Know All About The Keto Diet

Can I do a Keto Diet? Many of my friends have lost weight with a Keto Diet, what is this new diet?

Commonly asked questions today. Ketogenic diet (Keto diet) has suddenly gained limelight and has captured the interest of people who want to lose weight quickly. It is an extremely low carbohydrate diet which has been in fact used for about a 100 years to treat patients with epilepsy who do not respond well to drugs.

There have also been many fad diets in the past that have been structured around the concept of a Keto diet plan.

What is a Ketogenic diet?

Ketogenic diet is a diet that restricts the intake of carbohydrates which causes the body to release ketones in the blood stream by initiating ketosis.

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for every body cell. In the absence of carbohydrates, the body starts breaking down its stored fat & dietary fat into ketone bodies by the process, ketosis. In ketosis, the percentage of cells that will use ketone bodies to generate energy will increase until one starts eating carbohydrates again. This shift, from utilizing sugar to utilizing ketone bodies as a source of fuel takes place usually over a period of two to four days of eating fewer than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day.

However, the process of ketosis is individualized and not the same for all meaning each person may have their point wherein ketosis kicks in.

The Ketogenic diet includes plenty of meats, eggs, fish, processed meats, butter, cheese, oils, nuts and oilseeds, heavy cream, coconut, avocados, and fiber rich and low carb vegetables.A keto meal is exactly opposite to the Indian dietary pattern that we have been following for years wherein 55-60% of the total calories come from carbohydrates in a meal.

Is Ketogenic diet safe and healthy?

The fact that the keto diet is so different from what most of us eat raises many questions as to how it affects our bodies.

As mentioned before, a Ketogenic diet was first introduced for management of epilepsy. Research studies have proven that it is safe and has shown positive results in treating children with epilepsy not responding well to medications by reducing the occurrence of seizures in these children.

Weight loss is the primary reason for which people opt for the keto diet today.

The diet induces ketosis wherein body uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates so, one needs to understand that a Ketogenic diet is not only a low carb and high fat diet, but it actually changes the way your body utilizes fuel. Studies have also shown that this diet may help reduce blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics thus reducing the need for insulin, at least in the short term.

Although the ketogenic diet may have a positive role to play in diabetics it has some potential side effects:

  1. Keto Flu: When the body first enters ketosis, one may experience keto flu as side effect of following the keto diet plan. This includes fatigue, dizziness, light headedness, poor sleep, difficulty with exercise, and constipation, all resulting from extreme restriction of carbohydrates.

    However, these symptoms subside after the body adjusts to the drastic change in the dietary pattern

  2. Electrolyte imbalance & dehydration: Carbohydrates are severely restricted, so the body produces less insulin and the glycogen (carbohydrate) stores in liver & muscle are depleted.

    For every gram of glycogen that is depleted 3 grams of water is lost. This causes kidneys to throw out more water through urination which also results in loss of electrolytes. Imbalance in electrolytes and dehydration can lead to muscle cramps, constipation, irregular heartbeat, fatigue, cognitive problems, and lack of body temperature control.

  3. Initial weight loss is water loss: The weight loss that is experienced initially is the water loss that occurs as kidneys flush the water out, which means initially it's not fat loss but water loss.

    Once the glycogen stores are replenished (when you start eating carbs again), the weight comes back.

  4. Brain Fog: For the brain to function it requires glucose and carbohydrates are the primary source of glucose. When the brain does not get enough glucose it leads to confusion, slow cognition, memory loss, headaches and poor concentration.
  5. Bad breath: When the body goes under ketosis the breath starts to smell like acetone due to breakdown of acetoacetic acid.
  6. Reduced athletic performance: The body is more in an acidic state when it is on ketoacidosis which may limit the ability to perform at peak.
  7. Weight gain: Following a ketogenic diet plan is a part of yo-yo dieting wherein you lose the weight initially but once you get back to your normal eating pattern wherein carbs are reintroduced, you gain all the weight back.
  8. Cardiologist's nightmare: Because the focus is on high fat foods, in all likelihood there could be an increase in the LDL or bad cholesterol levels which increases the risk of heart disease.

Each person's needs are different.

The one size fits all approach does not work for all. It is interesting to note that while for a normal person a keto diet may not be the best for good health, for a person who is a type 2 diabetic or is an epileptic patient, it has the potential to work wonders.

It is however, difficult to follow this diet for a long period of time. The long term effects of the keto diet are not much known as it is difficult to continue with this kind of a diet for a long period of time. In any instead of focusing on weight loss through the keto meal plan the best approach is to have a balanced diet with foods in the right portions with an added physical activity.

There are various diets that come and go, it is best to look out for a change that can be sustained over a period of time.

Know what an individual body needs by having your body composition assessed by a nutritionist. This can be followed by a food plan that meets the macro and micro nutrient requirements, improves your overall health and wellbeing and is directed towards a long term lifestyle change.

Arati Shah is an expert nutritionist and she runs her own weight loss centre in Mumbai, Cafe Nutrition. Having earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition along with a Post-Graduation in Sports Sciences and Nutrition from S.N.D.T Juhu, she is one of the top who can also guide the concerned parents about the right nutrition for children with same efficacy.

She heads the Nutrition team in Mumbai and takes personal interest in each and every client of Cafe Nutrition. In addition, her sports nutritionist programs are easy to follow as she works on bringing about a change with our regular food habits.

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