Americans seem to try one trendy diet after another. Recently, a low carbohydrate diet called Ketogenic (Keto) has gained popularity.
Simply stated, the Keto diet is a restricted food diet so people do not have to count calories. By reducing the amount of carbohydrates consumed and replacing carbs with fat, the body burns fat for energy instead of glucose from carbohydrates. The liver makes ketones when fat is burned, and the body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis. Hence, the “keto” name.
- Most of the calories in the diet, 60-80%, come from fat. The ketogenic diet recommends monounsaturated and saturated fats such as olive oil, butter, avocados, cheese, and sunflower oils. Other food suggestions include eggs, seafood, meat, poultry, Greek yogurt, and nuts.
- The diet also recommends reducing carbohydrate intake to 20-50 grams per day, depending on age and activity. Carbohydrates include grains, sugars, beans, rice, potatoes, and most fruits. (The average person eats 225-325 grams of carbohydrates per day.)
- Because it is so restricted, a multivitamin with minerals should be taken daily.
Adjustment to this kind of restricted diet can cause symptoms such as constipation, fatigue, weakness, light-headedness, headaches, and mild irritability for the first 1-2 weeks. Some people call this the “keto flu.” If you decide to try this diet, it is important to plan meals and drink plenty of water to minimize symptoms.
Benefits and Risks
- High-fat low- carb diets have been used to treat childhood refractory epilepsy with some success as the brain uses ketones for energy.
- Studies have shown improvement in diabetes, cholesterol levels and obesity for people who lose weight on the Keto diet.
- There may be a risk for the diet to cause fatty liver.
- It is such a restrictive diet that long term adherence is low. Most people regain weight that had been lost when they return to the high carbohydrate diet--which caused the obesity in the first place.
More studies need to be done on long-term health effects of this diet. As of now, Keto is not recommended as a long-term diet for healthy people.
Ultimately, losing weight requires lifestyle changes, not adherence to the latest fad diet. That includes exercising regularly and reducing overall food intake and refined/processed carbohydrates. It may not be the coolest or trendiest way to lose weight, but it’s still the best for long-term success.