Are you considering Ketogenic diet? A medical practitioner Dr. Rotimi Adesnya has explained the advantages and side effects of the famous keto diet.
While responding to the question a reader asked and published in The Punch, the medical practitioner broke down the ketogenic process, the benefits of the diet regimen and the precautions that must be taken by anyone willing to venture into the lifestyle. see excerpt below.
What Is A Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein and low-carbohydrate diet that is used in medicine primarily to treat difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Normally, the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose and then transported around the body. Glucose is particularly important in fuelling brain function.
However, if little carbohydrate remains in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as a source of energy.
An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood, a state known as ketosis, leads to a reduction in the frequency of epileptic seizures, but many people have adopted the extreme diet for a quick weight loss.
Ketones replace carbohydrates as the body’s main source of energy, which means that they run almost entirely on stored fat. They are also produced when the total calorie intake is low. When you run short of stored energy, your body will burn stored fat instead and the result will be weight loss. This process is referred to as being in the ‘state of ketosis’. This state is also achieved during fasting.
The classical ketogenic diet has a ratio of four grammes of fat to one gramme of combined carbohydrates and protein. So, basically, it is 85-90 per cent fat, which isn’t a palatable or exciting diet, as you can imagine, due to the massive restriction in the types and quantities of foods that contain carbohydrates, including loaves of bread and cereals, fruits, some vegetables and dairy products. The individual needs to be under the supervision of a doctor and dietitian and be monitored for side effects, particularly if he is on medication.”
Components of the keto diet
The keto diet limits carbohydrates to just 20-50g a day. A single slice of bread typically has 15g of carbohydrates. So you can imagine how restrictive this form of eating can be. An example of components of Keto diets are:
- Proteins: beef, lamb, poultry, pork, fish and seafood, eggs and tofu (if you are vegetarian).
- Above-ground vegetables: spinach, rocket, kale, broccoli, mushrooms, celery and cabbage.
- Fats: coconut oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, oil-based salad dressings and macadamia oil.
- High-fat dairy: cheese, high-fat cream and butter.
- Nuts and seeds: macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, flax seeds and nut butter.
- Certain fruits: avocados, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, lemons and limes.
- Sweeteners: low-carb sweeteners.
- Drinks: almond milk, coffee, tea, water and sparkling mineral water.
- Herbs and spices: salt, pepper, coriander, rosemary, basil and garlic powder.
Side effects of keto diet
The most common side effect of the diet is constipation due to the cutting out vital sources of fibre in the diet. Lack of fibre can also increase the risk of bowel cancer and heart disease in the long term. This can be prevented by drinking lots of water, eating plenty of the high-fibre ‘allowed’ vegetables and taking a fibre supplement.
Other possible side effects of long-term adherence to the diet include: raised cholesterol levels, renal stones, poor growth (in children) and reductions in bone density, altered immune function, altered liver function, nutrient deficiencies.
Benefits of keto diets
While little research has been done specifically around the diet’s long-term effects, some studies suggest there are health benefits in following such a strict low-carbohydrate diet, such as its ability to improve Type 2 Diabetes and shrink some forms of brain cancer.
This diet is used in medical nutrition therapy as a short-term test diet for specific medical conditions, such as epilepsy and should only be used medically under the supervision of experts.
While the ketogenic diet may be an appropriate short-term solution under strict supervision for some and will result in weight loss, it could lead to serious health complications over time. If you are looking for a sustainable weight-loss solution, visiting your doctor should be your first port of call. He will measure your blood pressure, blood lipids and blood glucose, and potentially look at kidney function and liver function.
The doctor will also refer you to a dietitian.” The doctor and dietitian will then assess the current state of health, weigh up the positives and negatives of different weight-loss regimes and recommend the appropriate one.
Contraindications to keto diet
There are controversies and myths about a keto diet, but for most people, it appears to be safe. There are, however, groups of people that often require special consideration. They include those that take medication for diabetes, e.g. insulin, those that take medication for high blood pressure and those that are breastfeeding.