A fad diet currently gaining steam is the ketogenic diet. The ketogenic, or keto, diet is an extremely low-carb, high-fat diet.
The last 50 years have brought us many fad diets. In the 1970s, we saw the grapefruit diet. In the 1980s, there were liquid meal-replacement diets. In the 1980s, people tried “zone and blood type” diets. And since the 2000s, we’ve seen the South Beach, Atkins, Paleo, gluten-free and raw food diets make the rounds. These diets come and go because the short-term weight loss results are promising, but the diets are difficult to continue and the weight eventually comes back.
A fad diet currently gaining steam is the ketogenic diet. The ketogenic, or keto, diet is an extremely low-carb, high-fat diet. The standard breakdown of nutrients in a healthy diet is 45 to 55 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 10 to 30 percent of calories from fat, and 20 to 25 percent of calories from protein. The keto diet limits carbs to less than 5 percent of calories and protein to less than 20 percent, so the remaining calories — a whopping 80 percent — have to come from fat. That makes the keto diet different from the usual low-carb diets that emphasize high-protein, rather than high-fat, foods.
The keto diet basically denies the body its customary food source, glucose, which comes primarily from carbohydrates. The body must then metabolize fat in order get the energy it needs to survive. When fat is converted to glucose, ketones are produced as a by-product. When the fat being converted comes from the body’s fat stores, the body is essentially digesting itself. This same process happens in starvation.
The ketogenic diet was originally fine-tuned in the 1920s as a dietary intervention to treat children with epilepsy. The production of ketones influences neurotransmitter activity and can reduce seizures in some children. This diet is not recommended for adults with epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. The diet is very strict and difficult to follow.
Is the keto diet a diet that you should follow to lose weight? It is true that you probably will lose weight following this diet. Anytime you eliminate a whole food group, you are likely to lose weight. On the keto diet, you probably won’t be hungry and will notice a decreased appetite. This is because all those high-fat foods are filling and after a while, become less appetizing. Some people report more energy with a keto diet, but this is often short-lived.
All this might sound promising, but I have the following concerns about this particular fad diet.
The restricted food list can make it difficult, or impossible, to obtain several essential nutrients. Without supplemental vitamins and minerals, deficiencies can occur.
This is a very low-fiber diet, so constipation and other digestive issues are bound to occur, including changes in the gut microbiome, which may affect metabolism.
When the body digests itself by breaking down fat for energy, it is not choosy about where the protein and fat come from. Muscle loss is likely to occur, and vital organs, including the heart, might be affected as well.
The rapid initial weight loss comes from losing water. Carbs tend to hold water when stored as glycogen in our bodies. Depletion of these glycogen stores means water weight is lost. Because of this, weight regain is rapid if you cheat on the diet or go off of it.
You may experience flu-like symptoms from ketosis, including brain fog, fatigue, headache, nausea and lack of energy.
A side effect of ketone production is bad-smelling breath, sweat and urine.
The diet is very strict, and you must stay in ketosis for it to work. It is easy to go out of ketosis with just one slipup. This makes it difficult to anything you did not prepare yourself. No more grabbing a banana or granola bar for an easy snack.
You must regularly check that you stay in ketosis by using urine, breath or blood tests. It takes about seven days of closely watching your diet to reach ketosis.
Over time, the high-fat diet will result in higher blood lipid levels, which increases your risk of heart disease.
You will be eliminating many foods from your diet — including grains, fruits, beans and most vegetables — proven to have positive health benefits, including reducing cancer risk, diabetes, heart disease and dementia.
Weight regain is probable once returning to a more balanced diet, and this weight is more likely to be fat, rather than muscle.
Persons with any health issue, such as diabetes or kidney disease, should not attempt this diet without medical supervision because it could be extremely dangerous.
If we have learned anything from decades of fad diets it is this: There are no quick fixes! Eliminating food groups, starvation diets or magic foods that burn fat just don’t work in the long term. A better approach is to keep your portions in control; eat healthy fats, lean meats, whole grains and lots of fruits and vegetables; and cut back on sugar and refined carbohydrates. Add daily exercise to the mix, and you are on your way to a healthier you, regardless of your weight.
Roasted Cauliflower Recipe
5 cups cauliflower florets
1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place cauliflower on baking sheet, and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle seasonings, and gently toss. Arrange in single layer. Bake 20 minutes, turning once, or until tender.
Nutrition Information: 62 calories, 4 g fat, 2 g protein, 7 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 38 mg sodium