What was old is new again. Now a diet that was originally designed as a way to combat the symptoms of epilepsy is now being looked at as a possible model for weight loss. But is it a good idea?
Ketogenic Diet Basics
The ketogenic or "keto" diet encourages the production of ketones by burning fat as a source of energy instead of carbohydrates. This process, and the subsequent state of the body when ketones are heightened, is known as ketosis. For this reason, meals have to be prepared according to a very specific set of recommendations. Here are the basic guidelines of the ketogenic diet, according to the Epilepsy Foundation and the Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapies:
- High in fat (3 to 4 g for every 1 g of protein and carbohydrates consumed)
- Low in carbohydrates
- Moderate in protein (1 to 2 g for every 2.2 lbs of body weight)
- Consume 75 to 100 calories for every 2.2 lbs of body weight
Suggested Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet, also known as "the long-chain triglyceride diet," was created in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder of the Mayo Clinic. The idea behind the diet was to promote ketosis as a way to inhibit seizures. Since then, it's been used primarily as a way to treat and/or prevent the symptoms of epilepsy, particularly in children whose seizures aren't responding to other treatments. Boosting ketones within the body may reduce the occurrence of seizures.
The second reason the ketogenic diet has grown in popularity is the suggestion it helps with weight loss and weight management. It's suggested when someone consumes little to no carbohydrates, the decrease in blood sugar causes the body to turn to fat as a way to fuel the body's activities, burning it off. This can help those who practice this diet achieve and maintain a healthy weight while also boosting insulin resistance. A study published in 2014 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health stated the ketogenic diet has shown positive effects in obese patients as a short-term weight loss method. However, the key to success was determining the proper diet for the patient afterward and how to stick to it.
Lastly, according to a study published in 2006 in the medical journal Behavioral Pharmacology suggested the ketogenic diet may help combat inflammation. Inflammation is a natural response by the body to injury which can result in pain and swelling, particularly in the joints. The high amount of fat in this diet may help prevent these effects, but more research needs to be conducted.
However, as with any new diet, there can be side effects, including:
- Digestive issues (constipation, kidney stones)
- Increased cholesterol
- Bone loss
Of course, maintaining proper nutrition through the foods consumed as well as supplements can help you counteract these effects, which brings us to our bottom line.
As stressed by experts, this diet is recommended for use under the supervision and guidance of a physician and/or nutritionist and for a specific purpose. This is especially important if you have a diagnosed medical condition, like epilepsy, diabetes or any digestive condition that impacts the absorption of nutrients. The rules of the diet are pretty strict and not following it carefully can result in a meal plan that is too low in calories and nutrients as well as the loss of muscle along with fat. It is for this reason we recommend speaking with your doctor before attempting the ketogenic diet to determine the best approach and duration of treatment.
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