The Keto Diet: A Closer Look

Cooked Sunny-Side-Up Egg Blue Berries, Avacado cut in half and cooked, and beans

The diet industry in America is very strong. Every grocery shelf is plastered with magazines of photoshopped and air-brushed images of “perfect” people with “perfect” bodies, living the “perfect” lifestyle. Many of the people on these covers claim their secret to success is the new fad diet they’re on. Dieting itself has become integrated part of the American psyche. The newest fad diet is called the Keto diet, and it may not be as healthy as you think.

What is it?

The basic idea is to limit your carbohydrate intake and consume fats instead, which will put your body in a “fasted-like state (5). Once your body is in this state it will burn Ketones instead of glucose (5). Your body normally runs on glucose (food that’s been converted to sugar), but by restricting your carbohydrates it has no choice but to use its secondary energy source; ketones.

A little bit of Keto History

The Keto diet the newest fad diet, but what is it exactly? One of the oldest known treatments for epilepsy was fasting (5). The problem with this method is that once the patient went back to regular eating their seizures came back (5). In order to remedy this a diet was created that dramatically cut down on starches and sugars, rather than restricting all calories (Keto!). Originally called the ketogenic diet, it was actually a popular form of epilepsy therapy in the 1920’s and 30’s (2). After the invention of antiepileptic drugs, the use of the treatment dramatically declined (2). But, now it’s been given new life and is currently one of the most popular diets in the U.S.

The Keto Benefits Claims

  1. It Supports Weight Loss. (I feel I should point out that you are putting your body into a starvation mode setting, so of course you’re going to lose weight when you start.)
  2. May Improve heart health.
  3. Potential to Reduce Seizures (It’s original purpose)

(List from Reference 1)

Keto Means you can eat:

  • Non-Starchy (potatoes) vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and peppers
  • Full Fat Dairy Products, including cheese
  • Beef, Pork, Fish, Poultry, Soybeans, and Eggs
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Fruits (in moderation)

(List from Reference 5.)

Some Surprising Things You Cannot Eat on Keto:

  • Peas
  • Potato Chips
  • Bananas
  • Glazed Ham
  • Margarine/Butter
  • Beer
  • Milk
  • Carrots
  • Butternut Squash

(List from Reference 3)

Potential Problems.

  1. It may feel like you have the flu when you start. As your body depletes it’s carb storage and switches to another fuel source (keytones) people can experience flu-like symptoms such as; headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and constipation (which is due to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances (6).
  2. It’s stresses your kidneys. A diet that has high animal fat and cheese content my lead to a higher risk of kidney stones, because these types of food make your blood more acidic (6). As such, people with chronic kidney diseases should avoid keto (6).
  3. It may lead to nutrient deficiencies: Ketosis is a mild form of ketoacidosis, which mostly affects people with type 1 diabetes (Mills 1). People who have type 1 diabetes are at higher risk of hypoglycemia, which can lead to a coma or death (6).
  4. Keto can make your blood sugar dangerously low. The keto diet restricts nutrient-dense fruits, whole grains, and legumes, which normally provide our bodies with the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals (6).
  5. Keto diet is linked to impaired bone health. The keto diet may reduce your bone mineral density and trigger bone breakdown over time (*but further studies are required) (6).

Conclusion

Whenever you want to go on a specific diet, it’s best to consult your medical doctor! Most people who go on diets end up gaining back the weight because once they go off their body tends to return to the state it was in before the diet. Thinking of a diet as a diet and not thinking of it as a lifestyle change can be part of it. As for Keto, I don’t believe this to be the healthiest of diets for people who are not under frequent medical care. Putting your body into a starvation state cannot be healthy long-term for people who have no medical need to be on this type of strict dietary restriction.

“Eat half, walk double, laugh triple and love without measure”

The tried and true method for living well is to follow the old cliches: Eat in moderation, cut back on sugary foods, and keep an open mind and try new things. And of course, my personal favorite: Eat half, walk double, laugh triple and love without measure.Tibetan proverb

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References

  1. Gotter, Ana. Reviewed by Kubala, Jillian, M.S. RD. Medical News Today. Why is keto diet good for you?” Published 1/7/2020. Accessed 10/24/2020. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319196
  2. Mandal, Ananya, M.D. News Medical Life Science. History of the Ketogenic Diet.” Accessed 10/24/2020. https://www.news-medical.net/health/History-of-the-Ketogenic-Diet.aspx
  3. Migala, Jessica. Everyday Health. “15 Foods you Can’t Eat on Keto (and What to Choose Instead.” Published 3/27/2020, Accessed 10/24/2020. https://www.everydayhealth.com/ketogenic-diet/foods-you-can-t-eat-on-keto-and-what-to-choose-instead/
  4. Mills, David, “The Keto Diet is Gaining Popularity, But is it Safe?” Published 8/7/2019, Accessed 10/24/2020. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/keto-diet-is-gaining-popularity-but-is-it-safe-121914
  5. Occhipinti, Mark, Ph.D. AFPA. “What is the History and Evolution of the Keto Diet?” Published 9/10/2018, Accessed 10/24/2020. https://www.afpafitness.com/blog/what-is-the-history-and-evolution-of-the-keto-diet
  6. Streit, Lizzie, M.S. RDN. LD & Warwick, Kathy, R.D., CDE. “7 Keto Risks to Keep in Mind.” Published 3/25/2020, Accessed 10/24/2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dangers-of-keto-diet