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The Keto Diet: Fad or Fabulous Way to Reach Your Weight-Loss Goals?

RKMD Blog February 22, 2018
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It seems that in every decade, there is one new diet plan, that guarantees to provide results, and improve the health of individuals who are struggling to maintain a healthy weight.  Think back to the 1990’s, where the Atkin’s Diet was the most talked about, celebrity endorsed, and top selling book, that changed the way we all looked at carbohydrate rich diets.

Distilled to it’s most simple form, the most accurate weight-loss guide in history, would simply read: “eat less; move more”.  But there are many factors that contribute to obesity, and it is not exclusive to simply overeating.  America’s obesity problem is a reflection of a number of cultural factors and demands on the personal time that previously, we had allocated to healthy eating, fitness, and cooking meals at home.

The newest diet to sweep around the world now, is the keto diet.  The best way to describe this diet plan, is a combination of everything we learned on with Dr. Atkin’s, with a lot more chemistry.  In fact, when you read the requirements of the ketogenic diet, you may start to feel like you are earning an honorary degree in metabolic processing and chemistry.

The ketogenic diet plan has actually been around since the 1920’s (so it is not new). And while the pictures on Facebook from passionate members of weight-loss groups who have achieved success are inspiring, what do nutritional experts really think about the keto diet?  We did a little research to provide some facts, if you are considering this meal plan as a weight-loss option.

How Does It Work?

Structured as a high-fat, low carbohydrate and disciplined eating style, celebrities who worked with personal trainers for roles, have encouraged Americans to use the method for rapid weight-loss.   On the ketogenic diet, as little as 5% of daily calories are required from carbohydrates (and that’s not a lot).  The remaining food choices must fall at 15-30% protein, and 85% fat.

So if you are seeing a lot of pictures of bacon inspired recipes on Facebook, you know why.  And if you are thinking “wait, that’s a lot of fat” and “isn’t bacon bad for you?” then you are not alone.  After decades of being told by leading nutritionists that dietary fat is bad for us, it’s difficult to switch gears, and consider it to be a healthy part of a balanced meal.

Some of the recipes provided that align with the ketogenic diet, are actually quite flavorful, and seem healthy, particularly for individuals who have diabetes, and need to restrict carbohydrate consumption.  Ketosis is actually a natural process within the body, that historically helped us to survive (think paleo) when food intake was compromised.

The keto diet forces the body into ketosis.  The production of ketones (produced from the breakdown of fats in the liver) becomes the energy source for people on the diet.  Many fans of ketogenic eating, claim that it offers other benefits, including improved mood, alertness and cognitive performance.  When the body doesn’t have carbohydrates to burn, it turns to fat as a natural fuel source, resulting in a visible and sometimes rapid reduction of weight.

Dehydration Is A Serious Problem

First, most physicians agree that the majority of the initial weight-loss on the ketogenic diet, results from water loss.  Dieters feel encouraged by seeing the numbers on the scale fall quickly, in the first 1-3 weeks of following the meal plan.

Many people are not aware of the dangers of chronic dehydration, and the additional strain that this can place on the immune system, organ functioning (kidney, liver and digestion) and other important processes.   When carbohydrates are limited, the human body is prompted to produce less insulin.  In turn, this results in tapping muscles and the liver for glycogen stores.   According to one clinician interviewed for Shape Magazine, “for every 1 gram of glycogen that’s depleted, you lose about 3 grams of water”.

Fluid loss can also create an imbalance in essential minerals and vitamins, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and electrolytes.  Depending on overall health condition, some people may be at an increased risk of developing kidney stones, while on the ketogenic meal plan.

The Keto Diet Isn’t Right for Everyone:  Talk to Your Doctor

Before radically changing anything about the way you eat, your first trip should be to consult with your physician or primary care provider.  There can be a number of health risks associated with the keto diet, that require medical consultation before you begin.

Some individuals experience fatigue, bad breath, nausea, digestive and sleep problems, when they begin eating high-fat, low carbohydrate meals. Physicians are most concerned about the long-term side effects of a high-fat diet, as it is not heart healthy, and can lead to arterial blockages and other cardiac issues.  Additionally, the keto diet supports a more substantial consumption of meat (specifically red-meat), and it can increase hypertension by adding more sodium to the diet.

In this article by Harvard Health, the writer gives credit to the ketogenic diet for clinical studies, which reported a positive effect for children with seizures. It is not understood completely by the scientific community, but other studies have reported improvement in other neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and for patients with multiple sclerosis.  However, Dr. Campos (the author) also indicates that there are no human studies, to confirm or support the recommendation of the ketogenic diet for those specific conditions.

It may work well for you, or someone you know.  But talk to your doctor first.

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