What Do You Know About...KETO?:
Updated: Jul 13, 2019
What Do You Know About…KETO?: Diving Into Dietary Crazes (a several part series)
by Coach Kat, July 12, 2019, copyright Bronwyn Katdare' 2019
When I was a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, we were trained in over 100 dietary theories. Some we heard of were silly, like the Cookie Diet; some were popular crazes for a while, like the Cabbage Soup Diet or the Grapefruit Diet; and some were based on lifestyle choices, like Vegan, Gluten-Free, or low Glycemic Index. While I am familiar with the key players, my education and my practice is not focused on them beyond promoting a whole-food plant-based way of eating and a clean, sustainable lifestyle that includes daily enjoyable movement that is strenuous enough to build strength and cardiovascular benefits. I know enough about dietary theories to educate my clients, inspire them to listen to their bodies, and empower them to add in what gives them vibrancy and vitality while crowding out what makes them sluggish and ill.
That being said, some folks want to try out the newest thing they read about or saw on a talk show. With so many theories and crazes circulating in the media and gaining celebrity endorsement, how do you know what is healthy and what is hype?
In this several part series, we will take a quick deep dive into several of the current popular diets in the media. You will learn what it is, what happens in the body, and the pros and cons of each. We begin with the Ketogenic Diet.
The Ketogenic diet, or Keto for short, dates back to the 1920s and was created to help control epileptic seizures in those individuals who do not respond to medication. The Ketogenic Diet is primarily recommended for children with epilepsy as there have been numerous studies showing a reduction in seizure rates. This is the “Classic Ketogenic Diet” in which patients are consuming 90% of calories from fat, 2-4% from carbohydrates, and 6-8% from protein. However, this is most likely to occur during a period of hospitalization due to the severe nutrient deficiencies caused by this type of diet.
The Ketogenic diet is based on the process of ketosis, in which the body uses ketones for fuel instead of glucose. Ketones are a byproduct of fat metabolism that are utilized in times of starvation, carbohydrate restriction, or excessive exercise. For the body to reach a state of ketosis, calorie intake must be limited and comprised of 80% fat. The remaining calories should come from low-carb vegetables (mostly greens) and protein. This is actually a “Modified Atkins Initiation” phase. The body has 10-18 hours of glucose stored for use; after about 6 hours, the body starts to make its own glucose from protein through the process of gluconeogenesis. After 2-3 days, the glucose is used up and because the body does not want to break down more muscle for energy, it moves onto the liver for making ketones (Lee Crosby, RD).
It is advised that the first day and night be a period of fasting, and that the diet be gradually introduced over a couple of days so that the body has time to adjust. Each meal is carefully measured, including fluids, and a daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement are imperative.
What Happens in the Body: The Keto Diet is designed to put your body into a metabolic state of ketosis, in which fat is used for energy once glucose is depleted. Once ketosis begins (usually within a few days of implementing the diet) insulin levels drop, causing the pancreas to start producing glucagon. Glucagon determines the rate at which ketones are produced and sends the body into fat-burning mode, which is why the diet has gained recognition as a means for weight loss.
BUT…Does Keto even work for weight management? Yes and no.
Basically, this diet alters metabolism so it mimics the state of starvation, where the body is fighting to stay alive. However, most of the weight you initially lose is water. This is because for every gram of carbohydrate not eaten, 3 grams of water are lost. Therefore, the keto rapid weight loss is water weight loss. Keto works, but no more than any other form of calorie restriction.
I have tried the Keto Diet to help me clear brain fog and with the hope of dropping some weight. I am a professional in the health field and I am telling you, I have NEVER been able to achieve a state of actual ketosis in my body. I was able to clear out brain fog by minimally increasing my fat through tiny amounts of seeds, nuts, and avocado, though.
Pros: Keto may prevent or lessen the frequency of seizures and it may alleviate epilepsy. It restricts sugar intake (but do NOT think this is a healing diet for Type 2 Diabetes, as high blood sugar is a SYMPTOM, not a cause of T2D. A root cause of T2D is fat build-up in muscle cells that does not allow glucose to move from the blood into cells). There is quick weight loss in some cases which can be motivating. Most people notice they are not hungry because the pseudo-starvation state triggers hormones that quell hunger cues.
The ketogenic diet can be adapted for vegans and vegetarians by adding in high fat plant foods. (Please note, there are no studies on the effects of Vegan Keto; however, there are studies on Eco Atkins which may be of interest on this subject).
Cons: Water and electrolyte loss can raise the risk of dehydration, which can contribute to something known as “keto flu.” When keto is first started and through the first two or so weeks, you may have headaches, muscle soreness, constipation, extreme fatigue, and moodiness. Within 2-3 days of beginning keto, insulin resistance is induced. Studies have shown in young, healthy men who are on keto, glucose is elevated and stays elevated, which is actually the start of prediabetes (Lee Crosby, RD). The Ketogenic Diet is not safe for people who do not exercise because ketones need to be released as energy and flushed from the body. You will need dietary supplements for the dozens of vitamins and minerals that are not being eaten through fruit, starchy vegetables, and grains. This increases the risk of chronic disease and bone loss. The exact measurements and strictness of the diet are difficult to maintain for extended periods of time. The low appetite effect is reversed once off the diet, so your hunger returns to its regular level or higher. When you burn ketones for fuel, you will stink! Your urine and stools will stink; your breath will stink and you will have a metallic taste in your mouth; your sweat will stink.
Should you be interested in more information on The Ketogenic Diet, please research studies (always check who funded the study to see any bias!) at www.pubmed.com or check out the book recommendation below.