It sounds like a dieter's dream come true. Eat bacon, cheese, steak and eggs. Lavish cream in your coffee and heap butter on whatever you want. Fat, in fact, is the point.?
It¡¯s the ketogenic diet, aka ¡°keto,¡± and it¡¯s all the rage right now for get-thin-quick hopefuls. In a nutshell, the plan limits carbohydrate consumption to a maximum of 30 grams a day and requires ingesting 75-percent of your calories from fat.?
What does that look like? And more importantly, what does it taste like? Zero-carb foods include red meat, chicken, bacon, cold cuts and other proteins. An apple has 25 grams of carbohydrates, and blue cheese has 1 gram per ounce. Pasta? Nope. But you can eat as much shrimp as you like.
After a few days of the low-carb diet, the body enters?ketosis?¡ª the biological term for what is essentially a carb emergency.? Without carbs, the body doesn¡¯t store enough sugar. With no sugar to use for energy, the body starts breaking down fat into molecules called ketones to use as fuel. And that¡¯s when the weight loss kicks in.
For many dieters, that weight loss can be significant. Limiting carb intake has long been a proven and popular way to drop pounds. Putting your body into ketosis, however, takes it to another level.
¡°There is science behind the ketogenic diet,¡± said Erika Holt, RDN, a dietitian at TGH. ¡°Our body was made to go into ketosis to allow us to survive during long periods of fasting. It¡¯s a survival mechanism.¡±?
But is it safe??
¡°Anything that eliminates a specific food group is never a good thing,¡± Holt cautioned. ¡°There are two reasons for this. First, it¡¯s not sustainable. The diet is restrictive, and it¡¯s difficult to limit our major source of fuel ¨C carbs ¨C to basically nothing on a daily basis. And second, you¡¯re eliminating things that your body needs ¡ª vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Your body¡¯s going to lack all of those things, and that¡¯s not healthy.¡±
Variations of the low-carb, high-fat diet have gone in and out of favor since the early 1970s, when Dr. Richard Atkins released a book detailing his popular diet. Today, more than a decade after his death, Atkins-brand foods still tout the low-carb approach.?
And although the medical community originally warned consumers against the Atkins method, citing high saturated-fat content as the opposite of heart-healthy, further studies revealed positive outcomes -- but not over the long term. ¡°The immediate improvements in blood sugar levels are outweighed by the loss of fiber, which we know has a multitude of critical health benefits," Holt said, ¡°not to mention vitamins and important antioxidants.¡±
Interestingly, the keto diet has also been used in clinical therapies unrelated to weight loss. Cancer patients, for instance, have shown improved energy levels and overall well-being when they¡¯re in ketosis.
Epilepsy is another area of study. ¡°I sometimes work with children with epilepsy, and we¡¯ve had success stopping seizures by putting them into a state of ketosis,¡± Holt said. ¡°Nobody actually knows exactly why it works, but it does.¡±
To reach the deepest level of ketosis, a 4:1 ratio is key: for every four grams of fat, you consume one gram of carb and protein combined.
A carb-free vitamin and mineral supplement may make up for the missing nutrients in the keto program. But even with that addition, dieters can anticipate the ¡°keto flu¡± in the first week.?
¡°Until you adjust to not having carbohydrates, you¡¯re going to have side effects,¡± Holt said. ¡°You¡¯ll likely feel tired and headachy for a few days, because your body¡¯s not accustomed to working off of ketosis.¡±
An exercise regimen is also vital. ¡°From a weight loss perspective,¡± Holt said, ¡°a diet that doesn¡¯t require any exercise doesn¡¯t sound like the healthiest approach, does it?¡±
Instead of keto, Holt endorses an approach that¡¯s more sustainable and doesn¡¯t eliminate the nutrients your body needs. Eat a healthy mix of fruits, vegetables and fiber, and make sure to get cardiovascular exercise several times a week. ?
As always before starting a new diet or exercise program, check with your doctor.?
¡°There are inevitably going to be fad diets like keto that come and go,¡± Holt said. ¡°But the wisest approach to weight loss is a balanced diet and a moderate exercise program. The results might not be immediate, and they might not be drastic.?
¡°But you¡¯ll be healthy.¡±