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Is The Keto Diet Worth The Hype?

The ketogenic or “keto” diet is the latest craze in fad diets, with countless books and information touting it as an effective, healthy option for weight loss. In fact, the hashtag #keto has close to 10 million results on Instagram alone. But is it really a healthy option for people across the board or just specific populations of people?

The ketogenic diet involves creating the metabolic state called ketosis, which occurs when your body isn’t consuming enough carbohydrates for your cells to burn for energy and so it burns fat instead. Ketones are made as a result of this process. Essentially, when you limit your calorie or carbohydrate intake, your body will go into ketosis for energy, and your body is forced to break down fat rather than use glucose for fuel.

The table below shows the breakdown of macronutrient consumption for a ketogenic diet versus that of the AMDR suggestions from the Institute of Medicine.

Ketogenic Diet

Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR)

Carbohydrates

Low – 40 to 60 grams per day from foods with a glycemic index under 50

40 to 65 percent of calories

Protein

Moderate – 1 gram per kilogram of body weight

10 to 35 percent of calories

Fats

High – 80 percent or more of your total calories coming from fat sources

20 to 35 percent of calories

Potential Dangers of Ketogenic Diets

Ketosis can be dangerous for people, as the buildup of ketones can lead to dehydration and alter the chemical balance of your blood. Unnecessary ketosis can cause kidney damage, constipation and micronutrient deficiencies. People trying out a keto diet should consider nutrient supplements, as they’ll be eating fewer grains, fruits and vegetables and thus losing out on vital nutrients. It’s also important to be aware that when starting a keto diet, you can expect up to ten days of symptoms ranging from muscle cramps, dips in energy supply to the brain, irritability, headache and more, due to electrolyte shifts.

Who Benefits from a Ketogenic Diet?

Children who have epilepsy are often put on a ketogenic diet, because the high-fat, low-carbohydrate plan may help prevent seizures. Studies also show that some very low-carbohydrate diets help with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Additionally, athletes may benefit from going in and out of ketosis. Some research also shows that low-carb, high-fat diets, like keto, may benefit people with some neurological disorders, like autism, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as people with malignant brain tumors. All of these populations, however, should consult with a physician and/or registered dietitian nutritionist prior to embarking on a ketogenic diet.


References: Food & Nutrition Magazine, WebMD