What You Should Know About Keto

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The ketogenic diet might be the most talked about nutrition trend of the year, with countless books and media spokespeople promising fast and substantial weight loss. However, the research on keto isn’t quite as exciting as the media hype makes it out to be. Today, we’re giving you everything you need to know about the keto diet, its safety, and effectiveness for weight management.

How Does it Work?

The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet that supplies just 20-50g per day or <10% energy from carbohydrates, with adequate protein and fat making up a large proportion of daily calories.

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When the body is starved of carbohydrates (specifically glucose), which happens with fasting or consuming a keto diet, a chain of reactions will compensate to maintain a supply of energy to cells. You’ve probably heard that a keto diet will turn your body into a “fat burning machine”. This is an overstatement, but what’s happening here is your body shifts away from using carbs for fuel and eventually enters ketogenesis, a process by which fatty acids are broken down for energy, releasing ketones from the liver. These ketones circulate through the body to be used by peripheral tissues like the brain and muscles, which convert them to energy.

Is It Effective for Weight Loss?

According to PEN (Practice-Based Evidence in Nutrition), research shows the keto diet actually doesn’t result in clinically significant weight loss at one year compared to a low-fat diet. Much of the initial weight loss when going keto could be attributed to water loss, as stored carbohydrates in the form of glycogen are depleted along with bound water molecules. 

Research shows the ketogenic diet does not result in clinically significant weight loss at one year compared to a low-fat diet.

Is It Safe?

A big concern with the rising popularity of the keto diet is the lack of studies on the adverse effects for those closely following this diet long-term.

The keto diet does appear to improve HDL-C (“good” cholesterol), but LDL-C (“bad” cholesterol) levels also increase—this is especially a concern for keto dieters that consume a lot of meat and saturated animal fat, which we know isn’t healthy long-term. Some side effects people might experience on this diet include:

  • Headache 

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Bad breath

  • Muscle cramping

  • General weakness

  • Rash 

With any restrictive diet like this, nutrient deficiencies could be a concern. There is also a potential risk that muscle mass could decrease on this diet.

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Bottom Line

Any diet that promises big results fast should raise a red flag. While the ketogenic diet works for some, it can be really difficult to stick with for the long haul. When you consider the best diet for you and your lifestyle, ask yourself if you could eat this way for the rest of your life. If it’s not sustainable, it won’t be effective for long-term weight maintenance. 

Ryan StallardComment