We receive enquiries on a daily basis asking for help with a ketogenic diet plan to lose weight. For those new to the word ‘keto’, the Keto diet might be the latest diet fad popular for the last couple of years but it is not something new to physicians and dietitians as they have been using it for treating epilepsy since the 1920s. The point of concern here is whether this type of diet plan is healthy and suitable for long-term practice as a weight loss strategy? Still, Keto’s fan base is only skyrocketing and Google searches are hitting new heights every day with more and more books publishing keto-friendly recipes and blogs covering every single aspect of this diet that attracts individuals. According to Sara Seidelmann, a nutrition researcher at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston,” There’s absolutely nothing more important for our health than what we eat each and every day” and the effects of the Keto diet on our health stands as a big question mark!
Famously known as the high-fat, low-calorie diet people following the keto diet aim to achieve 70-75% of their calorie needs from fats, 15-20% from proteins and 5-10% (20-50 grams per day) from carbs. This is in startling contrast to the recommendations of health experts who say that a healthy diet plan should include 45-65% from carbs, 20-35% from fats and 10-35% from proteins. Such reduction in carbs literally means that individual has to avoid even fruits, starchy veggies, pulses and whole grains but rely on eggs, chicken, meat, fish, and butter to fill their tummy. Getting its name from a process called ketosis (happens when there is not enough energy from carbs to perform activities and hence the body uses stored fat as an energy source) the diet is designed in such a way that the process is initiated paving way for weight loss. Such disproportionate macronutrient proportions don’t comply with any of the nutritional guidelines and must be branded only as a passing diet fad. How on Earth do we think that such a restrictive diet plan could add nutrition and health to the body or even be suitable for long-term?
Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea
Though we don’t know for sure how the keto diet works wonders on people prone to seizures researchers say that there are potassium channels in the brain that can have a quieting influence on electrical excitation and the channels work better when the brain uses ketones for energy. Research also suggests that a ketogenic diet can treat people with obesity, type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease. But the National Lipid Association (NLA), USA strongly states that even these individuals who benefits from the diet plan must pursue it for not more than 2-6 months and not without the supervision of a physician or dietitian. NLA also warns that people suffering from dangerously high cholesterol levels must avoid keto and other low-carb diets as following this diet plan might lead to increase in LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) levels which in turn raises the risk of cardiovascular disease. The World Health Organization too states that overconsumption of butter and bacon might land a person with colorectal cancer risk. Such strict suggestions indeed worry us but as per NLA’s statement, extremely low-carb diets might aid in short-term weight loss but they show mixed effects on health markers that can contribute to heart disease risk.
Weight loss is possible but various recommendations show that the weight loss achieved by following a keto diet is similar to what people achieve by following other diets that allow increased consumption of carbohydrates. A meta-analysis of 13 randomized-control trials showed that people on a ketogenic diet lost more after a year and improved their triglycerides, HDL and blood pressure compared to those on a low-fat diet. But after two years of follow-up there was an improvement in HDL levels but no difference seen in weight loss between the two groups (https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/can-eating-fat-help-you-lose-weight-lets-look-at-the-ketogenic-diet-20160929-grr1vo.html).
There is absolutely no way that the keto diet can be followed forever given its suggestion of macronutrient composition. If you are going to be an ardent keto follower you cannot eat more than an apple to fulfil carbs (1 apple provides roughly 20 grams of carbohydrates) intake or munch on a banana (20-30 grams of carbs). In case of young and healthy adults removing abundant carbs might not be extremely dangerous but the point is whether it is necessary. You are sure to experience issues such as bad breath, constipation, monotony of eating the same foods, imbalanced food group intake (restricting an entire food group can never do good anytime) and flu-like symptoms but there have also been claims of reduced hunger due to reduced secretion of ghrelin hormone and increased weight loss. There are some individuals who have lost 2-3 times more weight than individuals with other eating habits but most of it is based on short-term results. Besides, every person pursuing the keto diet must be disciplined, extremely focused and have sufficient means, energy resources and time. Despite such rigid requirements the diet never fails to impress people with its results.
Though the diet benefits the group of people mentioned above there is need for more research to determine whether such strict carb restrictions are needed to enjoy these perks. There are no long-term trials of low-carb diets and health outcomes and we don’t have any clinical outcome events like heart attacks, strokes, cardiovascular deaths diabetes events and total mortality. Also, weight loss is not easy for anyone and it depends on various factors that have a strong impact on the person’s ability to lose weight and maintain the lost weight. Any diet can promote weight loss as the basis of every diet is to reduce the amount of net energy consumed. It is essential to pursue a diet that can become your lifestyle and replenish your health rather than leaving you antisocial or fatigued. Hence, following a well-balanced diet with social support, behavioural strategies and ample physical activity is the best way to lose weight or maintain the lost weight.
Low-carb Keto Diets have Some Health Benefits and Some Risks: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-heart-keto-diet/low-carb-keto-diets-have-some-health-benefits-and-some-risks-idUSKBN1WH2H4
High on Fat, Low on Evidence: The Problem with the Keto Diet: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jan/07/high-on-fat-low-on-evidence-the-problem-with-the-keto-diet
What About Everyone Else: Is Keto Diet Safe in the Long Term? https://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/is-keto-diet-safe/
You Asked: Should I Try the Ketogenic Diet? https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/can-eating-fat-help-you-lose-weight-lets-look-at-the-ketogenic-diet-20160929-grr1vo.html
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