Sometimes patients come in wanting to lose weight and ask what diets I would recommend. Many diets turn out to be fads and often unhealthy. One diet in particular interests many people, especially now that athletes are on it and looking better than they ever did: the ketogenic diet.
How the Keto Diet Works
The ketogenic (or keto) diet cuts out all sugars and carbohydrates so that your body burns the ingested and stored fat into ketone molecules and turns it into energy. This process is known as ketosis. In general, your cells prefer to make energy from the blood sugar sourced from carbs. That leaves your fats to burn after the sugar. With ketosis, your fat burns first due to an absence of sugar and sugar sources. The diet consists mostly of proteins and fats—meats, animal byproducts, nuts, oils (including coconut oil), seeds and vegetables.
The Positives of the Keto Diet
The keto diet has done wonders for many people. As reported by The San Diego Union-Tribune, two recent studies from UC Davis and the Buck Institute found that the keto diet extends life, increases muscle mass, helps memory, and assists motor function. That’s because, according to Shelly Fan of Scientific American, the ketones act like antioxidants. From a medical perspective, keto has been used for over a century for drug-resistant epilepsy in children to help prevent seizures. Researchers have yet to discover the possibilities of keto treating many brain disorders or damage but some suspect that the benefits are there. It’s also been effective in treating Type II Diabetes for short periods. Additionally, it seems to be effective in treating obesity to a degree.
Athletes are also swearing by the keto diet, as this article from Men’s Health reports. Dr. Timothy Noakes is famous in South Africa for helping shape winning athletes like golfer Gary Player and Ironman World Champion Paula Newby-Fraser. Many formerly active athletes also are taking to the diet to return to their previous weights. The sugary and sugar-producing foods have caught up with them!
The Negatives of the Keto Diet
The US News and World Report published its 2018 list for best diets, and keto tied for last. CNN reported, “Though the experts on the US News and World Report panel that created the list said eating that way isn’t harmful short-term, they ranked the diets poorly on long-term weight loss success, ease of use and overall impact on health.”
That doesn’t look promising, so what didn’t sell the experts? The culprit is the high fat content and low carbs, which counters the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. It doesn’t promote healthy eating habits over long periods of time. Those with liver and kidney conditions should avoid the keto diet, as it may make their symptoms worse. Some side effects of the diet include lightheadedness, bad breath, nausea, constipation, insomnia, fatigue, kidney stones, gall bladder infections and menstrual irregularities.
The Skinny on Keto
If you’re ready to burn excessive fat, like Olympic athletes, then the keto diet can be a viable option. The weight loss from keto happens fast, while cholesterol skyrockets. Keto, however, can be dangerous for someone with naturally high cholesterol or certain heart conditions.
Though keto dieters lose weight, it often returns and cholesterol significantly drops over time.
Many people have a tough time sticking to the diet as well, which may create weight and hormone fluctuations. “It is hard to follow and it can be heavy on red meat and other fatty, processed, and salty foods that are notoriously unhealthy,” Dr. Marcelo Campus writes at Harvard Health Publishing. Though a research grant by the University of Padova, Antonio Paoli recommends the keto diet for a range from 2 or 3 weeks to 6 to 12 months.
For those looking for quick weight loss, be aware that keto may not work for you in the long-term and progress to a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Regular readers and patients know how much I support a healthy well-balanced diet, eating lots of fruits and vegetables and cutting back on sugar and processed foods.
Before trying extreme diets, consult your family doctor or call me to schedule a consultation to find out what diet and lifestyle program is right for you.
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