You hear it everywhere — the podcasting space, news, on blogs, and social media. People all over the world talk about the ketogenic diet. While it seems to be the craze nowadays, it really isn’t new.
Dr. Russell M. Wilder, a pioneering researcher in diabetes and nutrition, used the keto diet in 1921 to treat epilepsy. Today, many people turn to this diet as part of a healthier lifestyle. Some of its known benefits include weight loss, a reduction in blood glucose levels, clearer skin, and improved energy levels.
What’s the keto diet all about?
It teaches us to focus on more healthier fats and limit carbohydrates. If you’re following a 2,000 calorie per day diet, your carb consumption would just be around 20-50 g daily.
But what are the benefits and drawbacks of this diet? In this article, we’re going to have an unbiased look at the keto diet. That way, you will know if it’s right for you.
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The Purpose of a Ketogenic Diet
What a ketogenic diet does is that it increases the production of ketones in your body. This happens when you eat more fat. On a standard diet, people consume more carbohydrates which are broken down into glucose.
Glucose is the primary source of energy. Without glucose, your cells switch to ketones as an alternative fuel. You can measure ketone bodies in the urine, breath, or blood to know if ketosis has been achieved.
Pros of the Keto Diet
1. It promotes fat loss
The keto diet can be an excellent tool for losing weight. Some people report weight loss within the first few weeks on the diet. There are two reasons: One, a drastic carb reduction increases insulin levels, stimulating the body to use its stored fat for energy.
Two, fat intake helps you feel satiated — it tells your brain to stop eating. In a recent study, 83 subjects received the keto diet. Their body weights were measured during the 8th, 16th, and 24th week. Their weight decreased significantly as well as their BMI.
2. It lowers your sugar cravings
A report shows that sugar addiction affects 10% of the US population. We consume more sugar from highly processed foods such as canned fruit, on-the-go cereal bars, and bottled drinks.
The danger of sugar is that the more a person eats it, the more he craves for it. Sugar causes brain changes similar to drug addiction. The keto diet cuts out sugary foods. Alternative sweeteners are used instead such as Stevia and Erythritol.
3. Plenty of available food options
“What can I eat on a keto diet?” This question comes up a lot among beginners. The beauty of the keto diet is that it doesn’t feel restrictive. There are so many ketogenic food options that appeal to your current preferences.
Examples are meats, seafood and fish, vegetables that grow above the ground, and dairy. The secret is to choose foods that are fattier, real, and are a chock-full of vitamins and minerals.
4. It could increase longevity
When it comes to aging, a study conducted on fruit flies shows that dietary restriction plays a role in extending their lifespan. Another study on adult mice demonstrated that a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet increased their median lifespan and survival.
This can be supported by the fact that foods with a high glycemic index (GI) promote inflammation, a factor linked to many life-threatening conditions — diabetes, cancer, coronary artery disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
5. It helps manage diabetes
People with diabetes are advised to control their carbohydrate intake because carbs turn into sugar. It’s important for diabetic individuals to keep their blood glucose within the normal range to prevent complications like nerve damage and even coma.
Many patients with type 2 (lifestyle related) diabetes show improvement with glycemic control. Some may even be able to discontinue their medications.
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Cons of the Keto Diet
1. It causes uncomfortable symptoms
Most people who start a keto diet experience flu-like symptoms during the first week. These symptoms, collectively known as the “keto flu” or “carb flu” include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and muscle aches.
This happens because the body tries to adjust to a very low-carb diet and that glucose is depleted. The keto flu varies from person to person, and not everyone gets to experience it. But those who do can remedy it by drinking more water, supplementing with more electrolytes, and eating more fat.
2. Can be difficult to sustain
Yo-yo dieting is a common problem with the ketogenic diet because some people find it hard to maintain over the long term. Giving up a high-carb diet can be difficult. Some individuals have food sensitivities they’re not aware of — for example, dairy.
Cardiologist Kameswari Maganti, MD, says that yo-yo dieting increases mortality risk due to fluctuations in weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol. It’s essential to keep these measurements stable to keep yourself healthy.
3. Eating fewer carbs isn’t for everyone
While we praise the keto diet because of its weight loss and glucose-lowering benefits, it isn’t for everyone. There are special considerations. For example, if you have a history of kidney stones you are at risk of developing them again since the keto diet increases urine acidity.
Competitive and endurance athletes may enhance their performance on a keto diet, but it happens over time — not overnight. Pregnant women should consult with their doctor first because dietary restrictions may affect fetal growth.
4. Possible micronutrient deficiency
To maintain a healthy body, you need vitamins and minerals. Micronutrient deficiencies happen when you’re on a keto diet. Elimination of carbohydrates in the diet can have a diuretic effect, and so you end up losing sodium and potassium.
Other micronutrients to watch out for include magnesium, calcium, iron, fat-soluble vitamins, and B vitamins. The best way to ensure that you’re getting enough micronutrients on a keto diet is to choose whole foods.
Should You Try The Keto Diet?
These pros and cons allow you to make important considerations before starting on the keto diet. What short term and long term benefits will I gain? What high-quality, fatty foods should I eat? What can I expect? How do I meet my optimal macronutrients and micronutrients?
These are just some questions to ask. Most importantly, consult your doctor first to rule out health conditions that may contraindicate with a keto diet.