Ketogenic diet: good or bad?

By Marion Fernandez
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Ketogenic diet: good or bad?

Marion Fernandez
 
 
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Diet trends always seem to be coming and going, with new secrets to weight loss intriguing the desperate searching for quick solutions. One of the latest trends to come to the forefront is the ketogenic diet. So, the question remains: what is the keto diet and should you try it?

History

A keto diet can be used for weight loss and staying healthy
A keto diet can be used for weight loss and staying healthy

Before you consider trying out the ketogenic diet, you should think about what the diet was originally used for. The quick answer is that it was created by physicians in the 1920s as a solution to untreatable epilepsy. Dietary regimens have been the treatment for epilepsy dating back to at least 500 BC, toying with metabolisms through fasting. Keto was more specific, trying to mimic the results of fasting without actually having to fast. Because of the introduction of anti-epileptic drugs through modern medicine, the keto diet’s usage dropped dramatically, but it has resurfaced for epilepsy in the past 25 years and more recently has been taken up as a method of weight loss and maintenance.

How it works

The ketogenic diet is well-known for being low-carb, not unlike other trends, cutting out the eating of sugars in an effort to keep your weight under control. With the ketogenic diet, your body will produce ketones within your liver that are used by your brain for energy. When you eat carbs, your body will naturally turn the carbohydrates into glucose and insulin. Since glucose is so easy to use as an energy source, it will always be your body’s go-to when it is available. Insulin is what processes the glucose, something diabetics cannot produce.

Therefore, when you have produced a large amount of glucose, your body will not look to your fat store to use for energy, which means you could have a difficult time losing weight, if that was your goal. This, of course, depends on a lot of factors, including your metabolism, activity level, diet, and genetics. Ketones are created by the breakdown of fat within the liver itself.

What it is

Make healthy fats part of your diet
Make healthy fats part of your diet

Now that we have reviewed how the ketogenic diet works within your body, you should know what it entails. The keto diet follows a strict regimen of consuming a mere 5 percent carb allowance a day. The majority of your daily caloric intake comes from fats and oils. The thought is that just fats are an essential piece of your diet. Keeping your calories limited to fats means you will be eating a lot of vegetables and fruits drizzled with oils or consume fatty meats in order to get an adequate amount of calories a day.

The hope is that with enough of the good fats, like omega 3 and omega 6, you will get a healthy amount of calories that will convert to ketones, keeping you lean and your mind alert. As always, commitment is key if you want to continue to reap the benefits in the long-term.

Safety concerns

While the effectiveness of the diet is open to question, the safety of the diet should be taken into account. When it comes to any diet where you eliminate a food group, it can be a risky business as far as your overall health goes. Before even attempting a venture such as this, you absolutely need to confirm with your doctor the safety of getting rid of carbohydrates and replacing them with fat.

Always check with your doctor to see if eliminating certain foods will affect you
Always check with your doctor to see if eliminating certain foods will affect you

This kind of diet is not a quick fix to any problems you might have. You will have to stay with it to see the benefits. The diet is also not a good idea for athletes as their bodies cannot produce enough ketones to maintain the amount of energy needed to perform well and not get injured.

You also have to remember that not all fats are created equal, meaning that you could put yourself at a higher risk of medical issues like cardiovascular issues or other fat-related issues. If your fats are more saturated than omega-based, you might be putting some fats into your body that your body will not be able to process efficiently, leaving them hanging around instead of building ketones. There have also been reports of an increased risk of getting kidney stones as your liver processes the fats.

Bottom line

As with anything, there is no quick fix when it comes to your health and weight. Keto itself does not give you instantaneous results, and it takes weeks of building up in your system on a strict diet to experience its full effect. Diet is perhaps the most important thing in keeping your health in good shape, but exercise is also important.

Before you jump right in and try out the latest fad diet, you have to consider the long-term effects. Keto is something you will have to stay with if you are thinking of experiencing the benefits. Otherwise, if you begin to consume carbs again, there is a good chance your body is going to pack in all of the glucose that is taken in, putting you at risk of gaining weight at a pretty high rate. So, you cannot start on the diet and think that you might be able to have cheat days or only do the diet for a while. It is an all or nothing sort of deal.

A healthy diet and exercise go hand in hand, so don’t expect the diet to work magic if all you do is laze around on the couch.
A healthy diet and exercise go hand in hand, so don’t expect the diet to work magic if all you do is laze around on the couch.

Diets can be dangerous for people if they are just taken up without much forethought. Any kind of dietary gimmick can put your health at risk and lead you into a world of trouble. Be serious about any diet, keto included. Remember that the path to health is getting a balance, and doing something that is actually maintainable for your life. Your health is not something to gamble with, and while keto may seem like it’s not too much of a risk, you really do need to think hard before diving into the diet. Do a lot of research on the various types of fats and understand what you have to do in order to achieve and maintain ketosis and you may be successful.

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