The ketogenic diet seems to be a very popular modern trend that is talked about by seemingly everyone. The primary purpose of the diet is to treat, or at lest reduce epileptic seizures in children. However, many persons have seen the diet as a potential fat-burning gem and have decided to make use of it.
How the Ketogenic Diet Works
The diet encourages extremely low intake of carbohydrates, which allows for improved fat burn. The body makes use of ketones (a kind food molecule) as a source of energy as opposed to glucose.
Ketones are produced from fat by the liver, however, this is only done when the brain detects that glucose (produced from carbs) is not readily available. The process of achieving this metabolic state through carb reduction is known as ketosis.
There are currently 23 studies that indicate that the ketogenic diet is effective in the areas of weight loss and health maintenance. In one such study, some participants even reduced their dependence on or no longer needed medication for diabetes.
Who is Excluded?
Though there are myths and mixed results from studies on those who can make use of the diet, there are certain groups of persons that must make special considerations as it may not be appropriate for them. These are persons with conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, liver issues, pancreatic issues, Muscular Dystrophy, hypoglycemia, and pregnancy.
While these persons incorporate this diet in their lives, there is a high risk attached and so they are advised to consult with a medical practitioner prior to making that decision.
Foods to Eat
Considering fat is in high demand for ketone production, it must be consumed in every meal in high proportions. Though this figure can be modified based on individual needs, however, fat could account for up to 90% of calories on any given day.
The rule of thumb is to eat foods with low-carbs (typically those with less than 5%), moderate protein and natural fats. Some examples of these foods are:
1) Meat – Red meat, chicken, ham, bacon, sausage, shellfish, pork
2) Nuts – Cashews, macadamia nuts, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts
3) Dairy – Grass-fed butter, colostrum, ghee, unprocessed cheese
4) Fruits and low-carb vegetables – coconut, cranberries, lemon, avocados, green veggies
5) Eggs – pastured, omega-3 whole eggs
6) Beverages – water, coffee, wine, bone broth
We have, for the most part already discussed the effects of fat burn and health benefits, however, the keto diet is not without its negative effects.
One of the most popular issues is the keto flu. There is a physical reaction to the body adapting to the new metabolic state. During this reaction, symptoms such as dehydration, frequent urination, fatigue, dizziness, muscle-soreness, nausea, a decline in libido, headaches and weakness can all be experienced. The good news is that this is known to only last for a week.
A more serious effect is the potential for heart complications. Sodium, magnesium, and potassium can be lost at an alarming rate due to the frequency of urination. These electrolytes are crucial to normal beating of the heart, and so, the possibility of heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) exists, which can result in passing out, chest pain and shortness of breath.
Other side effects include bad breath, a metallic taste in the mouth, decreased bone density and sleep issues.
Though studies are currently inconclusive, it has also been suggested that this kind of diet only be used in the short term as it is described as imbalanced as it is low in certain vitamins, fiber, etc.
Ultimately, the diet can be a very rewarding experience, however, it is important to understand that medical consultation should be sought, and that the possibility exists for adverse effects.