What Is A Ketogenic Diet?
Before we explore the question, is keto dangerous? Let’s first talk about what the keto diet is and isn’t.
The ketogenic diet is a low carb, higher-fat diet. Many studies have proven that low carb diets like this helps with weight loss and overall improved health. It may also help with diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease and more.
The ketogenic meal plans involves significantly reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with saturated fats. This helps to put the body into a metabolic state called ketosis. When the body goes into ketosis, it’s very efficient at burning fat to be used as energy. The fat is also changed into ketones that supply the brain with energy. A keto diet can also cause great reductions in blood sugars and insulin levels.
Ketone bodies are produced by the liver and used peripherally as an energy source when glucose is not readily available. The two main ketone bodies are acetoacetate (AcAc) and 3-beta-hydroxybutyrate (3HB), while acetone is the third, and least abundant. Ketones are always present in the blood and their levels increase during fasting and prolonged exercise.
Types of Ketogenic Diets
There are many types of the keto diet, including:
The standard keto diet-
Allows a very low-carbohydrate, moderate protein and high fat meal plan. It generally comprises of a ratio of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs.
The cyclical keto diet-
Involves periods of higher-carbohydrate refeeds. An example would be 5 ketogenic days, followed by 2 high carbohydrate days.
The high-protein keto diets
Is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, however, it includes more protein. It generally comprises of a ratio of 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbohydrates.
Only the standard and high-protein keto diet have been extensively studied. It should also be noted that the cyclical and targeted keto meal plans are generally used by bodybuilders or athletes.
Health Benefits of Keto
The benefits of the standard keto are:
Keto helps with weight loss and to lower the risks associated with some diseases. A study showed that people on keto diets lose about 2.2 times more weight than people on a calorie-restricted low-fat way of eating. It also helps to improve triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels.
When it comes to weight loss and keto, initially individuals on a keto diet will see their weight loss coming from excess water retention. Since you are cutting down the carbs in your diet, and your system uses the carbohydrates that are stored in the liver, which holds onto water, this results in further weight loss. Just flushing out the excess water can help drop pounds quickly.
The keto diet encourages you to load up on specific fresh fruits and vegetables, plant based foods, high-fat foods and by cutting carbohydrates from your diet, you’re also cutting sugars and simple, refined carbs, which helps the system deliver a steady supply of energy. Yay for blood sugar control!
Helps with diabetes and prediabetes:
Keto helps with losing excess fat. Excess fat plays a role in Type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and metabolic syndrome. Keto diets help to improve insulin sensitivity by about 75%.
Other benefits of keto diets include:
The keto diet may improve risk factors associated with heart disease like excess fat, HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugars.
The ketogenic diet is being used to treat many forms of cancer and slow tumour growth.
The ketogenic diet may help to reduce symptoms associated with Alzheimers disease and also help to slow its progression.
Research has shown that the ketogenic diet can cause huge reductions in the number of seizures experienced by epileptic children.
The ketogenic diet can also help to improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It can help reduce insulin levels. And it plays an important role in polycystic ovary syndrome.
Research suggests that adults with metabolic disease who follow a keto diet shed more weight and overall fat than those on a Standard American diet because of its heavily processed foods and added sugars.
Individuals who are considered obese are at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and other medical issues. Obese individuals who are on a very low calorie keto diet are shown to lose more weight and visceral belly fat. It’s also been found to help preserve lean muscle mass while losing weight and improve overall health. Drastically changing eating habits, and learning to eat balanced calories will help to improve your overall health as well.
Individuals with Bipolar Type 2 disorder find that keto may be a good mood stabilizer and can help with the varying mood swings associated. Studies suggest that the keto plan may be even more effective than medication.
Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia:
It has been found that older, high-risk adults who are on a keto diet experienced better memory function after just 6 weeks on the diet. Richard Isaacson, MD, director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine in NYC supports low-carb diets for patients as a way of delaying brain aging and possible Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.
The Disadvantages of Keto Diet
Ketogenic Flu (Keto flu):
Many people have reported feeling sick when they start ketosis. They experience symptoms such as vomitting, gastrointestinal distress, a lot of fatigue, and lethargy. This illness is referred to as the keto flu. And realistically, it would be expected as your system is cleaning out all of the excess toxins and garbage so it can become healthy.
Approximately 25% of people who try keto meal plans experience ketogenic flu. Fatigue is the most common symptom. This happens because the system has run out of sugars to use for energy and starts to use fat. The transition from sugar to fat is what causes the body to feel burned out for a few days. The effects of the flu can be minimized by consuming lots of water and sleeping.
Diarrhea is commonly experienced by people on the ketogenic meals. This is caused when the gall bladder starts to feel overwhelmed. The gall bladder is what makes bile in order to assist in the breakdown of fat in a person’s diet. Diarrhea can also be caused by a lack of fiber in the food and an intolerance to dairy or artificial sweeteners.
While ketosis can be helpful to a person with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, a diabetic person would need to follow the diet under close supervision of their doctor. It requires a diabetic to check their blood sugar levels very often. Additionally, ketosis can trigger a dangerous condition called ketoacidosis.
Ketoacidosis happens when too many ketones are stored in the body and causes the blood to become too acidic. Ketones are acids which are created as a by-product of burning fat. Ketoacidosis can cause damage to the liver, kidney, and brain. If it’s left untreated, it can lead to death.
Dry mouth, frequent urination, nausea, bad breath, and breathing difficulties are all symptoms of ketoacidosis.
Foods To Eat on a Keto Diet
A person who follows a ketogenic diet should include the following foods in their meals:
- Red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, and turkey
- Fatty fish
- Pastured or Omega 3 whole eggs
- Grass-fed butter and cream
- Unprocessed cheese
- Almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
- Primarily extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
- Whole avocados or freshly made guacamole.
- Most green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
- Salt, pepper, and various healthy herbs and spices
Foods To Avoid on a Ketogenic Diet
High carbohydrate foods should be avoided. The following foods should be reduced or eliminated altogether:
- Fizzy drinks, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, sweets, etc.
- Wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
- All fruits except for small portions of berries
- Peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc
- Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc
- Low fat or diet products as they’re highly processed and usually high in carbohydrates
- Some condiments or sauces as they contain sugar and unhealthy fat.
- Alcohol can throw the body out of ketosis due to their carbs content
- Sugar-free diet foods affect ketone levels in some cases. They’re also highly processed.
Other Keto Risks to Keep in Mind
There are other potential risks associated with keto which include, kidney stones, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, decreased bone mineral density, and gastrointestinal distress.
Because the diet eliminates certain food groups (fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains) and limits others (many vegetables and leafy greens), it isn’t uncommon for individuals to experience nutritional deficiencies. Lack of fiber also makes it more possible that you will experience constipation.
While certain fats are healthy for the body, there is a risk associated with following a high-fat meal plan, you will increase your intake of unhealthy trans fats and unsaturated fats. “Bad fats” are found in things like poultry skin, red meat, cheese and butter, and they can lead to an increase in LDL (bad cholesterol) and increased risk of heart disease.
Who Should Avoid this?
Research and medical doctors agree that these groups of individuals with health conditions should avoid this type of disordered eating:
Type 1 Diabetics:
Individuals with Type 1 diabetes are insulin dependent, and therefore, this type of plan could lower their blood sugar to dangerous levels.
Eating like this may suppress levels of thyroid hormones even though keto is being touted as a treatment for hyperthyroidism.
Individuals Who Have Had Gallbladder Removed:
The gallbladder aids in fat digestion and holds bile. Without the gallbladder, you will not feel your best on this type of meal plan.
Individuals with MS- Multiple Sclerosis:
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society questions the long-term safety for MS, and cautions about possible side effects like fatigue and constipation.
Individuals with Crohn’s Disease:
Keto’s goal as a low carbohydrate diet is to focus on cutting carbs and increasing fats in order to get the body to use fat as a form of energy This diet usually includes eating meats, cheeses, fish, nuts, butter, oils, seeds, and fibrous vegetables.
For individuals with Crohn’s, it’s recommended that dairy and high fiber foods are limited. Yet, whole grains are good as they help the colon. Those of us with Crohn’s disease are already dealing with nutrient deficiencies, low blood pressure, and low blood sugar and can’t afford to mess with our food, fat intake, and most definitely can’t afford to lose weight. Keeping your health in check is vitally important.
Individuals with Crohn’s disease must watch our bodies acidic state and not add to our digestive issues by being unknowledgeable about what we’re eating and our overall health. I think most people would agree with that, including my doctor 🙂
The Mediterranean diet or Paleo diet may be more beneficial to the health for those of us with Crohn’s disease as they are not as concerned with the calories or counting calories, and are more about overall health and well-being.