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dnaMD Nutrition- All about Keto

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

The keto diet is one of the most hotly contested diets out there. While for some people, keto works exceptionally well- allowing them to easily lose and keep off weight. For many others, keto does the opposite, quickly losing water weight and then gaining back what you lost and more. The answer to the question of the effectiveness of Keto lies in our genes.

Depending on the variants within your genetic code, Keto may be the best diet for weight loss and overall health, or may cause very serious health problems.

Keto 101

The principles of the keto diet work to put your body in a state of ketosis. In doing this, you are changing how your body creates fuel. Ketosis is a metabolic state that relies on ketone bodies for energy. You enter ketosis when you deprive your body of its usual form of energy- carbohydrates, and glucose. Ketone bodies are made from fat in the liver. When you enter into ketosis, your body becomes very efficient in burning fat stores.

To achieve ketosis, you must obtain:

  • 75% of daily calories from fat

  • 15% from protein

  • 5% from carbohydrates

Typically, this means eating large amounts of meat, eggs, nuts and seeds, butter and cream, cheese, healthy oils, and low-carb vegetables.

In the keto diet, you avoid eating:

  • Grains and starches- wheat-based products, rice, pasta

  • All fruit other than berries- non-berry fruits are typically higher in carbs

  • Beans or legumes- peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas

  • Root vegetables and tubers- potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips

Keto Risks:

Obviously, when eating keto, it can be very easy to become nutrient deficient, as you are not eating the full range of fruits and vegetables- which is where many vitamins and minerals are found. Beyond the risks like cancer, immune dysfunction, and stroke that accompany micronutrient deficiencies, entering ketosis can also be dangerous, especially if you are not genetically inclined to eat a diet that is mainly fats. If your genetics are not adapted for a keto-type diet, then you may experience liver and kidney problems, high cholesterol, GI malfunctions, and decreased brain capacity.

Genetic components:

For people whose genes work well with a high-fat diet, the keto diet works very well. The following benefits have been noted: high energy levels, improved neurological function, improved body composition, and weight loss, potentially reduces seizures and may improve metabolic health.

But those not genetically inclined for the keto diet may experience symptoms like extreme fatigue, muscle loss and weight gain, increased risk of heart disease and Alzheimer's disease, and brain fog. There are several key genes that determine how well the keto diet will work for you. They largely pertain to how your body deals with fat. A few are listed below.

  • PEMT gene- allows you to naturally create choline, which is essential for liver function. If you have a specific variant of the PEMT gene, you are more likely to develop a choline deficiency, which is linked to fat buildup in the liver.

  • ACAT gene- directly affects how well your body can convert protein and fat into ATP. Variants in the ACAT gene impact your ability to burn fat for cellular energy and impact your likelihood of developing high cholesterol and liver problems.

  • APOA2 gene- known as the “eat fat, get fat” gene, it regulates appetite. With variations in the APOA2 gene, you may not feel full and consume more calories on a diet full of saturated fats.

  • FTO gene- works in the regulation of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. Variations in this gene result in constant hunger and difficulty in balancing blood sugars- which is risky if you’re following the keto diet.

  • ACSL1 gene- affects how you metabolize saturated fats from animals. Can cause insulin resistance and higher fasting glucose levels if you have a copy present.

  • STAT3 gene. - This gene is highly associated with increased visceral (belly) fat when eating saturated fats. Studies have shown that there is an exponential risk of obesity with eating saturated fat. Individuals with the gene need to keep their saturated fat intake less than 22g a day.

Because the long-term health effects of the keto diet are unknown, you should only try the keto diet if your genetic code directly calls for large amounts of fat in your diet. To learn more about nutrigenomics at the Johnson Center, click here.

Through DNA testing, we can precisely identify the patterns and imbalances of your unique metabolism and use nutrients to suppress the expression of disease, illness, and other unhealthy patterns. If you're interested in genomic testing, click here to learn more! Or contact our office at


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