The diet everyone seems to be talking about these days: Keto. Everyone has an opinion, some love it and swear by it, others not so much… Here is a breakdown of what I like and dislike about the Ketogenic diet.
Overall, following a Ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet. The body’s preferred fuel source is glucose, which carbohydrates provide readily. However, when following a ketogenic diet, there is inadequate glucose (i.e. carbs) and the body is forced to use other substrates like fatty acids and amino acids, for energy. This in turn produces substrates known as ketones. The body is a wonderfully brilliant machine and adapts incredibly well under the various stresses we put it through. However, there are some things to keep in mind if you are considering “going Keto”: if you have underlying kidney, liver, gallbladder, or pancreatic disease a Keto diet would not be a wise choice. These organs are directly involved in our metabolism of fats and proteins. The digestive and excretion process of the metabolic byproducts during a state of ketosis puts a high demand on these organs. In short, if you have certain chronic diseases you are asking those organs to do more of what they are struggling to do at baseline. It’s like riding a bike with a flat tire… riding on a flat road would be tough, going uphill is even tougher, if not impossible. Sometimes family history plays a part in our chances of developing diseases, such as heart disease, and lifestyle choices can help or hinder treatment and management of these conditions. Talk to your doctor if you are thinking about starting a ketogenic diet, as this can be detrimental to certain organs that are in a diseased state.
As far as blood glucose management and weight loss, there seem to be promising benefits for following a Ketogenic style diet. Since blood glucose is affected by the number of carbs we eat, naturally, a lower-carb diet will decrease those blood glucose levels. Weight loss is usually another side effect of following a ketogenic diet, for several reasons. One is the feeling of satiety we feel from eating fats. Fat provides 9 calories per gram whereas protein and carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram. Another reason would be an overall reduction in total calories, since many foods are excluded in a ketogenic diet, there will be a natural caloric deficit that happens simply by restricting intakes.
Keep in mind that more large-scale, well-designed research is needed to understand the long-term effects (both good and bad) of a ketogenic diet. It cannot be said hands-down everyone should follow a Ketogenic diet, however, if you are in good general health and are looking to try something new and different, feel free to give it a try.
Following a ketogenic diet is a personal decision that should be made keeping your current health status, and future health goals in mind. Always check with your physician if you are taking medications, or have suspected or confirmed chronic illnesses or a family history of certain chronic illnesses. Seeking the advice of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to help you ensure a balanced, long-term, healthful diet strategy is always recommended.