and exercise are still important.