There are those who say that the low low-carb, high-fat Ketogenic diet is the holy grail of weight-reduction diets – the one that allows you to lose weight quickly, and never feel hungry. And there are others who dismiss the diet as nothing more than the “flavor of the month”, a fad diet that will be replaced by something else in the not too distant future. Who is correct?
In this article, we will look at the proven facts of this controversial weight loss eating plan, and let you decide. But first, some basics.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
It’s a diet in which the bulk of one’s fuel (calories) comes from fat which is found mainly in dairy products and meat. Intake of carbohydrates, which is stored in the body as glycogen and is the prime source of fuel in conventional diets, is very low, often less than 10 percent of total calories. That equates to between 20 and 50 grams per day, which is the equivalent to about one slice of bread and a tiny quantity of carbs found naturally in milk and low-carb salad-type vegetables. The rest of one’s fuel is derived from protein. When the body has used up its stores of glycogen, it starts to burn fat. This produces ketones.
Does a Ketogenic Diet Work?
Ketogenic diets have been proven relatively effective for helping to control epileptic seizures in some children. There is also some observational studies that suggest that it may be useful to optimize outcomes during cancer treatments. And there are studies that indicate that a ketogenic diet certainly does assist with weight loss – at least, initially.
Among the benefits of ketogenic diets for weight loss are:
- The high levels of fat and protein you consume and the ketones you produce as a result reduce or eliminate feelings of hunger – so you want to eat less. This is a boon for those who have suffered the hunger pangs associated with conventional weight loss plans.
- With lower calorie intake, you will lose weight – and the diet itself has been proven to be effective for weight loss.
If it Works, What’s the Problem?
- Restricting your carb intake from high-fiber sources such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, could not only lead to constipation, but also to a lack of phytonutrients and vitamins – particularly B-vitamins – in your diet. This is not helped by the fact that people on ketogenic diets tend to eat too much protein, and poor-quality fats from processed foods.
- Studies indicate that most people find the diet extremely difficult to stick to on a long-term basis and it can have unpleasant side-effects such as bad breath (a consequence of having high levels of ketones), nausea, vomiting, and sleep problems.
The long-term effects of a ketogenic diet on healthy individuals have been established. People who suffer from a variety of health conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, cancer and epilepsy should only follow a ketogenic diet under strict medical supervision.