In this interview, Benjamin Bikman, Ph.D., an obesity and diabetes scientist and associate professor of physiology and developmental biology at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah,1 reveals how the ketogenic diet affects your physiology and supports optimal health.
“My main interest early on was looking at how the body adapts to obesity,” he says. “That was my master’s thesis. My master’s degree was exercise science here at BYU … I ended up pursuing a Ph.D. in bioenergetics at East Carolina University, under this wonderful scientist named Lynis Dohm, Ph.D.
His focus had been looking at how lipids cause insulin resistance. That was an interest of mine, because I thought this was starting to explain why and how the body becomes insulin-resistant in the midst of obesity … Insulin resistance is that connection.
During my Ph.D., we were looking at inflammation in people who were losing weight following gastric bypass procedures and how improved inflammation is likely part of the improvements in insulin sensitivity that people see post-bypass.
I followed that up with a post-doctoral fellowship at … the Duke National University of Singapore. They had this focus on cardio metabolic disorders. I … looked at inflammation as a particular mediator there … Then in 2011, my alma mater, BYU, came knocking. They wanted to do more diabetes research, and I fit the requirements … That got me, essentially, to where I am now …
If I really am getting this conviction, based on my own research, that insulin is key to not only diabetes but to almost every chronic disease, what is the best way to control insulin? That was when I insisted on only looking at published human clinical data — not rodents, not cells, not epidemiology, just clinical data.
The low-carb diet was just this very effective way to do that. That then got me interested in asking questions about ketones, which is what my lab is doing … how ketones are regulated by insulin.”
Bikman’s conviction that insulin is a key to health and disease prevention, and that controlling carbohydrate intake is the most effective way to control insulin, led him to start practicing what he’d learned. He went on a low-carb diet about eight years ago. “Sure enough, at middle age, it’s helped me stay healthy,” he says.