What's the Fuss with Keto?
Amy gives us the info on a diet that we often hear about!
What is the Ketogenic diet?
The Ketogenic diet is an extremely high fat (around 70-90% of energy intake) and extremely low carbohydrate (under 50g per day) diet. When our body does not have sufficient carbohydrate for fuel we break down fat for fuel, and ketones are a product of fat breakdown. Hence, this high fat, low carbohydrate diet is the ketogenic diet. It was first established in the 1920’s and used in the treatment of epilepsy in children however we have seen more recently (in the past few decades) a resurgence of the diet as a health and weight loss diet.
So what is all the fuss with keto?
Does Keto Help you to Lose Weight?
Yes you may lose more weight initially at the beginning of a ketogenic diet but there is nothing special about the ketogenic diet when it comes to body fat loss. Let me explain. The ketogenic diet depletes carbohydrate stores in the muscles and liver, which usually weighs around 500g in a 70 Kg person. In addition to that, each gram of stored carbohydrate holds onto 3 grams of water. Meaning your average person will lose 2 Kg of stored carbohydrate and water weight on commencement of the ketogenic diet. Research shows that the ketogenic diet is not superior for actual fat loss and is instead just one of many ways in which people can limit food intake to create fat loss. However it is far from the best fat loss option, with adherence to it’s very strict rules being impractical and unsustainable for many.
Does Keto Increase your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease?
A conventional Ketogenic diet is often very high in saturated fat such as animal fat, cheese, cream, butter and processed meats. Usually these foods can be part of a healthy and balanced diet but it seems that excessive intake as part of the Ketogenic diet starts to push up LDL cholesterol (the bad one), which is a marker of risk for cardiovascular disease. The Ketogenic diet also massively restricts intake of heart healthy carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and wholegrains. For that reason if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease I wouldn’t recommend trying this diet. You could alter dietary choices to eat as healthily as possible by prioritising unsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts and seeds, oily fish and avocados but this makes the diet a lot tougher to construct and very monotonous.
Does Keto help with diabetes management?
The Ketogenic diet does seem to reduce blood sugar and HbA1c, the test for longer term 3 month blood sugar levels, at least in the short term. It can also help those with diabetes to increase insulin sensitivity, which helps with sugar clearance out of the blood, however this only seems to be the case if fat loss is also achieved. Yo-yoing on and off the ketogenic could actually make blood sugar regulation worse so it won’t be a good therapeutic diet for anyone struggling with adherence, which is a lot of people. All in all the ketogenic diet could be a good short term strategy for someone with diabetes to reduce blood sugar and drop some body fat but there may be other more suitable long term dietary strategies. Such as healthy eating and an active lifestyle.
Let's sum it up!
The Ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. Whilst becoming popular as a weight loss diet research shows that it is actually not superior for fat loss over any other restrictive diet. The high levels of saturated fat intake are concerning for cardiovascular disease but the low carbohydrate intakes can help to reduce blood sugar in those with diabetes in the short term.
For long term health however the negatives of a conventional Ketogenic diet vastly out way the positives. To find out why, listen to Amy’s Eat Great chat, episode #56 - What’s the Fuss with Keto?
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