Today we talk about one of the latest trends in the dieting world: the Ketogenic Diet, or in short, keto. You might have heard or read about it before but not sure if it’s right for you. That’s why in this Diet Breakdown, I explain what the keto diet is, how it works, and if it can truly help you lose weight in the long run.
A Brief History
The Ketogenic diet started as a way to manage epileptic seizures during the 20s. It lost popularity for a brief period after seizure medication was developed. People no longer needed to undergo the keto diet to control their seizures.
However, not everyone responds equally to medication, and so keto was popular again to help nonresponders control their seizures.
Today, keto has surfaced as a “weight loss” diet rather than its initial purpose of epilepsy management. In 2018, it was the most-Googled diet.
Many people have jumped onto the keto trend without understanding the effects it has on the body. Multiple studies have been done on this topic as a result.
But before we examine the effects the keto diet has on the body, let me briefly explain what it is.
What is the Keto Diet?
Keto or Ketogenic diet is widely misrepresented as a “low carb” diet. There is a difference.
Eating less than 50 grams of carbs a day causes the body to produce higher levels of “ketones” in the liver. These are byproducts of fat breakdown that the body uses to keep your cells alive in the absence of glucose.
In layman’s terms, your body uses fat as an energy resources instead of carbs.
Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, the impact it has on your health and body isn’t so straightforward.
Keto’s effect on the brain
Generally speaking, your brain and nervous system is powered by glucose.
When undergoing a very low carbohydrate diet, the brain is forced to rely on ketones for energy.
Although the body of studies available are limited, a recent study has shown that ketones can increase the number of “energy factories” (or mitochondria) in the hippocampus.
The hippocampus is part of the brain responsible for learning and memory, and are prone to age-related diseases. With increase energy reserves, it may be able to reduce stressors that may kill the cells. This is however not extensively studied and more research needs to be done on this.
Keto’s effect on weight loss
Widely marketed as a more effective form of weight loss, a meta analysis done across 32 studies shows that it does no better than any other “fad diet” out there.
At the end of the day, its effectiveness is only linked to the good ol’ idea of caloric deficit. Eat fewer calories than your body burns, and you’ll lose weight.
Whether cutting carbs to a very low level is sustainable is a whole different story.
There are benefits to keto diets in some cases.
Most junk foods are high in carbs, and so going on a keto diet would mean cutting down on those “junk carbs” which may have health benefits. But the effects are from cutting the junk food and not carbs itself.
So is going on a keto diet safe?
While there may be some studies that show high levels of ketones can cause harm, this typically doesn’t occur in most people. Only in controlled research environments do we see ketoacidosis (or high levels of ketones caused by diabetes).
Some people claim that going without or with very little carbohydrates isn’t good on the body. This is also questionable due to the lack of long-term studies done on participants who go without carbs for extended periods of time.
Basically, long-term studies aren’t feasible for diet-based studies so most “evidence” are imperfect at best and results often contradict each other.
My take is that whatever diet you choose to go on, adherence is key. And going on extended very low carb diets like keto doesn’t seem feasible.
Even so, it may not be the best diet to go on. The best option is always to start from the basics: calorie deficit.
Then after that, balance your macros. A healthy, balanced diet is always the best option. Even though carbohydrates aren’t strictly “essential nutrients”, they are still recommended in moderate amounts.
Conclusion: Short-term solution at best
At the end of the day, whether you decide to try the keto diet or not, make sure you do it the right way. Seek professional advice from a doctor. And monitor how your body feels during the diet.
Self-awareness is always important. Ask yourself, why losing weight is important to you. Is it because of looks, health, or fitness? They are all valid reasons, however it is not ideal to harm your body for the sake of getting fit.
Everyone is on their own journey. Seek professional advice and try something that works for you and fits into your lifestyle.
If you want to find out more about nutrition and dieting, I invite you to come down and meet our fitness professionals.
They are certified trainers who have helped hundreds of clients reach their fitness goals. And whatever questions you want to know, they can help you find out.
If you’re ready to start your journey and finally see real results, click here to book a free session with them today.