You have probably heard of the ketogenic diet. The eating philosophy is getting a lot of buzz, but it may not be right for everyone.
However, unknown to most people, the eating style isn't a new concept. In fact, it’s been used as a treatment for epilepsy since the 1920s and came back into the spotlight in the ‘90s when Dateline ran a segment highlighting it as a treatment option. In the 1970s, Dr. Atkins popularized his very-low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss that began with a very strict two-week ketogenic phase.
So how did it go from epilepsy treatment to weight-loss regimen? More and more celebs like including Vanessa Hudgens and Halle Berry have recently praised its weight-loss results publicly. While they have raved about the results, it doesn't meant that this weight loss ideology is right for your body.
What is a ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet induces ketosis, which is a state where your body is running primarily off of fat and ketones instead of sugar and carbs. When you restrict carbs this way and eat more fat, your body takes about 24 to 48 hours to begin producing ketones, which are created when your body metabolizes fat for energy. Specifically, the ketogenic diet targets about 80 percent of calories from fat, 15 percent from protein and 5 percent from carbohydrates.
When most people hear "diet" they think calories, but on the keto diet specific caloric intake isn't the focus. Your body can be in a ketogenic state at a range of calorie levels, and individual needs fluctuate day to day depending on activity and other factors.
A main benefit of the diet, and why many of its followers praise the eating plan, is weight loss. Multiple studies show promising results: In a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, obese men dropped about 14 pounds after following the diet for a month. And in a longer-term study published in Clinical Cardiology, obese adults adhering to a ketogenic diet for about six months noticed significant weight loss — on average, 32 pounds — as well as reductions in total cholesterol and increases in beneficial HDL cholesterol. A review study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition also found that the weight loss seen within the first three to six months of following the keto diet was greater than the loss from following a regular balanced eating style.
What would the keto diet not one for me?
There are a few reasons why the keto diet wouldn't be good for your situation. Medical conditions, lifestyle factors, and the like might prevent you from being someone that would benefit from this plan.
You're Pregnant: To date, there hasn’t been much research done to investigate the effects of the ketogenic diet during pregnancy. However, pregnant women and women who are nursing typically need to consume more protein and extra fiber from plant foods compared to non-pregnant woman in order to keep themselves and their baby healthy.
You Have Diabetes: Many people following the keto diet will deal with bouts of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, at least initially. This can become dangerous if your blood sugar is not stable to begin with or if you’re taking medication to control diabetes. If you still want to try out the diet, you should do so only under strict watch of your doctor.
You Have a Thyroid Disorder: A moderate low-carb diet might be helpful for certain people with thyroid disorders, but a very low-carb diet (like the keto diet) may also worsen some thyroid-related symptoms, including brain fog, trouble sleeping, digestive issues, and changes in mood. The same can be said for adrenal fatigue symptoms, which are usually remedied through a balanced diet and lifestyle changes.
You Have Kidney Issues: The increased risk of kidney stones are an unfortunate side effect attributed to the keto diet. If you’re already prone to kidney disease, going keto just isn’t worth the gamble.
You Struggle to Diet: The keto diet is hard to follow and it can be heavy on red meat and other fatty, processed, and salty foods that are notoriously unhealthy. Research also does not know much about its long-term effects, probably because it’s so hard to stick with that people can’t eat this way for a long time. If you are someone that has regularly struggled with dieting, this might not be the option for you.
A ketogenic diet could be an interesting alternative to accelerate weight loss for many, however it's important to speak to your doctor to see if this would be the right option for you.