• Remana Jamal

Is the Keto Diet Safe?

Updated: Jun 16, 2020




People are obsessed with weight loss, putting their bodies at risk just to shed a few pounds. Critics say the diet is an unhealthy way to lose weight and maybe quite dangerous in some cases. The keto diet was popularized in best-selling books, embraced by celebrities and marketed as a remedy to chronic illnesses on social media. Let's see if the keto diet is safe or not.


· What is a keto diet?

A keto diet consists mainly of high-fat foods such as butter, oils, meat, fish, eggs and cheese, and very low or no carb.

When a person follows the keto diet, the body will enter a state called “ketosis” after a few days.

Ketosis happens when people eat a low carb diet and molecules in their bloodstream that are called ketones build up. The body breaks down stored fats releasing ketone bodies to compensate for the glucose when there is little glucose (sugar) in the blood to fuel the body.

Both unsaturated (good) and saturated (bad) fats are included in the keto diet. Unsaturated (good) fats are allowed in small amounts (nuts, seeds, tofu, olive oil and avocado). In contrast, saturated (bad) fats are allowed in large amounts (coconut oil, palm oil, butter, lard, cocoa butter etc.).

Protein foods are part of the keto diet, but usually, it does not differentiate between lean protein sources and protein sources high in saturated fat including red meats, processed meats and bacon.

Certain types of fruits and vegetables are allowed but in very small amounts. All fruits are rich in carbs, but usually, berries are allowed in small portions. Vegetables are limited to leafy greens (e.g. kale, Swiss chard, spinach), mushrooms, broccoli, cucumber, garlic, etc.




· Keto diet risks

Once people start a keto diet, they will experience a rapid weight loss, which is due to water and muscle weight loss. Weight loss can occur only for a short period of time after that people will stop losing weight. A clinical dietician at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland said,

“Once your body enters ketosis, you also begin to lose muscle, become extremely fatigued, and eventually enter starvation mode. Then it actually becomes even harder to lose weight,”

Because the keto diet is high in saturated fats this has a negative impact on gut microbiota (good gut bacteria) and can reduce its diversity. The lack of fiber from fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains make it even worse, as the fiber in these foods feed the microbiota and keep our guts healthy.

Some studies have shown that following the keto diet some chronic diseases can be improved like, high cholesterol, obesity, and type two diabetes, but these results are limited in time.


Nutrients typically found in diet-restricted foods such as whole grains and fruits can lead to deficiencies; this is because whole food groups are removed, particularly if the diet is followed poorly or without professional guidance. Nutrients deficiencies include vitamin B, vitamin C, selenium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

People who follow the keto diet can experience something called "Keto Flu" which is explained as side effects from dramatically cutting carbs. Symptoms may last days, including hunger, headaches, nausea, fatigue mood swings, constipation, and brain "fog."

It’s very challenging to stick with the keto diet for a long period of time. Being happy and satisfied with a limited choice of food and food groups and not being permitted to have some of the most delicious foods such as fruit, rice dishes, or creamy soups can be difficult to maintain.


· Who is the keto diet for?

1. Epilepsy: The keto diet was developed medically to treat seizures. It has been used for several years to eliminate seizures successfully. Today, under the supervision of professional dietitians, children resistant to anti-epilepsy medications continue to follow keto diets to eliminate seizures.

2. Cancer: Some studies have shown that the keto diet and chemotherapy helped in shrinking the size of a tumor, but this requires a medical supervision.

3. Diabetes type two: Restricting carbs can have a quick result on blood sugar levels, but only for a short period of time under medical supervision.







The keto diet can be an effective alternative for treating certain diseases. Nonetheless, it is difficult to follow and can be high in red meat and other fat, processed and salty foods that are commonly unhealthy. Rather than participating in the next trendy diet that would last just a couple of weeks to months, try to embrace long-term sustainable change. Once a normal diet is resumed, the weight will probably come back. A healthy diet, rich in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and plenty of water seems to have the best proof for a long, healthier life.
















Sources:

Satterthwaite, L. (2019). The Pros and Cons of the Keto Diet

Healthline. (2019). Keto Diet Dangers You Should Know About.

The Guardian. (2019). High on fat, low on evidence: the problem with the keto diet.

Campos, M. (2019). Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you? - Harvard Health Blog.

Kosinski, C. and Jornayvaz, F. (2017). Effects of Ketogenic Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Evidence from Animal and Human Studies. Nutrients, 9(5), p.517.

Paoli, A., Mancin, L., Bianco, A., Thomas, E., Mota, J. and Piccini, F. (2019). Ketogenic Diet and Microbiota: Friends or Enemies?.

Harvard Health. (2019). Should you try the keto diet? - Harvard Health.

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