Keto Diet: The Health Benefits and Effectiveness of the Ketogenic Diet

Wed, Jan 31st 2018

Beeta Hashempour

5 mins read

Keto Diet hero image displaying fish, avocados, vegetables

It seems like everyone these days is talking about the keto, or ketogenic, diet. It may be your co-workers or your best friend, but someone you know is probably trying out the diet.

So what’s with all the hype about this new diet, and does it really work?

What Is a Ketogenic Diet?

A ketogenic diet is essentially a low-carb diet, focused on the release of ketones into the bloodstream rather than blood sugar.

Traditionally, the cells in our body use blood sugar from the carbohydrates we eat to fuel our bodies. When those cells don’t have access to blood sugar, such as in the instance of a low-carb diet like keto, our bodies revert to breaking down stored fat for energy, in a process called ketosis.

This shift of using stored fat rather than blood sugar usually happens after a couple of days of eating fewer than 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates and continues to work until we consume more carbohydrates again.

Keto Diet grilled salmon over kale

So What Do You Eat on a Ketogenic Diet?

A keto diet basically consists of everything other than carbs, including meat, eggs, sausage, cheese, fish, nuts, oil, butter, and fibrous vegetables.

People on a keto diet often consume foods like eggs, nut butter, wild-caught fish, chicken and meat (fattier cuts preferred), root vegetables (squash, parsnip, etc.), avocados, and berries. Other kinds of fruits and vegetables tend to be limited as they can be high in carbohydrates.

Those who are on the keto diet are to avoid all grains, factory-farmed pork and fish, artificial sweeteners, low-fat dairy, alcoholic, sweet beverages, tropical fruit, and dried fruit.

Avocados filled with eggs

A couple of the foods that one may typically enjoy, such as coffee or chocolate, can still be consumed on the keto diet, so long as the coffee is unsweetened and the chocolate is dark.

A keto diet can prove to be difficult, especially for Americans whose diets typically consist of at least 50% carbohydrates. During a long period of time, it can become trying to maintain this sort of restrictive diet. The limitations of the diet are often what cause people to discontinue this regimen after an extended period of time.

The Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet

For many years, doctors have been using the keto diet to help reduce seizures in children. The neuroprotective effects of the diet are sometimes equivalent to that of medication in treating these seizures.

That said, most people these days are adopting the keto diet for weight loss purposes. Research has shown quicker weight loss results in patients who go on a keto diet compared to other, more traditional diets like a low-fat diet or the Mediterranean diet.

More research, however, needs to be done on how effective this weight loss is over time, particularly in comparison to other types of diets. Based on what is known so far, it seems as though the difference in weight loss from a keto diet, as compared to other diets, eventually disappears over time.

keto diet woman measuring waist with measuring tape

The keto diet can be very helpful for patients who suffer from type 2 diabetes, at least in the short run. Whether the diet, in turn, negatively affects cholesterol levels is a debated topic. In either case, there is no existing research on what the long-term benefits and effects of the keto diet are on diabetes or cholesterol levels.

Some of the most common adverse effects of the keto diet that are reported include symptoms of hypoglycemia (excessive thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, hunger, lightheadedness, irritability), constipation and changes in bowel movements, as well as kidney stones.

Kidney stones tend to occur when the keto diet is continued for a long period of time. It’s believed that low pH in the urine, resulting from the diet, can cause the formation of crystals, and eventually kidney stones.

So Does the Keto Diet Work?

For some people, the keto diet has proven to be an effective strategy for losing weight and treating certain conditions. The long-term effectiveness of the keto-diet, however, is hard to know until more research is done.

For many people, the keto diet will prove to be a difficult diet to keep up with. Because it is highly restrictive and can tend to focus on meat and other fatty foods, the keto diet can be unrealistic and unhealthy for some.

If you’re considering trying out the keto diet, please consult your physician first, like you would with any new dietary regimen, to discuss whether the keto diet is right for you.

References

Campos, M. M. (2017, July 18). Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you? Retrieved January 31, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketogenic-diet-is-the-ultimate-low-carb-diet-good-for-you-2017072712089
Ketogenic Diet Food List: Everything You Need to Know. (2017, May 05). Retrieved January 31, 2018, from https://www.ruled.me/ketogenic-diet-food-list/
Complete Keto Diet Food List: What to Eat and Avoid | The KetoDiet Blog. (2018, January 15). Retrieved January 31, 2018, from https://ketodietapp.com/Blog/post/2015/01/03/Keto-Diet-Food-List-What-to-Eat-and-Avoid
16 Foods to Eat on a Ketogenic Diet. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-foods#section17
Smith, B. Y. (2015, October 19). Ketogenic Diet Side Effects. Retrieved January 31, 2018, from https://www.news-medical.net/health/Ketogenic-Diet-Side-Effects.aspx
 

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About the Author
Beeta Hashempour

Born and raised in Southern California, Beeta has embraced a healthy lifestyle focused on farm-to-table cooking, natural products, and wellness routines. When she’s not writing up recipes or discussing the latest trends, Beeta enjoys spending time trying new restaurants, traveling with family and friends, and cuddling on the sofa with her little pup.

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