Editorial: Keto diets are not the way to go.


Keto diets are too restrictive and are not sustainable for long haul.

Ketogenic low carbs diet.
Ketogenic low carbs diet.

The ketogenic diet or ‘keto diet’ is one of the new favorite diets that your see on the cover the grocery store garbage magazine. This a dietary approach is not new. Keto diets have been used for decades by physicians to treat specific medical conditions, such as epilepsy and type 2 diabetes.  I recent years, the keto diet are being touted as a miracle strategy for weight loss.

What is the ketogenic diet?

Ketogenic or keto diets are a series of diets that are characterized at high fat and low carbohydrate. They are the higher fat version of the Adkin’s diet. In fact, most keto diets are extremely light in fat and may suggest 80% or higher fat intakes. The recommended dietary fat intake is expected to be approximately 20-35% fat. That means that 30-35% of the calories will come from fat.  No all keto diets are the same and there is quite a variation from one diet to another. The diets are very low in carbohydrates and carbs may be reduced to less than 10% of the calories or 50 grams a day.

How does the keto diet work?

The mechanism for a keto diet is based around ketosis. In order to allow the body to utilise fat instead of glucose as its main source of energy, the keto diet must make the body think it is in starvation mode and switch to fat as it’s primary energy source. Normally, the body’s cells use glucose as it primary energy source fo choice. However when deprived of glucose, we can switch a metabolic switch and use ketone bodies from fats and proteins. This mechanism is less efficient and wastes energy.

The ketosis switch takes time to flip. Our bodies have reserve glucose stored in our liver and muscle. After three to four days of consuming all available glucose, out bodies will induce a state of ketosis and we will use more fat ketones for energy. It is believed that because this is less efficient and requires more energy to provide the needed calories to keep our bodies processes running.

Will a keto diet work?

Yes and no. Any diet will work if you are able to maintain it. The research is both supportive and contradictory for keto diets. Based on research, it is clear that keto diets can and will induce weight loss if you are able to sustain them. Keto diets are also safe in the short term because our bodies are designed to run for short periods with a lack of food intake.

The problem comes is that there is limited research to back their use for weight loss maintenance and limited evidence to show they are safe in the long run. Sure, there is evidence that shows that dieters on the ketogenic diet have a significantly greater reduction in weight loss compared to those who followed a low-fat diet For up to a year after the diet, but that is not long term and there are limited to no studies that show that these diets are safe for a life time. Enthusiast of the diet will point to the Inuit as a point of reference, but they eat high levels whale blubber in the winter months and few of us eat such a singe source of fat.

Why is the keto diet less recommended?

Keto diets are pretty austere. Such high levels of fat are harder to maintain than the high levels of protein in Adkin’s diets. I tried this diet personally and lasted a few weeks. It gave me headaches and made me feel like I had the flu. I also did not enjoy the foods. I quickly realized that I would nto be able to maintain the diet for an extended period of time so I quit. You might be different.

The bottom line: The ketogenic diet may work for you to lose some weight. I would not recommend it for most. To keep the weight off, you must sustain it and this type fo diet is hard to sustain for most. Even if you lose the weight, keto diets are not likely sustainable and you will gain the weight back. If you decide to try it, speak with your health professional when considering adopting a new diet bust especially one as austere as this one.

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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