The Ketogenic Diet. Hype, Pros & Cons

Mitesh asks – “Is it good to switch to keto whenever we need to lose weight or preference should be given last? Whenever my weight goes up, I try to do keto for couple of weeks and then stop. Is it safe to switch on/off keto multiple times in a year?”

There are two questions here:

Is it good to switch to keto whenever we need to lose weight or preference should be given last?

  • No, it’s not good. It’s like whenever I need money I go and rob the bank.

Whenever my weight goes up, I try to do keto for couple of weeks and then stop. Is it safe to switch on/off keto multiple times in a year?”

  • No, it’s not safe. In the professional world the on/off is called yo-yo dieting or weight cycling.

Now to the detailed answer

The term “ketone” was actually coined around 1850 by German chemist Leopold Gmelin.

Ketogenic diet is touted recently by celebs like Jenna Jameson, Mama June, Halle Berry and many more. The diet is famous because the quick body changes on this diet is very appealing to many. We tell clients that we are hardwired for instant gratification, we want quick results and rewards in everything we do. That’s why it’s no surprise we put our bodies through the keto punishment. 

Putting the human flaws aside, let’s dig into what is a Keto diet.

The Ketogenic Diet

(The first bit is bit technical but stay with us 😉 )

When you eat something with carbs, your body will produce glucose and insulin.

  • Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy so that it will be chosen over any other energy source.
  • Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your bloodstream by taking it around the body.

Since glucose is being used as a primary energy, your fats are not needed and are therefore stored. Typically on a normal, diet, the body will use glucose as the main form of energy. By lowering the intake of carbs, the body is induced into a state known as ketosis. Ketosis is a natural process the body initiates to help us survive when food (Carb) intake is low.

A keto diet is well known for being a low carb diet, where the body produces ketones in the liver to be used as energy. It’s referred to as many different names – ketogenic diet, low carb diet, low carb high fat (LCHF), etc.

Below is technical comparison of Ketogenic Diet to a normal diet suggested for an average human.

  Protein Carb Fat
Our meal options 30% 40% 30%
Ketogenic Meal 20% 5% 75%

 

The science is confusing and not always easy/accurate in dividing the macro nutrients in our day to day lives. The proportions Bhavika recommends for the average person, is half the plate to be veggies, about a quarter of it protein and about a quarter of it carbs per meal (all this depending on body size, activity level, and goals)

How to do Keto Diet?

Every human being eats differently (quantity, speed, cooking, time etc.), thus a Keto Diet also varies according to individuals and cultures.

The general guidelines on a Keto diet is as follows:

Do Not Eat

  • Grains – wheat, corn, rice, cereal, etc.
  • Sugar – honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.
  • Fruit – apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
  • Tubers – potato, yams, etc.

Do Eat

  • Meats – fish, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, etc.
  • Leafy Greens – spinach, kale, etc.
  • Above ground vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
  • High Fat Dairy – hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds – macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
  • Avocado and berries – raspberries, blackberries, and other low glycemic impact berries
  • Sweeteners – stevia, erythritol, monk fruit, and other low-carb sweeteners
  • Other fats – coconut oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats, etc.

Basically, Ketogenic menus:

  • Vary in the proportion of protein but are generally low.
  • Stay as close to no-carb as possible.
  • Are very high in fat.
  • Are very limited in food choices.

More protein and fat means we’re often less hungry. Which means we eat less. It’s the “eating less” part that actually works for weight loss not magical ketogenic diet.

Weight loss is a long road, it is simple but not easy. A recent study of women in UK found they last Five weeks, two days & 43 minutes on a diet. No wonder, we have not seen anyone doing Keto Diet for more than few weeks.

Putting the statistics aside let’s look into the pros and cons of Ketogenic Diet.

The Pros

  • Based on what research has shown with epilepsy, chances are good that ketones may be a low-risk treatment — and perhaps even a preventive strategy — to improve brain health. The doctors are still not sure though why a ketogenic state seems to reduce the frequency of seizures.
  • Fasting is often an effective short-term treatment for metabolic dysfunction such as poor glucose control / early Type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation, or hypertension. (Ketogenic Diet is type of fasting).

We tried but couldn’t find long term scientific research showing benefits of Keto. 

The Cons

  • Reduced Physical Performance and Sleep: You may see some limitations on your performance when you first begin a keto diet, but it’s usually just from your body adapting to using fat. This carbohydrate withdrawal is often called the “keto flu”.
  • Heart Palpitations: When transitioning to keto, you may notice that your heart is beating both faster and harder.
  • Cramps: A pretty common thing when starting a ketogenic diet. It’s a sign that there’s a lack of minerals, specifically magnesium, in the body.
  • Constipation: Because of the restrictive nature of the diet, we consume very less fibre. Everything in the keto diet is low in fibre—and that does not support gut health.”
  • Menstrual Cycle: Women’s bodies go on high alert faster when they sense less energy and fewer nutrients coming in. Ketogenic Diet has knocked out menstrual cycle of many women.
  • Lose Muscle: In Keto Diet you are also reducing your Protein intake from normal meals. When you limit carbs from things like fruits, vegetables, and grains, your body starts to steal protein from your muscles and other tissues to transform it into carbohydrate. You might see rapid weight loss in the initial days but with fat, you are also losing muscle.
  • Brain Dead: Our brain needs more than 100 grams of carbohydrates a day, according to research, and while your body makes the switch to relying on fat—ketones—for energy, your brain can suffer.
  • More Stress: A keto diet is very restrictive, one piece of fruit can put you off your daily carbohydrate limits. Lot of willpower is used maintaining these type of diets. When we are not taking right amount of nutrients, levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, go up, and we also have a decrease in mood-boosting serotonin.
  • Binge Eating: If you relax the rules even a little bit, you suddenly find yourself overeating. Due to low carbohydrate our brain doesn’t produce the happy hormone Serotonin and because of this when we break the diet we binge eat.

 

A 25,000-person study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich suggested that people on the lowest-carb diets had the highest risk of dying from cancer, cardiovascular conditions, and all other causes. Another study, published this month in the Lancet, also found that people who followed diets that were low in carbs and high in animal proteins had a higher risk of early death compared to those who consumed carbs in moderation.

The temporary nature of the Keto diet and its significant side effects make it a less-than-ideal choice for most people, according to Harvard Vanguard physician Marcelo Campos, MD, a lecturer at Harvard Medical School.

Ketogenic diet is/should be more used as medical nutrition therapy, rather than just a fad diet. The health consequences are far more than the instant rewards, we all crave for. 

We think Ketogenic diet appeals to people who have challenges with portion control and with binge eating. What we find in many cases, what they really need is a lifestyle change or a professional counsellor to help them get to the bottom of these unhealthy behaviours.

Regarding your second question about weight cycling, here’s a recent blog you might want to read. We will write about frequent weight gain and loss in more details some other day.

We tell people think about diet as earning 1 million dollars, you put all the effort to earn it and obviously you don’t want to lose the hard earned money. Same way why chose a diet which will give you short term results, but will disappear in long term?

Our simple program for people who are looking to get healthy entails eating in balance, not restrictively; moving regularly; and looking at the role of stress in one’s life. Drop us a message on hello@ultimateyou.in to get free consultation (we are better and more serious about your health than Dr.Google 🙂 )

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