The ketogenic diet, also known as “keto,” seems to be all the rage lately, and many celebrities promote it is an effective weight loss method. Although it’s popular currently, it isn’t new and has actually been used as a treatment for epilepsy since the 1920s.
The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that puts your body into a state of ketosis, in which stored fat is mobilized for energy and ketones are produced. This diet severely restricts daily carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams per day. In order to take in enough calories, the keto diet is extremely high in fat with 60 to 80 percent of daily calories coming from fat. Foods that are typically included on a keto diet include fish, meat, eggs, dairy, oils and green veggies.
Several studies have shown that the keto diet does promote weight loss in the short term. For instance, a study published in Clinical Cardiology showed that obese adults that followed a keto diet for six months had a significant 32 pound weight loss on average. Weight loss occurs because the body is using fat stores for energy. The problem is that this diet is very restrictive and is difficult to follow long-term. When people lose weight by following the keto diet, they tend to lose muscle mass. When they stop following the diet and go back to their normal eating habits, the usually regain much of their original weight, often as fat.
People that follow the keto diet have reported some negative side effects, such as bad breath, diarrhea, headaches, nausea and fatigue. Furthermore, this diet limits nutritious foods that are high in carbohydrate, such as whole grains, fruits, and some vegetables, putting people at risk for nutrient deficiencies. Lastly, the keto diet is very high in fat, which could increase the risk for heart disease if followed long-term.
There are some people for which a keto diet could be dangerous. For example, this diet could put people with type 1 diabetes at risk for life-threatening diabetic ketoacidosis. This is a condition in which the body stores up too many ketones and the blood becomes acidic, resulting in damage to the liver, kidney and brain. In addition, people with kidney disease shouldn’t follow this diet because it is often high in protein. Also, people with a history of disordered eating shouldn’t follow a restricted diet, such as the keto diet, which can contribute to an unhealthy relationship with food.
Should you try the keto diet? Although it may work for some, most people would be better off eating a healthy and balanced diet that includes whole grain carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and lean protein. It is also important to include physical activity in any weight loss regimen. If you are considering starting a diet, such as the keto diet, be sure to talk with your health professional about the potential risks and benefits.