There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the most popular diet in 2019.
We have been receiving a lot of questions about a ketogenic diet. First and foremost, Is the ketogenic diet safe? Would we recommend it? Although it has been a huge trend in the past couple of years, a ketogenic diet is not a new discovery. Doctors have been prescribing it for epilepsy, especially in children, in the last century. Some of you may have heard about the popular Atkins diet in the 1970s when Dr. Atkins tailored his very-low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss. Over the years, other fad diets incorporated a similar approach for weight loss.
What is a ketogenic (keto) diet?
The ketogenic diet in the simplest terms is the process of releasing ketones into you bloodstream. The cells in our body prioritize using blood sugar, a form of carbohydrate, as its main source of fuel. When the sugar is deprived from the cells, our bodies start breaking down stored fat into molecules which are called ketone bodies (the process is called ketosis). When you reach ketosis, most cells will then utilize ketone bodies to create energy until we start eating carbs again. The transition, from using circulating glucose to breaking down stored fat as a source of energy, will occur over two to four days of eating fewer than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. This can be quite restrictive as many items such as pasta, bread, or rice will easily exceed that amount. However, some people may need even more restrictive diets if they have tried low carb diets in the past.
Excluding carbs, the ketogenic diet is comprised of mostly proteins and fats. For example, people will consume eggs, cheese, meats, fish, seeds, nuts, butter, oils, and green leafy vegetables. The biggest drawback is that the keto diet is extremely restrictive, which makes adherence difficult over the long term.
On the other hand, most standard diets comprise of mostly carbohydrates. Critics will point to eating large amounts of protein and poor-quality fats from processed foods, with low amounts of nutritious fruits and vegetables. Medical professionals warn that those with kidney disease to not try the keto diet. Another negative is that dieters may feel unusually tired in the beginning, while some may experience the more extreme side effects of keto breath, nausea, constipation, and sleep problems.
Is a ketogenic diet healthy?
Clinical studies have shown that a ketogenic diet does significantly reduce seizures in children as effectively as medication. Some other studies are studing possible benefits for other neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, sleep disorders, autism, and brain cancer.
The main reason people use the keto diet is for weight loss. Research has shown good evidence of accelerated weight loss when patients go on a ketogenic or restricted carbohydrate diet compared to traditional low-fat diet or even a Mediterranean diet.
Clinical studies also show improvements in blood sugar levels for patients with type 2 diabetes. However, some studies show some patients have increase in cholesterol levels in the beginning, only to see cholesterol fall a few months later.
Key takeaways from a ketogenic diet review?
It seems the medical evidence shows that the ketogenic diet could help treat certain conditions and increase weight loss. Again, the biggest drawback is that the keto diet is difficult to adhere to with high amounts of fatty, processed and salty foods. There are no studies regarding the keto diet over a long period of time. Some have suggested that diets that lead to quicker weight loss are linked to increased mortality. As is common sense, the evidence seems to suggest that a balanced, unprocessed diet, rich in very colorful fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and olive oil are the best for long term sustainability.
If you are still interested in trying the keto diet, you can try some of the "hacks" that allow you to eat a more regular diet while still being ketosis. The most popular are exogenous ketones and mct oils that can put your body in ketosis without the restrictive diet.