On balance: the effects of a ketogenic diet
The keto diet is one of the most popular eating styles today. Thousands have embraced the low-carbohydrate diet as an effective means of losing weight and enjoying the energy boost supplied by ketones, the energy molecules created by the body during ketosis.
With all its popularity, it's important to clarify what exactly the keto diet does and what the positives and potential negatives are.
While there are definite pros to a ketogenic diet, especially for those seeking weight loss, prolonged or unbalanced ketosis can have detrimental health outcomes.
In this blog, we'll cover what a keto diet does and it's positives and negatives.
What Keto does
The keto diet works by eliminating nearly all carbohydrate intake and replacing these calories with nutritious fats.
Contrary to a common assumption, the keto diet does not call for increased protein intake. On a well-balanced keto diet, you'll eat as many calories from protein as a typical, non-keto diet.
When the body is deprived of carbohydrates for long enough, it must burn another fuel source: stored fat.
For most people, this critical point where the body switches from burning carbs to burning fat occurs 3-4 days after eliminating carbs. Afterward, your body is in a state called ketosis, constantly burning fat (stored and, eventually, the fat you eat on the keto diet) and releasing ketones into your blood.
Why cut carbs?
Carbohydrates are abundant in the typical American diet because they offer fast energy. The body easily converts them to blood sugar.
But overconsumption of carbs can lead to a variety of health risks, including obesity and elevated blood sugar.
The positives of eating keto
So why is eating a keto diet helpful? By reducing carbs, you're already making strides toward weight management. When you do enter ketosis, some people experience rapid weight loss.
Everyone's body is different and will react individually to any diet regimen. The speed at which you will lose weight on keto depends largely on how much you have to lose. Several factors contribute to this process. Check out our blog on keto and weight loss for more info.
Potential health benefits
What separates the keto diet from other low-carb diets is ketones. These energy molecules have a different effect on the body compared to glucose.
Many keto dieters report an overall increase in energy and focus after eating keto for a few weeks.
While ketones haven't been studied long enough to know exactly how they act on the body, there are several benefits that are anecdotally corroborated by many who have had a positive experience eating keto.
It's been shown that ketones can help those with epilepsy minimize their seizures. Fasting has long been a tool for treating epileptics, but only more recently have scientists found a correlation between the ketogenic state and reduced seizures.
Blood sugar control
Being a low-carb diet, the keto diet cuts almost all sugars out of your ingestion. This can be a massive help to those with problematic blood sugar levels, and a keto diet may be part of a comprehensive diabetes treatment plan.
Nervous system diseases: Alzheimer's, Dementia
The relationship between the keto diet and these diseases is still being studied, but it has been suggested that the ketogenic diet may help the body resist these diseases.
Ketones have been shown to have a positive effect on neurological function.
Now, we'll address some of the negatives of keto, from the immediate but superficial side effects to more serious long-term health risks.
The negatives of eating keto
While ketosis has undeniable health benefits, the human body is not meant to be in a ketogenic state forever, and medical evidence suggests that prolonged ketosis can have negative effects on one's health.
It takes a moment for your body to adjust to a new diet, which can cause a multitude of strange effects: some report conspicuously bad-smelling breath at the beginning of keto!
The most common complaint surrounding keto is a short period of uncomfortable, "flu-like symptoms" which develop at the onset of the diet.
It's believed that this is an indication the body is undergoing withdrawal from carbohydrate and sugar dependence. Symptoms typically last a matter of days and resolve themselves.
For some, especially those who have been eating a plant-based diet, the keto diet contains a larger amount of animal product than the body is accustomed to.
This can put undue stress on the kidneys, leading to kidney stones and eventually even kidney disease.
Remember: the keto diet is a low-carb diet, but it is not an all-meat diet. Try to eat as many non-starchy vegetables and other vegetable products as you can.
The keto diet restricts many nutrient-dense foods (like whole grains, potatoes, etc.) which happen to have a substantial carb level.
Without these foods, it's possible that the dieter will deprive their body of vitamins and minerals that the body needs to function healthily.
Make sure you do your homework on a balanced keto diet or purchase a custom keto plan that is designed to keep you in ketosis without making your diet unbalanced!
The perfect diet is the one that works for you, that is planned out and rooted in science.
Always consult your doctor before radically altering your diet.
The keto diet can help you lose weight quickly, boost your energy, and lower your blood sugar. But it's not a magic bullet, and if your diet is unbalanced, some negative health outcomes can result.
For suggestions of dishes that are balanced, nutritious, and easy to make, check out Kevin's keto recipes!