The ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet, has gained momentum over the past decade due to its supposed positive effect on weight management.
The diet has been popular with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow. The Hollywood actress has previously faced the reaction of health experts who said there was a lack of evidence to support her suggested “curative” remedies, which included a ketogenic and plant-based diet.
But what are the pros and cons of a ketogenic diet and is it safe?
Table of Contents
- 1 What happens to the body with a Keto diet?
- 2 Advantages of a Keto Diet
- 3 Cons of a Keto Diet
What happens to the body with a Keto diet?
Because there are low levels of carbohydrates available for energy, your body breaks down fat into ketones, which become the main source of fuel for the body. Ketones provide energy for the heart, kidneys, and other muscles such as the brain.
A ketogenic diet is essentially considered a “partial fast,” explains the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“During a state of total fasting or hunger, the body has no source of energy. Thus, it breaks down lean muscle mass as fuel. With the keto diet, ketones provide an alternative source of energy. Unlike ‘A complete fast, keto diet helps maintain lean muscle mass,’ says the academy.
Advantages of a Keto Diet
1. Helps treat epilepsy, reduces seizures
Roxana Ehsani, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said: “The ketogenic diet was originally created and to be followed by people with epilepsy. It has been shown to be effective in reducing and preventing seizures.”
A ketological diet helps reduce seizures in pediatric patients with epilepsy, Psota of the ASN added.
Dr. Russel Wilder of the Mayo Clinic was the first to coin the term “ketogenic diet,” using the diet to treat epilepsy in 1921.
For nearly a decade, the ketogenic diet was considered a “therapeutic diet” for pediatric epilepsy and was widely used until the introduction of anti-epileptic agents, which led to a decline in the popularity of the diet, says the ketogenic diet book.
2. Weight loss
According to the Ketogenic Diet: “The resurgence of the ketogenic diet as a rapid formula for weight loss is a relatively new concept that has proven to be quite effective, at least in the short term.”
Dr. Tricia Psota, a registered nutritionist and member of the American Nutrition Society (ASN), said: “A ketogenic diet causes weight loss in most people, and some people report having less hungry while in ketosis. “
The NIH Hall noted: “It is also important to consider the benefits and risks of a diet in the context of the comparison diet.”
For example, compared to a typical Western diet that is high in ultra-processed foods, high in sugar and fat but low in fiber, a ketogenic diet can lead to weight loss, he explained.
3. Control of blood sugar
According to ASN Psota, research suggests that a keto diet may have potential benefits in controlling blood glucose (sugar), such as improving insulin sensitivity.
The NIH Hall said a keto diet can lower blood glucose and insulin levels, which can be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
When your body’s blood sugar levels rise, it releases insulin, which allows glucose to enter your body’s cells for use as energy.
Patients with diabetes do not produce enough insulin or their bodies cannot use insulin as well as they should and too much blood sugar remains in the bloodstream.
When you follow a keto diet, your body is deprived of carbohydrates and insulin secretion is significantly reduced.
“When glucose availability drops further, endogenous glucose production is unable to keep up with the body’s needs,” and a process known as ketogenesis begins, according to the Ketogenic Diet Book.
Ketogenesis provides the body with an alternative source of energy in the form of ketone bodies, replacing glucose as the primary source of energy.
“During ketogenesis due to low blood glucose feedback, the stimulus for insulin secretion is also low, which drastically reduces the stimulus for fat and glucose storage,” the book explains. .
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the results of research on the benefits of the keto diet for health conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, are “extremely limited.”
Cons of a Keto Diet
4. Flu-like symptoms
Among the short-term health risks of ketogenic diets are flu-like symptoms, known as “keto flu.” These can include upset stomach, headache, fatigue and dizziness, while some have also reported sleep problems, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
5. Nutrient deficiency
The ketogenic diet requires “drastically reducing or reducing” many nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. This can lead to deficiencies in micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals) over time, Psota of the ASN said.
Ehsani, of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said the diet “eliminates foods dense in nutrients essential to your overall health and well-being.”
Keto diets limit the intake of cereals, starchy vegetables, beans, lentils, fruits, vegetables and dairy products. All of these foods are loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fiber, the registered nutritionist dietitian said.
The ASN Psota said one way to avoid these “micronutrient deficiencies” during a keto diet is to take a multivitamin supplement. “However, supplements do not provide the fiber contained in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans,” he warned.
Low dietary fiber intake can cause constipation, Ehsani said. People who follow a ketogenic diet often need to take a fiber supplement to maintain regular bowel movement.
7. High cholesterol
The NIH Hall said another concern is that some people may experience “a substantial increase in blood LDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B. “due to the high fat content of keto diets.
These concerns can be mitigated by lowering the saturated fat content of the diet and replacing it with sources of monounsaturated fats, but more research is needed on this issue, he said.
According to Hall, there are also medical interventions that can help lower the levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood and apolipoprotein B to consider, “but the effectiveness of these drugs also needs further research.”
8. Heart disease
The potential for high levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) increases the risk of heart disease in dieters, said ASN’s Psota.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a “considerable body of research” has shown that diets high in saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease and other chronic health problems.
“The risk that those on a ketological diet have in terms of their long-term cardiovascular health has not been fully studied,” the academy said.
9. Kidney stones and other risks
Kidney stones and liver disease are among the other long-term health risks of a ketogenic diet. The diet is also not recommended for those who suffer from the following conditions, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
Pancreatic disease Liver disease Thyroid problems Eating disorders or a history of eating disorders Gallbladder disease or those whose gallbladder has been removed