What is a keto diet?
The ketogenic diet has become a hot topic in recent times. Depending on who you talk to, you are praised for your incredible results to lose weight, you are criticized for being very prohibitive, or you are condemned for being dangerous, especially if you are followed without medical supervision.
As with any issue related to diet and nutrition, there is a series of controversial (and deceptive) data. Therefore, the Huff Post spoke with Clare Collins, professor of nutrition and dietetics at the University of Newcastle and spokesperson for the Association of Dietitians of Australia (DAA), about the meaning of the ketogenic diet, how it works, and its pros and cons.
- 1 What is a ketogenic diet?
- 2 How does the ketogenic diet work?
- 3 How many carbohydrates can you eat?
- 4 How to know if you have ketoacidosis?
- 5 Benefits of a ketogenic diet
- 5.1 1. Effective loss of weight in the short term.
- 5.2 According to the DAA, following a ketogenic diet will have “undoubtedly results in a short-term weight loss”, which should consider these factors:
- 5.3 2. They could help manage epilepsy in children
- 5.4 3. It could have positive effects in the treatment of certain types of cancer
- 6 The cons of a ketogenic diet
- 7 A final message
What is a ketogenic diet?
A pattern of ketogenic food is very low in carbohydrates and moderate in protein, which means that a high percentage of the total energy intake comes from the fat of dairy products and meat.
“An authentic ketogenic diet is one in which carbohydrate intake is very low, usually less than 10% of your total energy intake” Collins told Huff Post Australia.
How does the ketogenic diet work?
In periods of severe energy restriction (such as fasting or starvation), high-intensity exercise for a long time, or when carbohydrate intake is reduced to 50 grams per day or less, the body could enter a ketosis.
With this, instead of burning glycogen (“the complex carbohydrate that is to human metabolism the same as gasoline for a car”), the main source of energy, the body resorts to fats as its energy contribution.
“If you could press a button that allows you to burn predominantly fats, then what we call ketone bodies, which appear in the urine and also emanate from your breath, will actually occur, in fact, they smell like the acetone with which you eliminate the varnish from the nails” said Collins.
These ketone bodies are produced by the liver from fatty acids and are used by body tissues, muscles and the brain.
How many carbohydrates can you eat?
In terms of grams, we talk about 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day to give an idea of how much it is considered that an average slice of box bread has about 20 grams of carbohydrates.
In a diet of 50 grams of carbohydrates, you can eat a fruit, a slice of bread and a potato throughout the day.
“That`s in terms of foods that are a good source of carbohydrates, the rest can come from products like milk or vegetables in your salad, it`s very strict,” Collins said.
“A truly ketogenic diet can be between 80 and 90% fat, so it should really be considered a medical nutrition therapy, to be used at that level, you should have a very close follow-up.”
How to know if you have ketoacidosis?
While this depends on “the variety of each individual, ” the time it takes to burn fat and produce ketone bodies is usually three days of carbohydrate restriction, or three days of a total food restriction, “Collins said. To find out if you have ketoacidosis (that is, if you are producing ketone, you are buying strips to measure ketosis at the pharmacy and try your urine).
Benefits of a ketogenic diet
1. Effective loss of weight in the short term.
According to the DAA, following a ketogenic diet will have “undoubtedly results in a short-term weight loss”, which should consider these factors:
+ A reduction in total energy intake (in kilo Joules);
+ The reduction of the glycogen reserves of the liver and muscles, as well as the associated water;
+ Reduction of appetite (which is a side effect due to the metabolization of ketones and which is also due to the sensation of satiety associated with the consumption of foods with fat and protein).
“There are in fact studies that show that if you put someone on a modified help diet that does not include protein (or a ketogenic diet that is rich in fats and low in carbohydrates), you will actually be less hungry, so if what you want is lose weight, that`s good news. “
That is, people who follow a ketogenic diet will be able to tolerate hunger or a restriction on the intake of kilojoules in a better way compared to other traditional weight loss diets.
“For years I have followed up on the DAA on what works in terms of weight loss and what we know, added to recent studies, is that, if you limit carbohydrates between 1 and 6 months, in fact, there will be a greater drop in weight, “Collins said.
“However, if you lengthen it by between 1 and 5 years, which is the longest period that these studies have been applied, there will be no differences if you compare it with a traditional diet of weight loss”.
2. They could help manage epilepsy in children
Although most people associate a ketogenic diet with weight loss, a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat has traditionally been used since 1920 to treat refractory epilepsy in children, always under medical care.
“When I was a pediatric dietitian and a father and son came to me to try a ketogenic diet under the supervision of a neurologist, we usually tried anything else,” Collins said.
But if you have a child whose attacks are severe and frequent, medications do not work, and you need a helmet to protect your head, then you should try this diet.
“That is why the lightness with which the topic of the ketogenic diet is approached is irritating, as when they say: `Ah, yes, we are on the keto wave`”.
3. It could have positive effects in the treatment of certain types of cancer
There is a growing interest in the effect of a ketogenic diet in patients with cancer, especially in the brain. However, for now, a lot of evidence at hand is only observational, performed on a few patients and animals, so more research is needed before drawing conclusions.
“I better point: do not try this at home,” Collins said.
There is research, especially in animals, that refer to the use of a ketogenic diet to improve results during cancer treatments, this is a medical nutrition therapy at the highest level, if you throw yourself into a ketogenic diet without rhyme or reason treatment against cancer, you could be malnourished.
Research will begin to identify if what is seen in animal studies will be reflected in humans, can it help people to have better responses to chemotherapy or radiation with short-term ketogenic diets or with diets focused on fasting? Better call to observe everything and notice that something like that is not for you.
The cons of a ketogenic diet
1. May lack phytonutrients, fibers and vitamin B
Due to carbohydrates from many fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, foods high in fiber are very limited in these diets; which can lead to problems such as constipation or nutritional deficiencies.
“What worries me when people who want to look very purist in their ketogenic diets are that they are eliminating a group of foods that offer enormous protection, such as vegetables with phytonutrients and fibers that help in colon cancer and manage weight body, ” Collins said.
I continue to consider the ketogenic diet as a medical nutrition therapy because it is very easy to eliminate things like vitamin B (which is included in the best natural sources of carbohydrates: whole grains) and fiber.
“Please try to get specialized advice from a dietitian who can recommend supplements with fiber, multivitamins, and to follow up on the side effects, and go to your general practitioner to check your health status.”
2. Could affect stomach health
In addition to helping you feel satisfied, fiber is vital for a healthy stomach because it reinforces the growth of “good” bacteria and keeps the intestinal lining in good condition. Since most people do not cover their recommended daily fiber needs (25 grams women and 30 grams men), a ketogenic diet will make it harder for them to reach that goal.
“In the long term, returning to a dietary pattern that allows them to eat whole grains, many vegetables and fruit is the best thing for health and well-being,” Collins said.
“You`re not going to jump out of the pan to fall into the embers, if losing weight in the short term is what really matters for your health, then yes, a low carb or ketogenic diet can be beneficial, it`s best not to be inferior at 20 grams per day. “
3. It is not sustainable
One thing that is ignored in the ketogenic diet is that not all people benefit from it. Moreover, many do not even need to follow it, as it is not sustainable in the long term.
As the DAA explains: “The key to maintaining a healthy long-term weight is to follow a food pattern that is sustainable over time.” Thus, dietary recommendations should always be designed on the individual level, since each person is unique and what It works for someone in specific does not apply for others.
According to Collins: “You will not enjoy a ketogenic diet very much, you will have to eat celery sticks with cream cheese as snacks and eggs with bacon for breakfast…but there will be no toast or a wide range of vegetables, fruits and legumes. “
Other short-term side effects of ketosis are fatigue, bad breath, nausea, and headache.
A final message
While a ketogenic diet offers novel medical treatments, as well as the benefit of short-term weight loss, the effects of this diet on healthy people are not supported by sufficient evidence. There is no support for its long-term effectiveness and the benefits are, for now, unknown.
“It`s exciting that you can offer medical advice, but it`s too early and too dangerous to say that the ketogenic diet is the panacea,” Collins said. “We are opening a Pandora`s box and that has to be monitored very closely and acting under medical supervision.”