Ketogenic diet, also called the keto diet, has been used by many in the past but not always for weight loss. A major use of the diet is to help treat epilepsy in children that do not respond to medication.
The point of the diet is to put the body into ketosis by reducing the amount of carbohydrate consumed to below 20 grams per day.
Your body needs glucose for energy but if you don’t take it in through your diet your body will create another form of energy. First, your liver & muscles will use up extra stored glucose called glycogen. When that is depleted you are in ketosis. During ketosis, your body will make ketone bodies for energy and reduce storing fat & glucose. These ketone bodies are made from breaking down fat.
- May help control hunger & improve fat metabolism which would reduce body weight
- Can help reduce lipid levels which are associated with high intakes of sugar and refined carbohydrates
- During the first few days of the ketogenic diet, there are complaints of lethargy, headaches, nausea, and irritability
- Those with renal insufficiency and kidney transplant patients have a potential of worsening kidney problems from high levels of nitrogen excretion during protein metabolism
- You will be reducing whole grains and fruit which will lower your fiber intake and can result in constipation plus when you omit whole food groups it puts you at risk for micronutrient deficiencies
- It can cause social isolation as it can be difficult for some to adhere to when you are out with friends and see them enjoying indulgences such as ice cream, rice, pasta, creamy soups, etc.
- It is not exactly known why someone following a ketogenic diet will lose weight. Below are some of the hypotheses:
- Since you are using glycogen stores from your muscles to create fuel you can lose muscle mass which will result in weight loss, although not the desired kind. As you continue on the diet glucose is derived more from fat resulting in a more desired weight loss.
- Some claim that you will be more full from eating higher protein foods in place of higher carbohydrates resulting in decreased overall energy intake which causes weight loss.
- Others suggest a reduced appetite from the ketone bodies created
- It is also believed that a ketogenic diet can have benefits others than weight loss.
- As mentioned previously, it helps with children who have epilepsy that does not respond to medication
- May have a positive effect on mood in overweight individuals
- Can improve glycemic control, HgbA1c, and lipid markers
- Reductions in insulin and other medications
- We need long-term studies to show if the weight loss is maintained
With the help of a dietitian to ensure you have adequate protein, calories, and micronutrients and the approval of your primary physician, you could lose weight in a healthy way while also improving lipid levels and glycemic control but it could be hard for most to sustain this lifestyle change long term. You cannot have a “cheat day” or even a cheat meal on the ketogenic diet because it will put you out of ketosis.
- Masood W, Uppaluri KR. “Ketogenic Diet.” StatPearls. 2019 Mar 21. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
- Paoli, Antonio. “Ketogenic diet for obesity: friend or foe?” International journal of environmental research and public health. 2014 Feb 19. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945587/
- Kosinski, Christophe and Jornayvaz, Francois. “Effects of ketogenic diets on cardiovascular risk factors: evidence from animal and human studies.” Nutrients. 2017 May 19. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452247/
- Paoli, A et al. “Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets.” European journal of clinical nutrition. 2013 Aug. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3826507/