Is the Ketogenic diet good for you? Well, let’s find out.
What is the ketogenic diet?
A ketogenic diet (KD) mostly consists of foods that are high in fats (oils, meat, fish, eggs, cheese, and low-carb veggies like cauliflower and leafy greens) along with keeping your carbohydrate intake to less than 20 grams per day. Twenty grams of carbs looks like half a bagel or less than 1 cup of rice. By reducing carbohydrates, the idea is that the body is pushed into a state of ketosis where it primarily burns fat for energy instead of glucose. Fruit also usually needs to be restricted along with certain veggies in order to maintain ketosis given it’s high sugar content.
Where did the Keto diet come from?
In 1911, Parisian physicians used starvation/fasting as a form of treatment in both children and adults with epilepsy and noted seizures improved during that time frame, no specifics were given, but the trend started with that. In 1920’s, it was further found that these patients could be helped by significantly reducing carbs vs fasting; thus moving to the ketogenic diet for epileptic patients. This diet still helps prevent seizures in children to this day (following many modernized clinical studies of course).
This diet has been shown to reduce seizures in epileptic patients, we’re fairly certain of that. For weight loss, there is strong evidence that following a KD can help with weight management, although how that occurs is still up for debate. Listed below are mechanisms that have been hypothesized to show why this is effective for weight loss:
- Impacts on appetite control hormones
- Production of ketone bodies that possible could be a direct appetite suppressant
- Increased lipolysis (cellular fat breakdown) and decreased lipogenesis (cellular fat production)
The KD may also have benefits with blood sugar control for people with diabetes mellitus (DM) and/or insulin resistance (IR). Normally folks with DM or IR, have issues with taking up glucose (sugar) into cells, so the excess glucose gets diverted to the liver where it gets converted to fat for storage. Simply reducing carbs, helps to reduce this issue.
Currently, there’s not enough research to tell if this is beneficial or safe long term for those who don’t have epilepsy and are using this for weight loss. For a period of time perhaps, but we need more studies. We also don’t know the risk of weight regain that is common to many fad diets.
Like many things there are side effects of the KD. Who doesn’t want constipation, bad breath, headaches, and brain fog? Anyone? The brain fog comes from the fact that glucose/carbs/sugar is the only fuel source that your brain can use. Fatty acids don’t cross the blood-brain barrier.
By cutting out grains and other food groups we miss out on micronutrient needs. Diets with high fat content, especially saturated fat, and limitations of fruits and veggies can result in poor heart health.
Low carbs overall can impede on your ability to exercise at high intensity which does not benefit athletic performance. If you’re a fan of fatigue and poor recovery this may be right for you! Too few carbs means inefficiency of our Kreb’s Cycle to produce ATP (our energy source). Be sure to give your mitochondria some love by way of complex carbs!
The U.S. weight loss market reached a record $78 billion in 2019. Just because we see a certain diet being pushed and promoted in a magazine doesn’t mean it’s healthy for all of us. Be your own advocate and do your homework to find what works and is appropriate for you. Substantial research shows that hopping from diet to diet can be incredibly harmful to not only your body, but also your mental health. There’s a reason why so many diets don’t work long term because they are not sustainable. Many of these “diets” are meant to be used short term for specific health goals. Be sure to work with a certified practitioner to find what works for you.