The ketogenic diet continues to be a path that many are using as a hopeful solution to weight loss. But is the keto diet the best plan to follow?
What is “keto”?
The ketogenic diet (keto) first made its grand appearance in the mid 1920’s as a way to help children with epilepsy, according to Kathy McNanus, a Registered Dietitian and Director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Although it was known within the medical field, it was not mainstream until the late 1990s.
In 1997, the film “First Do No Harm” starring Meryl Streep portrayed the story of a two-year-old boy named Charlie who had continual severe seizures. The film highlighted the success a keto diet can have on children with epilepsy. Thus, began people’s fascination with keto.
What do we know about the ketogenic diet?
Researchers of the study, “Effectiveness and Safety of a Novel Care Model for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes at 1 Year: An Open-Label, non-Randomized, Controlled Study,” not only confirmed McNanus definition of the keto diet, took it one step further.
Within the experiment, they noted that in one year, 60% of the participants reversed their diabetes. And, within the one year, there was average weight loss of 30 pounds and reduced need of insulin.
What can you eat on a keto diet?
In a daily 2,000-calorie diet, followers of the keto lifestyle are consuming an average of 165 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbs and 75 grams of protein per day.
The ketogenic diet requires rigorous limitation of carbs and unsaturated fats, while allowing liberal intake of saturated fats. Healthy unsaturated fats that are allowed include nuts (almonds, walnuts), seeds, avocado, tofu and olive oil.
However, saturated fats from palm and coconut oil, lard, butter and cocoa butter are celebrated in large amounts.
How the Keto Diet Works
Instead of relying on glucose coming from carbohydrates such as (vegetables, fruits and grains), the keto diet relies on ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are a type of fuel that the liver produces from stored fat.
In order for the liver to make ketone bodies, followers must deprive themselves of carbohydrates; no more than 50 grams a day. Furthermore, it takes numerous days to reach a state of ketosis. The waiting game begins.
Is the Keto diet healthy?
Most followers on the keto diet tend to lose weight and lower their blood sugar levels but it is not a sustainable lifestyle. Most followers tend to gain the weight back or, even more, once they stop following the rules.
The keto diet focuses on quick fixes rather than educating followers on how to live a healthy, mindful and enjoyable life.
Risks of Keto diet
Once the body enters ketosis, followers will begin to lose muscle, become fatigued and enter starvation mode.
Physicians have stated that a keto diet has caused a substantial rise in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (LDL). When LDL levels are high, individuals are more likely to have coronary artery or peripheral artery disease leading to a heart attack.
It is common for followers to suffer from nutrient deficiency since they are lacking variety in their diet. Deficiencies in micronutrients include selenium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin B and C.
Kidney problems are also a potential keto risk. Since the kidneys aid in the metabolization of protein, the keto diet forces the kidneys to go into overdrive.
Constipation is a common side effect due to the diet being low in fibrous foods such as grains and legumes.
Mood swings and unclear thinking is a possible symptom due to the lack of sugar from healthy carbohydrates.
The keto diet should only be used as a short-term solution for epileptic children, diabetics and those with a BMI over 40. If someone interested in the keto diet does not follow one of those categories, they should avoid it at all costs.
If you are still eager after reading all the risks of consuming a keto diet, please refer to a registered dietitian or your primary physician to have your diet monitored. The keto diet is dangerous without proper medical and nutrition assistance.
Remember, create healthy habits not restrictions. Don’t focus on weight loss, focus on health.
Try meal planning and meal prep to avoid the frustration of meal time and reach your healthy fit goals. You can start here, with this dietitian approved meal plan.
- Effectiveness and Safety of a Novel Care Model for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes at 1 Year: An Open-Label, Non-Randomized, Controlled Study
- History of the ketogenic diet
- Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapies
- Should you try the keto diet?
- Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you?