The Low Down on the Low Carb Diet - The Ketogenic Diet

Social media has caught on to the craze of the Ketogenic Diet (KD), and it seems like everywhere you look people are talking about this trending diet. You will find people posting on Instagram about it and others writing blog post on it. Many people believe it’s the next diet for fast weight loss results. This article provides you with the low down on this very low carb diet.

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What is the Ketogenic diet?

The KD uses fat stores instead of carbohydrates for energy (1). When following the KD one can only eat 20 to 50g of carbohydrates a day (1). There is 27g of carbohydrates in 1 banana and 40g of carbohydrates in 1 cup of pasta. You can see that the KD is extremely limited in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for the body but when one is not eating enough carbohydrates the body will use ketones for energy (1). Ketones are fat stores are broken down, which cells use for energy (1). This process is referred to as Ketosis.

What Can You Eat on The Ketogenetic Diet?

The KD consist of mostly fat and protein to receive enough calories for the day without going over the amount of carbohydrates. The food that are commonly eaten are red meat, fish, poultry, nuts, butter, seeds, and oils (1). Naturally low in sugar fruits and vegetables can be eaten as carbohydrates. For example, berries, avocados and leafy greens are low carbohydrate fruits and vegetables. To stick within the 20-50g of carbohydrate restriction, most starchy fruits, root vegetables, and wheat products are removed from the diet. After 3-4 days of reduced carbohydrate intake the body is forced to find alternative energy using ketones for energy (2).

The Pros:

The KD has significant research showing the positive effects on health. Many studies have found the KD is an effective treatment for individuals with epilepsy. There has been positive finding in individuals with type II diabetes and cardiovascular health. Also, the individuals following KD diet has been found to have significant weight loss in many studies.

In cases where medications has failed to work the for epilepsy patients the KD has been found to be an successful treatment. Also, the KD can be used in addition to medication treatment. A study show a decrease in seizure by 30-40%, in comparison to the control group (4).

Type II diabetics are able to control blood sugar more effectively when following the KD diet. Studies have reported improved insulin sensitivity in type II diabetics (4). This is from less carbohydrate’s consumption (4).

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Studies have found positive benefits on cardiovascular health. Encouraging outcomes have been noted on cholesterol. Decrease in total cholesterol has been found and increase on HDL cholesterol (4). HDL cholesterol is considered good cholesterol because it aids in removing bad cholesterol from the body.

Significant evidence has been found that the KD is effective for weight loss. Subjects noted greater weight reduction when following the KD compared to individuals following a balanced diet in 3-6 months (4). The finding from the greater weight loss reportedly from better satisfy from the higher fat and higher protein diet (4).

The Cons:

As discussed above, there is evidence supporting the positive effects on individual’s health when following the KD diet, however studies have also found possible negative outcome also. Studies have investigated possible undesirable effects on the kidneys, liver, and ketoacidosis from the KD. Long term studies have not been done on the diet, therefore the longer term effect are not known. Additionally, the diet is very restrictive and can be hard to follow long-term.

To meet the number of calories for the KD high protein intake is necessary. A high protein diet can be damaging to kidneys (3). High levels of nitrogen is produced during protein metabolism, which could cause harm to the kidneys (3).

In mice, long term and short term studies have found hepatic steatosis when following the KD (3). Hepatic steatosis is a buildup of fat in the liver. However, these negative finding on the liver have not been reported in humans.  

Ketoacidosis occurs when a toxic number of ketones accumulate in the blood. This has been found to occur in a couple of individuals consuming a long term very low carb diet (2).

It is also Important to note that with restrictive dieting leading to fluctuation in weight could pose an increased risk on mortality (3).

Other findings associated with the KD diet to treat epilepsy in children have shown an increase risk of kidney stones, osteoporosis, hyperlipidemia and impaired growth (3).

Conclusion:

The KD is a very low carbohydrate, high fat, and high protein diet. Positive finding have been discovered in regard to chronic illnesses such as Epilepsy, Type II diabetes, and Cardiovascular health. Research has shown successful finding for weight loss. On the other hand, there is potential for kidney and liver damage. Also, since the diet is very restrictive it can be hard to follow long-term. Lastly, there are not long term studies published on KD, and the long term effects of the diet is unknown.  

If you’re considering following the Ketogenic Diet, it is important to discuss with your primary doctor and a Registered Dietitian to be sure that this diet is right for you.



Reference

  1. Campos, M. (2018, July 06). Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketogenic-diet-is-the-ultimate-low-carb-diet-good-for-you-2017072712089

  2. Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss. (2018, May 07). Retrieved March 28, 2019, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/

  3. Kosinski, C., & Jornayvaz, F. R. (2017, May 19). Effects of Ketogenic Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Evidence from Animal and Human Studies. Retrieved March 28, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452247/#B19-nutrients-09-00517

  4. Paoli, A., Rubini, A., Volek, J. S., & Grimaldi, K. A. (2013, June 26). Beyond weight loss: A review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/ejcn2013116


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Amanda Nicole | Registered Dietitian Technician

Amanda Nicole Nutrition

Amanda Nicole is educated on the most effective diet practices for active individuals with chronic diseases, seeking weight management, and increasing energy. She is informed about diet misconceptions and debunks these theories. She is excited to help people become more active and healthier through her passion in nutrition… READ MORE