An abbreviation of the ketogenic diet, the keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet.
The goal is to enter a state of ketosis, in which the body is depleted of the carbohydrate sources it usually uses for energy. Instead, it is forced to source its energy from ketones. Since ketones are made from fat, the diet is promoted as a way to burn fat quickly.
The science sounds simple, but does the keto diet work? And more importantly, is the keto diet safe?
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons ⬇️
Benefits of the keto diet
Fast Weight Loss
Perhaps the main attraction of a ketogenic diet is its promise of quick and easy weight loss.
Many newcomers to the diet may find this surprising, as conventional wisdom leads us to believe a low-fat diet is the best way to shed pounds.
On the contrary, studies have shown that the keto diet is a better option for long-term weight loss – even when the calorie intake is the same.
Possible reasons why keto is so effective for weight loss include:
- Increased fat-burning ability even when resting
- You’re likely to consume more protein on the diet, which can make weight loss easier
- The process of gluconeogenesis means your body burns calories as it converts fat into carbs
In addition to these physiological effects, the consumption of high-fat foods such as eggs, cheese, and meat may help satisfy your hunger for longer and therefore reduce cravings.
Effect on biomarkers
Biomarkers are a helpful indicator of the body’s potential for disease.
A 2004 study found that biomarkers associated with heart disease and diabetes significantly improved after six months on the keto diet. For example, participants successfully lowered their LDL cholesterol levels, blood glucose, and triglycerides while increasing healthy HDL cholesterol.
The above study involved only obese patients, so it is unclear whether the keto diet is effective on biomarkers in patients with a healthy BMI.
The ketogenic diet was initially developed to manage the frequency of seizures in epilepsy patients.
The diet has been shown to halve the number of seizures in epileptic children and even help them become seizure-free.
Cons of the keto diet
One significant barrier to the keto diet is its associated expenses and unfamiliarity to many Western diets.
British and American diets often centralise high-carb foods such as bread, pasta and rice – all of which must be banished or severely limited on keto.
The healthy fats advocated by the ketogenic diet are found in foods that may be unfamiliar to many and difficult to find instore depending on where you live. These include low-carb vegetables such as kale, avocado and bok choy.
If you’re a keto newcomer, you may experience the ‘keto flu’ or even carb-withdrawal symptoms.
The transition to a state of ketosis, in which your body starts burning fat instead of carbs, may involve increased urination, headaches and fatigue.
Along with increased urination, the body may become depleted in electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. This can lead to an increased risk of muscle cramps and the potential for kidney problems.
The limited diet offered by keto may make you more vulnerable to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
For example, those on low-carb diets are at increased risk of becoming deficient in magnesium.
By limiting the amount of fruit and vegetables you can consume, you may also be vulnerable to deficiencies in vitamins B and C.
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Keto diet influencers are keen to promote the weight loss benefits of the low-carbohydrate diet. Studies suggest that such claims have a basis in science. Moreover, a ketogenic diet may potentially alleviate or prevent several health conditions.
However, the limited nature of the keto diet may mean you are more vulnerable to deficiencies. Consider supplements to make up for vitamins and minerals you are missing out on.
To minimise side effects associated with the process of ketosis, up your daily intake of water to at least 2 litres. Also, try to avoid intense exercise in the first couple of weeks to avoid dehydration, fatigue and muscle cramps.
You must not rely on the information on this blog as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or therapist. If you have any specific concerns about your mental or physical health, you should consult your doctor and you should not delay seeking medical advice, or treatment for your mental health, because of the information on this blog.