The Ketogenic Diet (keto diet for short) was first used as a diet to effectively manage epilepsy, and other medical conditions, it has now become a very trendy way to lose weightand its popularity continues to grow.
The Keto Diet involves intentionally putting your body into ketosis by drastically reducing carbohydrate intake whilst increasing fat intake. Ketosis is a metabolic state that occurswhen the body does not have sufficient amounts of glucose to produce energy, and so instead, the body converts fats into ketone bodies (this is where the ‘fat burning’ comes in) that are used up as energy for major organs such as the brain, heart, liver and kidneys.
The ketogenic diet promotes a constant state of ketosis to use fat storage as energy, to achieve this it is recommended that you consumer only 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day (for example 1 medium banana + 1 apple equates to approx. 50 grams of carbs), adequate amounts of protein and high amounts of fat (65-75% of total energy intake). Think of including foods such as salmon, tuna, barramundi, flaxseeds, tahini, walnuts, chai seeds, pine nuts, brazil nuts, avocado, plant and seed oils and eggs, and reducing foods such as processed cakes/biscuits/muffins/pastries, deep fried and take-away foods.
Some of the benefits of a Keto Diet that are related to a reduction in blood glucose levels include:
Increased insulin sensitivity
Reduced lipogenesis (fat production) as excess glucose from carbs is stored as fat
Beneficial to the small blood vessels of the eyes and kidneys as glucose damage these
Excess fructose (found mostly in fruits) can increase risk of developing a fatty liver
Many people react to carbohydrates such as fructose and lactose (dairy), so removing these may help reduce allergic/intolerant symptoms
However, despite these health benefits and weight loss success stories, the Keto Diet can also lead to numerous undesired side effects as glucose is the bodies preferred energy source and carbohydrates, including fibre, are important for maintaining regular bowel movements, reducing LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and feeding our healthy gut bacteria. Additionally, you need to have an optimally functioning liver with excellent bile production in order to digest and absorb these large quantities of fats.
Therefore, without a healthy liver, sufficient bile production and consuming very low amounts of carbs and fibre, the Keto Diet may cause unwanted side effects such as:
The ‘keto flu’ – as your body adjusts from using carbohydrates as the main fuel to using fats and ketones as energy, you may experience a ‘keto flu’ which can cause symptoms such as headaches, weakness, nausea, low energy, reducing concentration and brain fog.
Acetone smelling breath – this is due to the ketone bodies
Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) which can cause dizziness, sugar cravings and mood changes
Sleeping problems and fatigue
Digestive issues – due to not digesting the fats efficiently
Constipation – due to not having enough fibre
Diarrhoea – due to too much fat
Reduced muscle mass if not consuming adequate
May be too socially restrictive and isolating
May cause weight gain if not doing it correctly as fat is very energy dense
Too much saturated fat can cause an increase in cholesterol levels which increases cardiovascular disease risk
Can lead to nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and folate
May throw off your pH balance by making your body more acidic