Celebrities from Halle Berry to Kim Kardashian have sung the praises of the ketogenic diet, which is popularly called ‘Keto diet’. Keto diet is known for its ability to effect a quick weight loss, with some people even declaring that they have lost a considerable amount of weight in just 10 days. What exactly is a keto diet? How does it work? What are the benefits and side effects? These are the questions that experts seek to answer.
What is a ketogenic diet?
A ketogenic diet is an extremely low or no carbohydrate diet that forces the body into a state of ketosis. Ketosis occurs when people eat a low or no carbohydrate diet which results in molecules called ketones building up in the bloodstreams. Low carbohydrate levels cause blood sugar levels to drop and the body begins to break down fat to use as energy. Most cells prefer to use blood sugar which comes from carbohydrates as the body’s main source of energy. In the absence of this blood sugar from carbohydrate foods, the body starts breaking down stored fats into ketones.
Once you reach ketosis, most cells will use these ketones to generate energy. This move from using circulating glucose as a source of energy to breaking down stored fats as the alternative usually occurs after two to four days of eating only 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day.
A ketogenic diet must be rich in proteins and fats because it is deficient in carbohydrates. A keto diet will typically include a lot of meat, eggs, processed meat, cheese, butter, fish, nuts, sausages, oils, seeds and fibrous vegetables.
What are the benefits of a ketogenic diet?
Ketogenic diets have been proven by research to have therapeutic effects in epilepsy, Type 2 diabetes and several other chronic conditions. Bette Klien a registered dietician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital stated that she had used the keto diet for years to help ease the symptoms of children with epilepsy. She affirmed that it is particularly effective with children that have refractory epilepsy and have not responded well to treatment. Evidence showed that half of the children who go on this diet experience a marked reduction in the number of seizures they experience. However, medical practitioners are not sure about the reason behind the efficacy of this diet with the children.
Another benefit of the Keto diet according to Rudy Mawer, a sports nutritionist is the quick results. People can lose some initial weight rapidly and this can serve as an encouragement.
Keto diet is also very simple in concept. Unlike other diets, the keto diet eliminates a food group, making it easier for people to follow.
Side effects of ketogenic diet
In spite of these benefits, the keto diet was ranked as one of the worst diets on the US News and World’s Report Best Diet Lists. This was due to the lack of research on long term outcomes, as all the researches done on Ketogenic diets have lasted only a little over a year, hard to follow regimen and its potential health hazard. Some of the side effects of the ketogenic diet include:
Fatigue: when your body is in a state of ketosis, you would experience fatigue because your body has to adjust to another source of energy apart from glucose. If you work out, your workout routine can suffer. It’s important that you consume a lot of water and salts to fight off the fatigue and lethargy when on this diet.
Headaches and Anxiety: You can experience splitting headaches when you start the keto diet; this is because you brain naturally prefers using energy from the glucose and so would have to adjust to the new energy source of ketones. This switch can make you feel anxious and lack concentration.
Bad breath: One of the sure ways to know that your body is experiencing ketosis is bad breath. There are certain chemicals that are realised when fat is broken down. These chemicals cause your breath to a fruity smell, which may not smell so great.
Hunger and Constipation: The foods that provide you with fibre, such as legumes, whole grains and beans contain carbohydrate. While on a keto diet, you would be skipping these extremely good sources of fibre. Fibre is the main component of your diet that makes you feel full and helps bowel movement. Without sufficient fibre in your body you will feel consistently hungry and experience constipation.
Bone Erosion: The ketogenic diet eliminates fibre and many other phytochemicals such as tannins, Pythic acids and oxalates from your diet, which would lead to your body not readily absorbing calcium. Your bones become weak and susceptible to fractures.
Kidney Stones: ketosis lowers your blood PH level; this means that your blood becomes more acidic. This acidic nature of your blood can cause the waste products in your blood to crystallise in your kidney causing kidney stones.
Jaclyn London, a nutrition director at Good Housekeeping, USA says that “any diet that’s as extreme as keto, to the point where it’s often implemented under the supervision of an entire medical team, won’t translate into everyday life. And when it backfires (as it always does), the shame and feelings of inadequacy hit us even harder when we’ve put so much damn work into it.” Melinda Hemmelgarn, a registered dietician in Colombia advises that people should not get weight obsessed, rather everyone going on a diet should keep food in perspective as it is a gift; it’s how we nourish ourselves and stay well.
Everyone should keep in mind that there is no magic bullet to weight loss. Engage in physical activities, eat well and avoid those highly processed foods.