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If you haven’t heard of the Keto diet, you may have heard of the Paleo or Atkins diet. Both fall under the umbrella of a ketogenic regimen, and both focus on high fat, high protein, and low carbohydrate intake.
In a typical diet, our bodies convert the glucose from carbs like grains, veggies, and fruits into energy. Keto diets basically force your body to use a different type of fuel-- ketone bodies. These compounds are produced by the liver and stored in fat. In this way, it makes sense that this could be a useful weight-loss tool because you’re burning fat.
Switching your body into this state of burning fat is called ketosis, and getting there isn’t easy. It takes a few days to get there and you have to hit a sweet spot of protein consumption. Further, you have to really cut out carbs, eating fewer than around 35 grams a day. To put that in perspective, a slice of bread can have 25 grams.
There are definitely risks. You can risk a nutrient deficiency from a lack of vegetables and grains. The overload of fat can put your liver into hyperdrive, exacerbating any pre-existing conditions. Too much protein can do to the kidneys what fat does the liver. Low fiber from the lack of grains and legumes can cause constipation. All of these risks are worth examining in detail before embarking on the diet.
A keto plan may recommend as much as 90% of daily calories to be supplied by fat. In this way, it’s quite extreme, and should be approached with the help of a medical professional.
In fact, it’s most often used for a specific medical purpose rather than just weight loss. According to Kathy McManus, registered dietitian and director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “The keto diet is primarily used to help reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures in children”. She goes on to say that studies examining weight loss with the diet have only been analyzed short-term, and with mixed results.
Extreme diets will always have their risks, but they may help a few achieve their health and wellness goals. Always reach out to healthcare professionals before drastically changing it up.