Ketogenic Diet: Is It Safe and Sustainable?

what you need to know about the keto diet

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The Ketogenic Diet is a diet that uses ketosis to help people lose weight. Ketosis is what happens when your body begins to break down stored fats, instead of carbohydrates, for energy. However, this can only occur when the dieter consumes less than 50 grams of carbs daily for at least 2 to 4 days. A ketogenic diet is rich in fats and proteins.

What you eat on Keto:

  • Meat
  • Healthy fats
  • Healthy oils
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Butter, cream, and ghee
  • Fibrous, low-carb vegetables
  • Berries
  • Natural sweeteners

What you do NOT eat on Keto:

  • Sugar
  • Grains and starches
  • Beans
  • Many fruits
  • Root vegetables
  • Foods high in sugar alcohols
  • Unhealthy fats
  • Sugar condiments and sauces
  • Alcohol
  • Soda

The ketogenic diet is not a new diet like many people would think; in fact, the limitation of carbs has been a part of many diets for years.

Are there any benefits to following the ketogenic diet?

The keto diet has been proven to help one lose weight, in the beginning, at a quicker rate than most other diets. This weight loss often motivates people to begin a keto diet. Most diets take a couple of weeks before the individual sees noticeable results, but the keto diet can show results in as little as 7 to 10 days.

Studies have found a low-carb diet to be more effective than a calorie-restrictive diet. This might be because the diet is so rich in proteins and fats, it can help you to eat less and feel full longer.

The ketogenic diet has also been shown to help lower blood sugar in people who have type 2 diabetes. Although it is not a long-term cure for type 2 diabetes, it can help alleviate some symptoms.

Why is the ketogenic diet unsustainable?

I am a proponent of eating habits that are sustainable in the long run.

Because this diet has so many food restrictions, it can be extremely difficult to follow. That being said, there are many unknowns about the effects of this diet long term. The lack of variety in the diet makes it very easy for people to eat too much protein and poor quality processed foods while not getting the nutrients their bodies really need.

Once your body enters ketosis, it can start to fall victim to bad breath, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and sleep problems. But the biggest side effect that most keto dieters complain about is the extreme fatigue that they suffer from. The fatigue can be blamed on the starvation mode your body enters once it hits ketosis. The body needs sugar to function properly and once your body starts suffering from fatigue, it can be hard for it to lose weight.

What are healthy ways to lose weight?

The battle continues whether a low-fat diet or a low-carb diet has the longest effects on weight loss. However, new research has concluded that the two are actually equal in success (and failure) rates.

Dr. Christopher Gardner put together a scientific team from the Stanford University School of Medicine and organized a clinical study to get to the bottom of the low-fat versus low-carb debate. A group of 609 men and women were recruited between the ages of 18 and 50.

Half of the participants were instructed to maintain 20 grams of fat per day for two months, then gradually add fat back into their diet until they felt it was at a level at which they could maintain long term. The other half of the participants were given the same instructions but with 20 grams of carbs rather than fat.

Both groups were given the additional dieting instructions:

  • Focus on nutrient-dense, minimally processed whole foods.
  • Maximize vegetable intake.
  • Minimize refined flour, trans fats, and sugar intake.
  • Prepare meals at home whenever possible.

Throughout the study, each participant attended 22 dieting and nutrition classes to help them on their weight loss journey.

After a full year, the average weight loss for each participant was 13 pounds, with some losing as much as 60 pounds and others gaining as much as 20 pounds. This included those on the low-fat diet as well as those on the low-carb diet. The average calorie intake for each participant was also similar for both groups at the end of the study.

After several other tests, such as blood pressure, insulin, and blood sugar levels, the results showed that low-fat and low-carb diets are not what makes a difference in weight loss. In fact, they seemed to be almost identical in all categories.

However, the study showed overwhelming results that a focused diet on home-prepared whole foods and vegetables – even without counting calories – is incredibly effective in weight loss.

And though the study has been incredibly eye-opening and opened many doors for further weight loss and dieting research, it also turned out to be rather simple. The most accessible foods these days are too processed and refined to carry any nutritious value for your body. So the only way to really give your body what it needs to thrive is to shop for whole foods.

Another significant factor throughout the study was that the participants were encouraged not to subject themselves to a strict diet, but to develop good eating habits that they felt they could maintain indefinitely. I have found that if a patient’s diet left them hungry and deprived, they are more likely to drop it as soon as they can, rather than develop a healthy lifestyle.

The key to weight loss then, and ultimately finding a lifestyle that suits you and your health needs, is to steer clear of any processed or refined foods, trans fats, and added sugars, and consciously purchase and prepare whole foods. These suggestions will help you go the extra mile in giving your body the nutrition and energy it needs throughout your life.

The Bottom Line

The ketogenic diet, while promising many wonderful and quick results, is not a diet that can sustain the body and keep it healthy long term. Many people who try keto for the long term end up suffering from many side effects and eventually learn that their quick weight loss is not long-lasting. Many with keto success stories end up regaining the weight within a year.

The bottom line is that the keto diet can be dangerous in the long run and should not be attempted without professional supervision. Instead of trying a quick-fix in your weight loss journey, take the time to treat your body well and fuel it with a variety of healthy foods, lots of water, and exercise. This method will help you see the best and long-lasting results.

Find this and other health-promoting articles by Dr. Partha Nandi on his website, Ask Dr. Nandi.

Practicing Physician, Chief Health Editor at WXYZ, Television Show Host, Speaker


Comments
Comment by JoshE24038
October 17, 2018
Ketogenic diet reduces seizures in children, sometimes as effectively as medication. Because of these neuroprotective effects, questions have been raised about the possible benefits for other brain disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, sleep disorders, autism, and even brain cancer.
Comment by LorraineS45383
September 21, 2018
What about those of us who want to gain weight? We DO exist :)
Reply by LauraH13097
October 02, 2018
This might not be the right eating plan for you. To add nutrient-dense calories for weight gain, try including health fats (avocados, nuts, seeds) and protein (Greek yogurt, eggs, nuts) in your smoothie and meals.
No Avatar

Thank you for your comment! It is pending approval and should be posted shortly.