The Ketogenic or Keto diet has become quite a trend recently and is popular for weight (specifically fat) loss. But, what does actually entail and should you be on it?
Keto stands for ketogenic and describes the process when ketones (type of chemical) are produced from stored fat when no other form of energy is available in your body. In order to achieve this state, you have to deprive your body of glucose (sugar) and eat just enough protein to maintain lean mass, as protein can also be converted to glucose. To put it simply, this is a low-carb diet with a little protein and high amounts of fat.
By depriving your body of glucose by abstaining from all carbs including fruit and vegetables, it first uses what is stored in the liver, then the muscles to break down amino acids to produce glucose. After a few days, the body begins using fat as fuel, which shifts to the liver where ketones are produced as an alternate source of energy. This diet has been prescribed for certain medical conditions like diabetes and to help reduce epileptic seizures. But does this mean it’s safe for you?
The obvious benefits are that it does lead to weight loss and improves issues related to being overweight as you feel fuller and less hungry; but there are challenges involved. As with all restricted diets, it’s difficult to maintain. To achieve ketosis, carbs are very restricted and this is difficult for many of us, and leads to side-effects like moodiness and brain fog.
Depending on what you eat, digestive issues like constipation can arise due to having less fibre. If you go on this diet long term, nutrient deficiencies can also be a problem; and ‘bad’ cholesterol due to consuming more saturated animals fats will increase.
Quite a few organs are involved in the process and have work hard to shift to this alternate energy source. Our body can use this as a last resort backup for a short period of time to survive, not as a main energy supply. This means that our liver and kidneys could suffer over time.
There have been limited studies conducted, but it’s highly recommended to consult a dietitian / nutritionist before starting to get advice on how to ensure you get the necessary nutrients, whether it’s safe for your specific health requirements and for how long you should practise it.