Ketogenic Diet…What is it?
The ketogenic diet was actually originally developed to treat infants and children with severe epilepsy. This diet is usually conducted under medical supervision due to how restrictive it can be. The keto diet that we are seeing now in the mainstream is actually a modified version of this, being a very low in carbohydrate diet and very high in fat. The thought being that this diet structure will put the body into ketosis, which will make the body burn fat instead of glucose for fuel.
A clinical ketogenic diet would limit carbs to 20-50 grams per day, with a majority of the carbs coming from non-starchy vegetables. What makes the ketogenic diet different from the Paleo and Atkins diet is that it is supposed to limit protein consumption, as well. Generally protein intake is kept high enough to maintain lean body mass, but low enough to preserve ketosis. Essentially with this diet you are restricting carbs down low enough so your body burns fat for fuel.
Most people think that they are going “keto” when in fact they are following a modified version of it. Most of the time people are eating much fewer carbs when they follow a “keto” diet but they are also eating a lot of protein which defeats the true purpose of the diet.
Does it Work or is it Just a Trend?
The ketogenic diet is popular because it works in the short term, just like a lot of diets that have been on trend in the past. Many people might lose weight initially but might not be able to follow such a restrictive diet long-term, then end up gaining the weight back. Some professionals have also voiced concern over loss of muscle tissue when people are not getting adequate protein. Studies have found that this can be prevented by making sure a person following the diet is getting at least 0.8 grams of protein/kg body weight, while also incorporating weight training. The keto diet also limits a lot of foods that provide us with necessary nutrients. Eliminating foods such as fruits, starchy vegetables, pulses, and whole grains could provide us with inadequate amounts of essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
Think of the diet in the long-term sense. For the diet to be successful it is recommended that you don’t cycle in and out of the diet as it becomes harder to get back into ketosis. If this is a diet that seems like it can work for you on a long-term basis, then maybe the ketogenic diet is a way of eating that will work for you. Consulting with a professional, like a Registered Dietitian, is key to make sure that you are following the diet safely and effectively. If that seems too restrictive, there are other dietary patterns out there that are healthy and also promote weight loss, such as the Mediterranean diet. We like meal plans that incorporate a variety of food groups and encourage an increase in eating plant based foods. At the end of the day most successful diets are centered around lifestyle changes that can be incorporated long term with an emphasis on portion control.
For more healthy eating tips, contact the Thorek Memorial Hospital Food & Nutrition Department.