What is Keto? Is it Safe?
Reddit’s 2019 Year in Review showed keto as the most-discussed diet trend of 2019.
Short for “ketogenic,” it is a low-carb, high-fat diet that is somewhat similar to the Atkins.
Keto is a diet centered around carb in-take minimization and upping your fats in-take, in order to compel your body to use fat as the primary source of energy.
20+ experiments have shown that this type of diet can be an effective weight loss solution, though things are never as simple as they may seem at first, are they?
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including: the Standard ketogenic diet (SKD), which is 75% fat, 20% protein, and only 5% carbs
The Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
The Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
And the High-protein ketogenic diet: 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
“However, only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.” according to HealthLine.
So let’s dive into the science of it all.
Two to seven days into the keto diet, your body goes through ketosis, the state your body enters when running low on carbs, and then breaks down protein and fat as an alternative fuel/energy source for your body cells. At the same time, your body produces ketones, organic compounds that are your body’s alternative to the missing carbs. That is when your body also starts burning fat for more energy.
It’s important to note that the ketogenic diet is sometimes used as a short term solution focused around weight loss rather than any health benefits.
The original purpose of this diet was to help patients suffering from seizure disorders. That’s because both ketones and beta-hydroxybutyrate, another chemical byproduct of the diet, could help minimize seizures.
There is a vast line of lifestyle-based products and likely to be misleading marketing material that is making its way to us right now, including snacks and other food items designed to support a low-carb high-fat diet.
Fatbar is one example. Bulletproof coffee is another — a coffee with grass-fed butter and added medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil to give you a boost of fats in the morning.
Chipotle is a third example. The Keto Salad Bowl option at Chipotle is basically a keto dieter’s dream. Lettuce, carnitas, tomatillo and red chili salsa, Monterey jack cheese and guacamole. “A perfect meal for those on the keto diet.“
What Food Items Aren’t Welcomed in a Keto Diet Table?
Pasta and other grain-based food definitely will not make it on your daily menu. Starchy vegetables (e.g., potatoes and carrots), as well as legumes (e.g., chickpeas, lentils, and black beans), would be off-limits.
Sweets — artificial or natural — obviously would be a big no-no. But I know what you’re thinking: what about doughnuts? Also a no-no; and actually high sugar fruits aren’t allowed either (e.g., apples, bananas, pears).
Beers, wines, and cocktails are all banned.
If you are going on the Keto diet, you must take multivitamins daily. Especially one that contains folic acid to help your body make new cells. Folic acids are usually found in enriched breads, cereals, and other grain products, according to Women’s Health magazine.
“A ketogenic diet may help you lose more weight in the first 3 to 6 months than some other diets. This may be because it takes more calories to change fat into energy than it does to change carbs into energy. It’s also possible that a high-fat, high-protein diet satisfies you more, so you eat less, but that hasn’t been proved yet.” according to WebMD.
Keto Side Effects
Side effects could include constipation, mild low blood sugar, or indigestion. Less often, low-carb diets can lead to kidney stones or high levels of acid in your body (acidosis). Other side effects can include the “keto flu,” which may include headache, weakness, and irritability, bad breath, and fatigue, according to WebMD.
Burning your body’s back-up fat can put pressure on kidneys. And a ketogenic diet transition — both before and after — could be a sensitive topic for those dealing with obesity because of other likely health issues, like diabetes, a heart condition, or high blood pressure. These transitions should be done gradually and with the supervision of your doctor.
A ketogenic diet also has other risks.
Note: a keto diet is high in saturated fat. Kathy McManus, director of the Nutrition department at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, recommends that you keep saturated fats daily in-take to less than 7% of your daily calories, as high saturated-fat diets have been linked to heart disease. The keto diet is associated with an increase in “bad” LDL cholesterol, which is also linked to heart disea.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, the following is a complete list of potential keto risks:
Nutrient deficiency: Lacking a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and grains in your diet puts you at risk for deficiencies in micronutrients, “including selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins B and C,” says McManus.
Liver problems: With so much fat to metabolize, the diet could make any existing liver conditions worse.
Kidney problems:The kidneys help metabolize protein, and McManus says the keto diet may overload them. (The current recommended intake for protein averages 46 grams per day for women, and 56 grams for men).
Constipation: The keto diet is low in fibrous foods like grains and legumes.
Fuzzy thinking and mood swings: “The brain needs sugar from healthy carbohydrates to function. Low-carb diets may cause confusion and irritability,” says McManus.
Those risks add up — so make sure that you talk to a doctor and a registered dietitian before ever attempting a ketogenic diet.
“Eating a restrictive diet, no matter what the plan, is difficult to sustain. Once you resume a normal diet, the weight will likely return,” says McManus.
Talk with your doctor first to find out if it’s safe for you to try a ketogenic diet,
especially if you have type 1 diabetes.