The keto diet. Fact or fiction?
Although it may seem like the newest craze in town, the ketogenic diet is not a 21stCentury fad. It has actually been around for over 100 years and has long been used to treat drug-resistant epilepsy. But the keto diet was catapulted to fame by Dr Atkins in the 1970’s who popularised this very low carbohydrate diet for weight loss.
The ketogenic or ‘keto’ diet seeks to put the body in a condition to release ketones in the bloodstream. This happens when the body does not have enough sugar in the bloodstream (normally from dietary sugars or carbohydrates) and instead starts using fatty acids into ketones, which it then uses for energy.
The diet is restrictive and involves eating high volumes of fat, followed by protein and a small amount of carbohydrates, people will often have less than 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day.
So is the ketogenic diet healthy?
Whilst there is evidence that ultra-low carbohydrate diets are associated with faster weight loss compared to more traditional low fat or Mediterranean diets. However, contrary to popular opinion these changes are actually difficult to sustain over time. Some studies have shown improved outcomes in obesity, type 2 diabetes and HDL cholesterol levels, but again, these effects are usually limited in time. Moreover, there it is difficult to achieve a balanced nutritional intake and sticking to sustained low-level consumption of carbohydrates.
Here’s what’s important:
You’ve heard me say it before and I’ll say it again - each person and everyone’s body is different. If you are thinking of a ‘low carb diet’, start with working out what proportion of your daily intake is carbohydrates. Start with trying to reduce sugars (refined sugar, sweets, and chocolate as well as fruit juices) and ensuring that you are eating good quality carbohydrates (brown rice, wholegrains and sweet potato), instead of jumping into an extreme diet.
And remember, your diet supports you when it supports your overall health, not just weight loss.
Take your time with changes in your nutritional intake and have realistic expectations. Losing weight too fast is NEVER a good thing, it is usually unsustainable, and your doctor will often advise you against it.