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The Ketogenic Diet - Pros and Cons

The Ketogenic Diet - Pros and Cons

Most people have heard of the Keto Diet, this new fad in the dieting world. What most people don’t know is that it was developed in the 1920s to help epilepsy in children, not for weight loss. Sure, it does help with weight loss, but is the Ketogenic Diet actually safe for those it was not medically prescribed? **If you are thinking of going on any sort of diet, you should consult with your primary care provider or a Registered Dietician before starting anything to see if it would be beneficial or detrimental to your health.**

The goal of the Keto Diet is to put the body in a state of ketosis, where your body burns fats instead of glucose. This is a state reserved in our bodies for times of famine, but can be artificially induced by changing your diet. By increasing your fat consumption and decreasing your carb consumption, you are depleting your body of its sugar reserves, which is what your body mainly uses to create energy. The diet requires you eat 75% of your calories from fat, where the normal recommendation is 20-30%. It restricts carbohydrate calories to 5% (only 20-50g of carbs compared to the 130g recommended daily consumption) and protein to 15%. It takes your body about 72 hours to go into a state of ketosis. **This diet is not safe for anyone with conditions that involve their pancreas, liver, thyroid, or gallbladder.**

The restriction of carb calories causes you to lose out on key vitamins and minerals found in lots of fruits, starchy vegetables, whole grain, dairy, and more. Losing out on these can cause nutritional deficiencies, which is never good. While being in a state of ketosis isn’t necessarily bad, it isn’t sustainable, and there isn’t enough research to say what the long-term effects are, so it is recommended that you don’t stay on this diet over 6 months. 

Negatives that ketosis, and therefore the keto diet, can cause:

  • bad breath
  • Headaches
  • Thirst
  • Stomach complaints
  • May lower blood pressure
  • Kidney stones
  • Constipation
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • increased risk of heart disease

Malnutrition can cause:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration / memory problems
  • Mood changes
  • Feeling cold
  • Getting ill more frequently
  • Anemia
  • And more

Positives to the keto diet:

  • Decreases appetite
  • More weight loss at the beginning
  • More fat loss from abdominal region
  • Decrease in triglycerides
  • Increase of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol)
  • Reduced blood sugar and insulin levels
  • May lower blood pressure

The Keto Diet has lots of good reviews from many people that go on it. You do see the weight loss results that you hoped for. However, it being unsustainable, transitioning back into normal eating has to be taken slow. If you go right back into eating the way you were, you could see weight gain exceeding what you lost by going on the diet. “As you transition off the ketogenic diet, start to slowly decrease your fat intake while upping your intake of lean proteins, vegetables, and wholesome carbohydrates, like fresh fruit, whole grains, and beans...White refined grains and sugars should still be limited,” Alyssa Tucci, RDN, nutrition manager at Virtual Health Partners in New York City, says in Everyday Health article, “How to Maintain Your Health and Weight Loss Results After the Keto Diet.” Click the link above to see more about how to transition out of the keto diet!

Overall, there are pros and cons to the Keto Diet as there is with every diet. Before making the decision to start Keto or any other diet, make sure to talk with a healthcare provider, or better yet, a registered dietician, to make sure it is the best route you can take in your weight loss journey. 

Helms, N. (2019, June 20). Is the Keto Diet Safe? What are the Risks? Is the Keto Diet Safe? What are the Risks? - UChicago Medicine. https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/health-and-wellness-articles/ketogenic-diet-what-are-the-risks.

Migala, J., Rapaport, L., Migala, J., Barrie, L., Palinski-Wade, E., & Upham, B. (2019, January 29). How to Keep the Weight off After the Keto Diet: Everyday Health. EverydayHealth.com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/ketogenic-diet/how-keep-weight-off-after-keto-diet/.

Villines, Z. (2019, January 21). Ketosis vs ketoacidosis: Differences, symptoms, and causes. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324237#summary.