If you aren't curious about the Ketogenic diet yourself, I'm sure you've heard a relative, co-worker, or someone at the gym spreading the news about how well it works. BUT HEY, not so fast! Do you know what this diet was created for or question how it could give results so fast? If there's one thing we've learned from fad-diets is that long-term isn't part of the plan. The word 'DIET' makes everyone cringe. It has such a negative connotation that even I hesitate to use it and choose 'healthy lifestyle' over 'healthy diet', as often as possible. We've got to start thinking about food choices as long-term sustainable commitments that we can be happy with. It's also very important to ask, "what will become of my body when I stop dieting?"
I’ve done extensive literature review on the Ketogenic diet versus a balanced diet high in fiber in regards to chronic disease prevention and long-term brain health. Eating fiber-rich consistently wins by a long-shot based on evidence-based research, and common sense.
The Ketogenic diet is actually a therapeutic diet for people who have epilepsy. I’ve seen this diet used to treat children who suffer from seizures and it’s been found to provide relief by decreasing seizure activity. It is an extreme diet high in fat, moderate protein, and very low in carbohydrates. There is a ratio determined for each patient that may be adjusted as seizure activity decreases. Patients on this diet are usually managed by a MD and dietitian because it’s miserable, very hard to stick to, and short-term so growth is not compromised.
Unfortunately, this diet has gone mainstream without knowledge of how damaging it can be because, 1. carbs are necessary for growth (in kids), 2. Athletes risk inconsistent performance, poor recovery, and lean tissue loss from glucose depletion, and 3. it changes brain chemistry, which research to-date does not totally understand the mechanism.
My first reply to keto is usually: don’t mess with your brain function!
This diet is appealing to people who want to lose weight because when the body is starved of glucose, which happens when we don’t eat enough carbohydrates, it is forced to find another energy source. So, we burn down our body fat. Fat produces a by-product called ketones which are toxic and eliminated through urine. So, the purpose of the keto diet is to produce ketones. Not something I would advise when trying to develop healthy habits and a balanced diet. It is particularly not appropriate for people at risk for heart disease and diabetes.
The reason ketosis does not work long term (and also why it’s dangerous) is that the body is literally eating itself alive. Weight gain is almost certain when transitioning back to a normal, healthy, balanced diet.
Please understand this: Carbs are not bad. Complexity is important. Carbs breakdown to glucose which is our #1 preferred energy source to store and burn. We just have to choose fiber-rich.
Side note: The DRI of carbohydrates begins when we are 12 months old at 130 grams per day minimum and that goes for our entire lifetime! Research has found that 130g per day is primarily to support the brain because it uses up the most energy especially when we are sleeping and repairing.
If you are more interested in brain health unrelated to the Ketogenic Diet, I would highly recommend reading: “The Alzheimer’s Solution” Sherzai MDs.