West Chester Alert

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The Keto Diet

by Margaret Moses, Registered Dietitian

The keto diet seems to be everywhere these days. Chances are you know someone who’s tried it, but do you know what it really is? 

The Science Behind the Keto Diet

The keto diet is a very high fat, low carbohydrate diet that causes the body to reach a state called ketosis. Ketosis occurs when very limited amounts of carbohydrates are consumed, resulting in an absence of blood sugar (your body’s main source of energy). This lack of blood sugar causes the body to break down fat stores into ketone bodies, resulting in a state of ketosis. Once ketosis is reached, the cells will use ketone bodies (fat) for energy until carbohydrates are reintroduced.

What Foods Can You Eat on the Keto Diet?

The keto diet consists of mostly proteins and fats such as red meats, processed meats, eggs, cheese, fish, butter, oils, seeds, and some vegetables. Basically, lots of protein and fat and no carbs.

Does It Actually Work?

The diet appears to be beneficial for weight loss, at least in the short-term period of one year. In a review and meta-analysis of 13 studies and almost 1,600 overweight or obese subjects, scientists found a significant reduction in body weight among individuals who followed the diet, compared to those who followed a low-fat diet for 12 months or more.

What are the Negative Aspects of the Diet?

Not much is known about the long-term effects of the diet because there are so few people that are able to follow it for long periods of time.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to the diet is that it is extremely restrictive and difficult to adhere to long term. In addition, because of its many dietary limitations, micronutrient deficiency is a concern with long-term use. Another important long-term consequence of the diet is the possible negative impact on lipid levels, especially if saturated fats are used as a fat source. Short term side effects such as vomiting, reflux, constipation, dehydration, lethargy, and headaches are common. These symptoms generally resolve within several days to a week on the diet.

 

Here’s the bottom line: weight loss is a journey that takes time and requires not just a diet change, but a lifestyle change. A balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, nuts and seeds is the best way to control weight gain and live a healthy lifestyle, rather than a highly restrictive diet such as the keto diet.