Ketogenic diets have become an incredibly hot topic as of late. Many people swear by them, and many people will tell you to avoid them at all costs. What’s the deal? Is it a good diet or a bad one? Should you try it, or not? I’m sure you’re at least partly familiar with a ketogenic diet, as there are literally 41,900,000 results (Google “ketogenic diet”) on them at the time of writing this article.
This post will examine these questions and more and focus on information that is not currently as widely known, in my opinion. Enjoy! Subscribe for more! Cheers!
I look at Ketogenic diets like I look at all diet/lifestyle strategies. It is a tool in the toolbox that might be useful in helping you or others achieve their goals of weight and metabolic management.
When deciding on whether this diet is for you or not, it’s important to take a critical look at (possible) pros vs. Cons of the following this protocol. I’m sure most of you are aware of this diet to some extent and have heard about the bulk of the pros that are often reported, and you might have heard more negative information about this diet lately. Here are some of the pros and cons that have become more well known lately.
Importantly, this diet is medically recommended in some situations including, but not limited to Epilepsy, Cancer/Oncology, Migraines, CTE/Concussions/ABI, MS, T2DM, etc… With most of these conditions it is important to consult with your personal health practitioner who knows your case and situation well.
A well designed and executed ketogenic protocol has been shown to help decrease weight and help improve blood sugar regulation in people with type 2 diabetes as well as decrease many of the symptoms of metabolic symptoms.
However, in terms of using the ketogenic diet for weight loss, which has regained popularity over the last five years or so. Newer evidence shows that “cheating” while on a keto diet can have large downside. Remember that when you are consuming a ketogenic diet you are eating almost no carbohydrates, moderate (not high protein) and very high amounts of fat, therefore your body has adapted to almost exclusively burning fat as a fuel, which is the whole point of the protocol. Specifically, when you are keto-adapted (fat-burning) your enzyme profile has changed such that you are efficient at burning fat for fuel, but not good (immediately anyway) at burning sugar for fuel. Therefore, if you “cheat” with highly refined carbs, which is what most people who cheat on diets would do, your existing enzyme profile will preferentially shuttle the excess carbohydrate to be stored as fat specifically in the liver. This can act to increase fat infiltrates in the liver and subsequently increase metabolic risk and symptoms of metabolic syndrome. So, it is important to be aware of this risk.
There are also some deficiencies that can occur with a prolonged ketogenic diet. The most common include, but are not limited to: Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, B-Vitamins (especially Folate), Iodine, Iron, Phosphorous, and Zinc. It is important to be aware of this risk and take measures to prevent/reverse these deficiencies.
Low carbohydrate diets have been shown to decrease/trim back gut microflora indiscriminately, which can be beneficial (or not), if someone has a high concentration of obesogenic gut bacteria, and wants to change to non-obesogenic ones, but if the diet persists, the growth of beneficial and desired gut bacteria are inhibited as well. There has been some evidence that this decrease in gut microbiome might lead to decrease longevity and negative health outcomes over time.
Do we need carbohydrates to be healthy
Based on my review of the literature, evolutionary biology seems to suggest that we evolved to consume between 50-150 grams of carbohydrates per day, but in a typical Western Diet (SAD) people consume between 250 – 500 grams of carbohydrates per day, which is comprised of a never present before in history amount of significantly refined and processed carbohydrates. If nothing else, it’s important to lower the amount of refined carbs and focus on real foods (which will naturally lower carbohydrate intake).
Additionally, evolutionary bio also suggests a cyclical ketogenic diet would have been the norm – i.e. we would eat carbs when they were available and there would have been almost none available over the winter months (depending on where we were located geographically). Obviously, our genetic history would affect this (I.e. people descended from more equatorial cultures would consume more carbohydrates on a regular basis).
Lastly, it’s important to realize that a ketogenic diet is a means to an end (I.e. fat loss). Ketosis is the main mechanism that is required for fat loss. Importantly, we can enter ketosis in several different ways, a ketogenic diet is only one of them. Others include, but are not limited to calorie restriction, intermittent fasting and simply a lower carb diet (not necessarily ketogenic).
Therefore, whether or not you should use this diet to move towards your goals, is really up to you. If you’re otherwise healthy and have access to self-quantifying tech, then you could definitely give it a shot, but for most, to whom this tech might be inaccessible or if you have any concerns or questions about it, then you should definitely consult a health professional that is familiar with your case and situation.
I hope you find this information useful.
Feel free to comment below with your experiences, thoughts, concerns, impressions of Ketogenic diets. I look forward to seeing your comments.
Take care and talk to you in the next one.
Koskinski, C and Jornayvaz, FR. (2017). Nutrients. 9. 517.
Paoli, A. (2014). Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 11. 2092-2107.
Iacovides, S and Meiring, RS. (2018). Trials. 19-62.