The ketogenic diet is gaining popularity all around the world among people looking for quick, dramatic weight loss. It is also popular diet for those who are suffering from diabetes, as a form of controlling triglycerides, glucose, body weight and insulin. Nevertheless, critics say the diet is an unhealthy way of losing weight and in some cases, it can be downright dangerous.
What is a ketogenic diet?
A ketogenic diet is a diet which is high in fat, contains a small amount of complex carbohydrates (mainly from vegetables), includes a moderate amount of protein, and eliminates all the simple carbohydrates such as pasta, grains, bread, sugar etc. On the ketogenic diet, at least 70 % to 90 % of the daily calories come from fat. 5 % to 10 % of the calories come from carbs.
The rest, up to 25 % of the daily energy needs, comes from protein. By contrast, the healthy diet that is recommended by the Institute of Medicine is 45 % to 65 % carbohydrates, 20 % to 35 % fat and 10 % to 35 % protein.
On a ketogenic diet, approximately 75 % – 90 % of daily calories come from fat; 6 % – 20 % come from protein; and 2% – 5% come from carbohydrates. It changes the body`s metabolism body from burning glucose for energy to burning fat for energy.
The ketogenic diet is named for the ketone bodies which are waste products of the breakdown of fat and can be measured in urine. It`s sometimes known as a LCHF (Low Carb, High Fat) diet or an Adkins diet although there`re some minor differences between a Ketogenic diet and Adkins diet. It is currently a medically recognized treatment for Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Deficiency, drug resistant epilepsy, and Glut 1 Deficiency.
Is the ketogenic diet safe?
Following a ketogenic diet can be safe in the short to medium term if the advice of a qualified health professional is sought and the diet carefully planned. Nevertheless, it isn`t a diet that has been recommended for the general population for the long term.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, eating small amounts of carbohydrates might cause weight loss, but including certain foods that contain carbohydrates actually helps to promote a healthy weight, whole grains, like brown rice, are digested more slowly than the refined grains like pasta, possibly preventing hunger.
Additionally, drastically cutting out foods that contain carbohydrates may cause you to miss out on the nutritional benefits of healthy choices such as starchy vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and legumes such as lentils, beans, and chickpeas. These foods also contain essential minerals and vitamins such as calcium, iron, folate, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium, as well as dietary fiber.
Supporters of the ketogenic diet say that it can produce quick weight loss while providing adequate amounts of energy to the body, however, the evidence for this is mixed. Scientific studies have shown that compared to the low calories diets (energy restricted diets), low carbohydrate diets can be more effective for losing weight in the short-term.
When you limit the amount of carbs in your diet, your body uses the carbs stored in your liver and muscles (known as glycogen). Glycogen is stored with water, hence restricting carbohydrates helps you to lose weight fast by causing your body to lose the water weight. It doesn’t make you healthier or make you lose the real weight (i.e fat) quickly.
In addition to that, research conducted by scientists shows that although the ketogenic diet switches the body into fat burning mode, the fat loss slows down as the body begins to break down the muscle tissues for energy.
Side effects of the ketogenic diet
The transition to a ketogenic diet may at times cause side effects, which are often referred to as keto flu. These can include:
- Frequent urination
- Low energy levels
- Digestive discomfort
- Confusion, anxiety or/and irritability
- Bad breath (this is caused by the production of excess ketones)
- Increased hunger
According to a scientific study published in the U.S National Center for Biotechnology Information (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325592/), when the ketogenic diet is continued for extended periods of time, there`re some adverse effects which may occur, these include:
- Cardiovascular problems
- Kidney stones
- Stunted growth in children
- Increased risk of bone fractures
Who should NOT do a ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet isn`t for everybody. Individuals with liver disease, kidney disease, or any of the following health conditions shouldn’t try the ketogenic diet.
- Carnitine translocase deficiency
- Carnitine palmitoyltransferase I or II deficiency
- Carnitine deficiency (primary)
- B-oxidation defects
- Expectant or breastfeeding mothers
- Short chain acyl dehydrogenase deficiency
- Medium chain acyl dehydrogenase deficiency
- Long chain acyl dehydrogenase deficiency
- Medium chain 3 hydroxy acyl-CoA deficiency
- Long chain 3 hydroxy acyl-CoA deficiency
- Impaired liver function
- Gall bladder disease
- Impaired gut function
- Gastric bypass surgery
- Abdominal tumors
- Pyruvate carboxylase deficiency
- Kidney failure
- Decreased gastrointestinal motility