The Keto Diet: What is it all About?

What is the ketogenic diet? 

The keto diet is becoming more and more popular, commonly used for weight loss and to help improve overall health. Interestingly enough this diet was originally developed and used as a treatment for epilepsy.  The premise behind this diet is that if you follow it correctly, you will put your body into ketosis, burning fat instead of glucose for fuel. 

Normally when carbohydrates are consumed, glucose rises in your blood stream and the pancreas then releases insulin to help rid the bloodstream of the extra glucose so that it can either be used as energy or stored as fat.  The ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and high in fat.  When carbohydrate intake is severely restricted and fat and protein intake become the main sources of nutrition, over time cells will burn stored and dietary fat as a primary source of energy. 

When following the keto diet, enough protein is consumed to maintain lean body mass but not so much so that ketosis cannot be preserved.  If too much protein is consumed the amino acids glutamine and alanine can convert into glucose through gluconeogenesis preventing the body from staying in ketosis (1,2).  This diet allows 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day.  This is very limited (as a frame of reference, a recommended intake of carbohydrates for someone on an 1800 calorie diet is around 200 grams per day).  After 3-4 days of following the ketogenic diet the body reduces insulin secretion and primarily burns fat for fuel.  Some of that fat burned will convert into ketones.  Muscle can use broken down fat molecules for energy, but the brain cannot.  The brain however can use the ketones.  Ketones can cross the blood-brain barrier, therefore, providing energy to the brain and other tissues (2,4). 

Using Great Lakes Gelatin Company’s Organic MCT (medium chain triglyceride) Oil or Organic MCT Powder helps to support the ketogenic diet by providing the necessary fat that is metabolized into ketones providing quick energy for the brain and body and metabolism support. Their MCT products are from non-GMO sources and are Kosher.  They are also certified USDA Organic which means that it is cold-pressed, and no solvents were used in the processing with no preservatives or additives.

Throughout my many years as a dietitian, I have discussed the use of the ketogenic diet for weight loss and appetite as well as for better diabetic glycemic control with colleagues, doctors and clients.  A reduced appetite and less cravings as well as restricted dietary intake and weight loss are frequently noted when following a ketogenic diet.   

May help with weight loss and decreased appetite

One research study found that participants who were following a ketogenic diet did have lower appetites while in ketosis, but found after 10 weeks, appetite and the urge to eat were higher than they were prior to starting the diet (3).  Another research study found that participants following a ketogenic diet lost more weight and kept it off compared to those who followed a low-fat diet (1).  Different results are observed with different studies and different individuals. 

May help with glycemic control: 

One research study found evidence that strictly following a ketogenic diet showed beneficial results for people with diabetes.  Participants in the study included 34 diabetic and overweight adults.  The results of the study concluded that participants had better glycemic control, insulin sensitivity and were able to reduce the use of their diabetic medications (5). 

Pros to Keto diet

Cons to Keto diet

Decreased appetite

Decreased cravings

Weight may be gained back when the keto diet is stopped

May aid in weight loss

 A hard diet to follow for the long term 

Possibly improved insulin sensitivity

Possibly improved glycemic control

May become deficient in some nutrients due to the limited variety of food

 

Who wouldn’t want a decrease in appetite and a decrease in cravings when trying to lose weight?  What diabetic wouldn’t want improved insulin sensitivity and better glycemic control?  While this all sounds great, when transitioning away from following a strict keto diet, weight can easily and quickly be gained back.  Another drawback to this diet is that one may become deficient in nutrients due to the limited variety of food.  This diet can also be very hard to maintain for the long term for continued weight loss success.  There seem to be many positive benefits while following this diet but there are some drawbacks to think about too.  You need to make the choice that’s best for you, as well as consult a health professional. 

 

References:

  1. Abbasi J. Interest in the ketogenic diet grows for weight loss and type 2 diabetes.  2018; 319 (3): 215-217.
  2. Browns F. Overweight and diabetes prevention:  is a low-carbohydrate – high-fat diet recommendable?  Eur J Nutr. 2018; 57 (4): 1301-1312.
  3. Sumithran P, Prendergast LA, Delbridge E, et al. Ketosis and appetite-mediating nutrients and hormones after weight loss.  Eur J Clin Nutr.  2013; 67 (7): 759-764.
  4. Paoli A. Ketogenic diet for obesity: friend or foe?  Int J Environ Res Public Health.  2014; 11 (2):2092-2107.
  5. Saslow Lr, Daubenmier JJ, Moskowitz JT, et al. Twelve-month outcomes of a randomized trail of moderate-carbohydrate versus very low-carbohydrate diet in overweight adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus or prediabetes.  Nutr Diabetes.  2017; 7 (12):304. 

Disclaimer: The information provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical conditions. Nor is it intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a medical professional. Individual results may vary.

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