The ketogenic diet has taken off in recent years, but is there science behind this regime, or is it simply the latest health fad?
Despite dating back as far as the 1920s, the ketogenic diet has only really taken off in the last few years as a popular way of losing weight.
In an age where body consciousness is at an all time high it’s no wonder that a regime which apparently enables you to drop some serious Kgs without resorting to the diet of a rabbit is proving popular.
However, this wouldn’t be the first time that the world’s weight watchers have latched on to the latest fad only to find out that it’s either ineffective, or downright dangerous. So, is the keto really any different?
What is the ketogenic diet?
There are, in fact, five variations of the ketogenic diet, however they’re all based around the same bodily process.
A keto diet involved radically reducing your carbohydrate intake, maintaining a steady rate of protein consumption, and replacing the missing calories with fat. Yes, you did read that right - a diet that involves upping your fat intake.
The science behind this is pretty interesting, and worth taking a minute to understand.
Sugars extracted from carbohydrates are generally stored as quick-release energy in our blood. When our cells need energy these blood sugars are the go-to fuel source, and will be broken down and used as required.
However, when deprived of carbohydrates the body will resort to its backup energy supply - fat. Depending on the individual, the body will enter a state of ketosis (in which fats are broken down into molecules known as ketone bodies) within two to four days of consuming fewer than 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrate per day.
Typical foodstuffs for a ketogenic diet include dairy products, meats (including processed meats), butter, oils, nuts, fish and fibrous vegetables.
The pros of the ketogenic diet
A state of ketosis has been shown to have numerous benefits for the body. Here are a few:
The question you’re probably most interested in is, “Will this diet actually cause me to lose weight?”. A study examining the effects of a 24-week long ketogenic diet (by keto standards, that’s long) on obese patients showed that the weights of the subjects decreased significantly. Not only this, but the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol increased, and the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol decreased.
However, keto isn’t just restricted to the obese. Most people eating western diets should be safe to try the ketogenic diet, though as with any major lifestyle changes we highly recommend speaking to your doctor first.
Ketogenic diets are also showing positive results for researchers looking into ways to help diabetic patients better control their blood glucose levels.
Reductions in epileptic seizures
Ketogenic diets have been shown to be effective in treating epilepsy, reducing seizures by 50 per cent in half of those who try it, according to the Charlie Foundation. As a result of these successes, some scientists believe keto diets could be used to help people suffering from a range of neurological problems such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and even brain cancer.
The cons of a ketogenic diet
While the concerns surrounding ketogenic diets are minimal, there are two that are worth mentioning:
- Lack of long term effectiveness - While the keto diet appears to be very effective for short term, rapid weight loss. A more traditional low fat diet, or the established Mediterranean diet will have similar long-term results.
- Missing vitamins - By adopting this regime you risk losing out on vital vitamins such as folate, B1, B6, A, E as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium.
If you are considering a ketogenic diet, talk to your GP or health care provider first. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to dieting, despite what some blogs may tell you, so it’s important you obtain professional advice on the potential risks as well as the advantages before tucking in.