What is the Keto Diet?

Though it might appear like a new concept, the ketogenic diet (or keto diet) has existed for almost a century. The low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet gained instant recognition when shown to reduce seizures in pediatric patients with epilepsy. While still prescribed for that purpose now, the diet is currently associated with a weight-loss tool.

The keto diet cuts carbs and promotes eating more fat. Here's what the daily breakdown of carbohydrates, fat, and protein looks like:

- 75 % of calories from fat, like oils, unprocessed nuts, butter, and avocado.

- 20 % of calories from protein sources, such as eggs, cheese, and meat.

- Only 5 % of calories from carbohydrates, such as low fat, non-starchy vegetables, and little amounts of leafy greens. The keto diet excludes carb-rich foods such as beans, fruits, starchy vegetables, and grains,

The ketogenic diet is centered around burning fat by cutting carbohydrates. Your body converts carbohydrates into glucose under normal conditions for energy. When you reduce carbs from your diet, your body changes to burning fatty acids, or ketones. While people on the keto diet eat fewer carbs, they maintain or increase their current fat and protein consumption. However, fats play the most critical part of keto.

By shifting the proportion of fats, protein, and carbohydrates eaten on a daily basis, the body will undergo a metabolic condition of ketosis. The process of breaking down fats into energy is known as ketosis. It may take about two days to a week through a low carb, high-fat diet to reach ketosis. Once it does, it is going to start producing another kind of energy known as ketones.

See: The Ketogenic Diet for Cancer Starving

What is ketosis?

How does science view the keto diet?

The ketogenic diet is distinctive from other eating types due to its very substantial fat and very low carbohydrate intake. Ketogenesis is the natural process that your body adjusts to when it doesn't have enough sugar to use as energy. Your body breaks down fat and creates ketones as a power resource. 

Glucose is a type of sugar that's usually your body's main supply of energy. When sugar is low, your body drops into your ketones, which were made from ketogenesis for energy. This backup metabolic process your body switches to is called ketosis. Your liver's task is to make ketones always anyway, but the amount will change based on one's carbohydrate and protein intake. The speed of creating ketones slows when it's simply not needed. With the keto diet, your body does not get enough sugar to use it as its own fuel. Your body, therefore, remains in a state of ketosis.

See: Break Keto Plateau & Keto Weight Loss Stall

Pros of the keto diet

Keto diet benefits

-     Weight Loss

There was anecdotal evidence of people losing weight on the ketogenic diet. People further report feeling less hungry than on other kinds of restricted diets. They feel less hungry because fatty foods require a more extended period to break down by the body. Weight loss comes from ketosis, but also from reducing calorie consumption by eliminating food groups.

There are a few metabolic changes with this diet.  Fat oxidation does indeed increase because of the body adapting to the high fat intake. However, losing body fat and fat oxidation are two distinct processes. If fat oxidation is higher, it does not automatically indicate that there'll be a decrease in body fat. In general, calorie intake and calorie burn will be the principal determinant in fat reduction.

- Brain health

The ketogenic diet was developed in the Mayo Clinic from the 1920s to help treat children who had epilepsy and were not reacting well to more conventional medication forms. The ketogenic diet helps seizures in children with epilepsy, and over half the kids on the keto diet experience a 50% reduction in seizures.

The keto diet aids reduce seizures in pediatric patients with epilepsy, according to studies. Athletes also use it to lose fat in short timeframes. The keto diet has been analyzed for mitigating symptoms for patients with progressive neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease, but scientific research hasn't confirmed advantages for these populations.

Additionally, the diet could have more brain-protecting properties than initially realized. A recent study suggests that keto might help keep the mind healthy by increasing motor and sensory function while preventing Alzheimer's disease symptoms. Results from a 2018 research found that mice that followed a keto regimen showed signs of improved neurovascular function, enhanced gut diversity, lower glucose levels, and reduced body weight. Another study indicated that elevated ketone levels enhance cognitive function in adults with memory disorders, like Alzheimer's disease.

- High-fat diet

On paper, burning fats by eating a lot of fats is enticing, which explains why the diet is now popular. The keto diet enables many people to eat the kinds of high-fat foods they like, such as red meats, fatty fish, nuts, butter, and cheese, while still losing weight.

- Type 2 diabetes: Carb restriction may have an immediate effect on glucose levels, lowering them. It might be a straight forward manner one could get their diabetes in check. But one ought to consult with a registered dietitian before using this strategy, as a generally healthy diet and carbohydrate control can produce the exact results.

- Cancer Care: This is a developing field of study for the ketogenic diet. The Warburg effect has found that tumor cells may break down glucose considerably faster compared to normal cells. The concept is that by "hungry" tumor cells of sugar, you can inhibit their development and help prevent cancer. An emerging study suggests that individuals who combine a ketogenic diet using their traditional cancer treatments may improve tumor response or dampen tumor development.

See: Keto diet benefits for weight loss, diabetes & PCOS

Cons of the keto diet

Possible Keto Diet Disadvantages

Some side effects of a long-term ketogenic diet have been indicated in a review of this diet by Harvard's public health school.  These include an increased risk of osteoporosis,  kidney stones, and increased blood levels of uric acid (a risk factor for gout). 

-     Nutrient Deficiencies: As entire whole food groups are excluded, nutrients typically found in foods such as whole grains and fruit, which are limited from the diet may cause deficiencies, particularly if the diet is followed incorrectly or without appropriate advice. It's crucial to incorporate a vast array of foods while eating such large amounts of fat. Each food group provides different essential nutrition. Concentrate on meats, seafood, vegetables, some legumes, and fruits to ensure you're receiving fiber, B vitamins, and minerals like magnesium, iron, and zinc. Consult a registered dietitian to relieve the chance of any deficiencies.

-     Keto Flu: Throughout the diet, you will experience uncomfortable side effects from significantly cutting carbs, sometimes known as the "Keto Flu." Hunger, headaches, nausea, fatigue, irritability, constipation, and "brain fog" can last days. Sleep and hydration can help, but it might not be a nice transition to the diet.

-     Gut Health: Using the restroom could be difficult since eliminating whole fruit and grain will greatly reduce one's fiber consumption. This action is not suitable for gut health.

-     Calorie Depletion 

Since the keto diet is so limited, you do not get the nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fibers, which you get from fruits, legumes, vegetables, and whole grains. Because of these deficiencies, people also report feeling foggy and tired. These symptoms are dubbed "the keto flu" Constipation can also be common on the keto diet because of the lack of fiber.

-     Bad Fats Impact

The high-fat nature of the diet may also have adverse impacts on your heart. The AHA (American Heart Association) recommends limiting saturated fat consumption to 5 to 6 percent. Many consume high amounts of saturated fats, which might increase cardiovascular disease risk. An increase in fats in the blood results in people on the keto diet over six to eight months.

-     Renal Risk

People with kidney disease have a higher risk of requiring dialysis on the keto diet as a result of extra ketones their renal system must process. Some folks also experience dehydration on the keto diet since they are eradicating glycogen, which retains water, from their blood.

-     Tracking anxiety

When you micromanage your food consumption by monitoring how much you consume, it disconnects you from what your body needs. You begin using outside numbers to ascertain what to eat rather than listening to your body. Monitoring food so closely may result in psychological distress. Restriction may cause bingeing, which often results in guilt, leading back to limiting foods in an endless cycle.

-     Hard to Sustain

Due to the stringent food limitations, many find the keto diet challenging to abide by. The ketogenic diet can be useful for weight loss when used in a limited time interval, followed by adopting healthy eating habits. It can, however, lends itself to yo-yo dieting, that can increases metabolism. Ketosis isn't easy to achieve because it is just like a switch: either on or off. Individuals who consistently monitor food intake are more likely to stay in ketosis. A blood test is required to be sure if your body is in fact in ketosis.

See: Fat Adapted Or Keto Adapted Basics

Is keto diet healthy?

Like many diets, keto motivates one to follow a strict regimen that involves eating more of certain foods while removing others. Nutrient-dense foods, like fruit, veggies, and whole grains, are not precisely staples of the ketogenic diet. It is a fair question for people to ask precisely how healthy this diet really is. It is relevant particularly in today's society, where plant-based diets are well known for being healthy, cleaner, and more sustainable. With that said, there's research that shows that eating a diet full of color, containing several natural and whole foods, is beneficial for our health. However, there's currently little research assessing the long-term dangers or benefits of staying on the ketogenic diet.

See: How much protein on keto diet

Is the keto diet right for you?

While some people find keto compelling, others might want to prevent animal-based foods for personal reasons or health issues. From veggies and fruits to whole grains and healthy fats, what you opt to eat goes beyond satisfying hunger. Pleasure and enjoyment are also critical facets of holistic nourishment for mind, body, and soul. Before attempting any diet, it is essential to do your research, weigh the advantages and disadvantages, and consult a physician. You know your body the best and can decide what works best for you. Evaluate the keto diet pros and cons to decide if it is right for you.

Experts advocate balanced approaches, such as the Mediterranean diet, for long-term weight reduction. One can still obtain the benefits of ketosis when eating a balanced and varied diet through intermittent fasting. Ask your doctor when you are trying to change your diet.

See: Keto Diet Diarrhea Causes & How to Stop

Summary

When the diet is complete, there may be a more intricate transition or regular eating again. Concerning fat reduction, someone may try something intensely for a while, and if it works, they could reap those physiological advantages connected with losing body fat. Studies have yet to determine how this affects our wellbeing long term. What we do know is that a general wholesome, vitamin-packed diet should consist of high-quality meals, variety, and the ability to adhere to this diet if it's for muscle gain, fat loss, or general maintenance.

The ketogenic diet is missing some crucial food groups, and consequently, vital nutrients. It's best to talk to a dietitian and doctor to make certain that you're monitoring not only the scale, or how you are feeling, but what's happening in your body with the correct guidance. Like all nutrition recommendations, they're unique based on an individual's health history, preferences, goals, activity level, in addition to particular health needs. It's the registered dietitian nutritionist's use to direct clients toward a secure, health-optimizing lifestyle through personalized nutrition. What may work for one might not for others.

See: Low Carb and Keto Chinese Food

References

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2. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/217514: The National Cholesterol Education Program Diet vs a Diet Lower in Carbohydrates and Higher in Protein and Monounsaturated Fat

3. Branco AF, Ferreira A, Simões RF, et al. Ketogenic diets: from cancer to mitochondrial diseases and beyond. Eur J Clin Invest. 2016;46(3):285-98. doi:10.1111/eci.12591.

4. Bueno NB, de Melo IS, de Oliveira SL, da Rocha Ataide T. Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Br J Nutr. 2013;110(7):1178-87. doi:10.1017/S0007114513000548.

5. http://atvb.ahajournals.org/content/12/2/187.short: Low-density lipoprotein particle size and coronary artery disease.

6. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/136/2/384/4664306: Carbohydrate Restriction Alters Lipoprotein Metabolism by Modifying VLDL, LDL, and HDL Subfraction Distribution and Size in Overweight Men

7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29046155: Impact of dietary fats on brain functions.

8. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa022637: A Low-Carbohydrate as Compared with a Low-Fat Diet in Severe Obesity

9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23680948: Treatment of diabetes and diabetic complications with a ketogenic diet.

10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28534852: Effects of Ketogenic Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Evidence from Animal and Human Studies.

11. https://www.livestrong.com/article/509998-do-low-carbs-affect-bowel-movements/

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22. Sumithran P, Prendergast LA, Delbridge E, Purcell K, Shulkes A, Kriketos A, Proietto J. Ketosis and appetite-mediating nutrients and hormones after weight loss. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013;67(7):759-64. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.90.

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See: Improvement in motor and exploratory behavior in Rett syndrome mice with restricted ketogenic and standard diets.

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