It might be waved around as a weight-loss wonder, but the general suggestion is that entering into a keto diet should be done with care. Although it boasts a couple of inviting benefits, it could come with some risks too.
What is a keto diet?
The Paleo, South Beach and Atkins diets are all often referred to as ketogenic or keto diets. They all boast low-carb, high-protein eating plans.
But, the true ketogenic diet is somewhat different to the rest, depending on fat to supply 90% of your daily calories.
Which types of keto diets are there?
- SKD (Standard Ketogenic Diet) – 70% fat, 20% protein, 10% carbs
- CKD (Cyclical Ketogenic Diet) – Includes periods of higher carbohydrate intakes
- TKD (Targeted Ketogenic Diet) – With this diet you get to add carbs around workouts
- High Protein Ketogenic Diet – 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs
A lot of the benefits of the keto diet are linked to lower insulin levels due to the limited intake of carbohydrates, and the production of ketones due to the process of breaking down fat for energy instead of using carbohydrates.
Some doctors say that somehow, the state of ketosis helps reduce the frequency of seizures in patients with epilepsy. It has also been said that a keto diet could have anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting benefits.
Although a lot of research still has to be done on the true benefits of the diet, some additional benefits of the keto diet could include:
- A satiating effect with less food cravings
- Lower production of insulin and ghrelin which ultimately suppresses appetite
- Reduced blood sugar and insulin levels which may assist in managing diabetes
- The likelihood of lower blood pressure
- Reduced acne breakouts due to a lower intake of carbohydrates
- Helping muscle-to-fat ratio, which is good for endurance athletes
- Raising blood oxygen levels
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Side effects and risks
It is important to keep in mind that the liver is responsible for producing ketones and that this doesn’t happen overnight.
According to registered dietitian and director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Kathy McManus, getting the liver to produce ketone bodies is a tricky business.
Firstly, you need to deprive yourself of carbohydrates (less than 20 to 50 grams per day). It also takes a couple of days to reach the point of ketosis (the process where your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel) and it becomes even trickier when you consider that eating too much protein can interfere with ketosis.
McManus says that her biggest concern with the keto diet is that the diet is so high in saturated fat. She recommends that you keep saturated fats to no more than 7% of your daily calories as it has a strong link to heart disease. She also says that the keto diet is linked to bad cholesterol (LDL).
The keto diet could also cause constipation, low blood sugar or indigestion and there have been cases where low-carb diets caused kidney stones or acidosis.
In the end, the long-term effects and benefits of the diet are what most experts are still contemplating.
Even though the keto diet succeeds in suppressing your appetite and assists in burning more calories, Gary Taubes – author of the book, The Case for Keto – says: “Almost all diets fail because people can’t follow them, and keto is no exception.”