Considering the Keto diet? What our health experts want you to know about the latest diet trend
Updated on 7/13/2018
So you want to lose weight fast. Is the ketogenic diet a valid approach, or just another fad?
This strict very low carb diet caught on because it sounds simple and can produce results.
But it can also be hard to maintain and should be undertaken with close monitoring by a health care professional with experience supervising the ketogenic diet.
The science behind this weight-loss diet is still being understood. In fact, more is being learned about its long-term effects.
A little history: The ketogenic diet was created by Gianfranco Cappello, a surgery professor in Italy. His study included 19,000 dieters who experienced significant, rapid weight loss and few side effects. The diet was also found to help control seizures in children with epilepsy, though it’s not yet understood why. This and other low-carb diets have shown promise for those with obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors.
The trick with keto is that it’s strict. You have to adhere closely to the diet or it won’t work.
How it works: Put simply, a “keto” diet is composed of an extremely low-carbohydrate, adequate protein and high-fat diet which forces the body into a state of ketosis. This occurs when a lack of carbohydrates lowers a body’s blood sugar levels, which causes the body to break down fat instead of carbohydrates to use as energy.
That breakdown of fat is where the weight loss occurs.
Diet Composition: The keto diet is typically planned to provide 80 to 90% of the energy from fat in a ratio of grams of (fat) to grams of (protein plus carbohydrate) as “4:1”.1 The total amount of calories to be consumed should be based on an individual’s body mass index, prior dietary intake and physical activity. Getting the 80 to 90% of calories from fat required to achieve ketosis can be difficult. It’s also very easy to go over on your carbohydrate limit. Others struggle getting enough, but not too much, protein. Without getting the right balance, you can be ingesting a lot of fat without achieving the weight loss.
Precautions: The ketogenic diet relies on ketosis, which generates a higher than usual level of ketones in your body. This can be very dangerous for individuals with certain inborn errors of metabolism. This is why health care providers urge keto dieters to be under the supervision of medical professionals including a dietitian or nutritionist.
Since the keto diet can be heavy on red meat and fatty foods, it’s not considered good for your overall, long-term health. Side effects which can occur over time include kidney stones, high cholesterol levels, constipation, muscle loss, slowed growth and bone fractures.
My advice: If you want to go the keto route, work closely with your health care provider. If not, skip the keto route and stick with the basics. A healthy diet and regular exercise will achieve the weight loss you want.
1. Gupta L, Khandelwal D, Kalra S, et al. Ketogenic diet in endocrine disorders: Current perspectives. J Postgrad Med. 2017 Oct-Dec; 63(4): 242-251
This post was updated to provide a more balanced review of keto diet and to include references. We also removed the reference to eating an apple, as that is typically not within the keto diet.