What is the Keto Diet Plan?
Have you heard of keto? It’d be hard to miss at least hearing of the ketogenic diet, which has recently swept the dietary world. This high-fat, low-carb way of eating is undoubtedly one of the most popular trends in the diet scene. But what is the keto diet plan, who can it benefit, and what are the potential downfalls to be aware of?
If the basic premise of eating a high fat and low carbohydrate diet sounds familiar, that’s because it’s no new concept. In fact, the keto diet is the current rendition of the basic concept that Atkins and the South Beach diet also promoted.
When adhering to a keto diet, less than 50 grams of carbs are consumed daily. The standard macronutrient ratio of keto is 75% fat, 20% protein, and only 5% of calories from carbs.
By cutting out foods like white bread, pasta, starchy vegetables, grains, and even fruit, glucose, the body’s preferred source of blood sugar and fuel, is removed. Instead, it has to turn to alternative fuel sources: namely fat and protein. By putting your body into this state (known as ketosis, which occurs in the absence of dietary carbohydrates) weight loss can occur.
Pros and Cons of Keto
Keto has been heralded as a quick way to lose weight. This is because most people will have a caloric deficit when they cut carbs from their diet. Any time we take in less calories than we’re burning, weight loss will occur.
There are many health risks associated with being overweight and obese, and losing weight reduces the risk of many chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and more. For those who are obese or struggling to lose weight, keto can certainly create rapid fat and weight loss. And by removing carbs, the body’s insulin levels and blood sugar can both dramatically drop as well.
Furthermore, because of the calorically dense nature of fatty foods, you’ll likely find yourself eating less and getting full faster, compared to other diets that can leave you eating very calorically empty foods.
Another potential perk of keto is that it doesn’t require fastidious tracking or logging of food or calories. Studies have found that following a keto diet can be more effective than diets that require strict tracking, which many find unsustainable or even triggering of obsessive or disordered eating.
A well-known, documented benefit to the keto diet is its effectiveness in treating epilepsy. The diet actually originated as a tool for neurological conditions, and for reasons that are still be fully understood, it seems that the high content is especially effective in reducing seizures, particularly in children.
Lastly, though research is still scarce, anecdotal evidence suggests improvements to skin health, and feelings of fullness or satiety (which makes sense, since it’s a high fat diet and fat contains more calories per gram than carbs or protein). Some studies have suggested it can initially even improve heart health and lower blood pressure, or slow the rate of cancer cell growth.
It’s critical to note though, since the popularity of keto is recent, research on the long-term health implications in humans is still extremely scarce, so any health claims should be viewed with skepticism until further research is done
On the other hand, one very well documented and researched link is that between high consumption of fat and negative health implications, specifically to heart health. With heart disease a leading killer of humans worldwide, specifically in developed countries, one should approach keto diet with great caution for this reason.
The World Health Organization recently classified all processed meats (hot dogs, deli meat, and other common sources of animal protein), as carcinogens in the same class of cigarettes, due to their strong correlation to increased risk of cancers. Large scale studies have found that across the board, high-fat, low-carb diets resulted in greater mortality and shorter lifespans, contrasted to those who followed a diet high in healthy carbs and lowering fat.
The American Heart Association warns against consuming more than 13 grams per day. However, with foods like bacon, cheese, meat, and eggs featured so heavily in the keto diet, this number is easily surpassed.
Despite catchy headlines and attention-grabbing news that bacon and butter are now health foods, thanks to the keto craze, the facts remain in line with long-standing recommendations from the medical community to go easy on fat. While initial weight loss can certain occur with a keto diet, the research warns us that high fat diets greatly increase the risk of coronary heart disease and mortality in general.
What to Expect
For most following a keto diet, weight loss is the first and most noticeable effect. Though different for everyone, you can expect to see the scale move relatively quickly once adopting the keto lifestyle.
However, other unpleasant and unhealthy side effects also often accompany the diet. Because of the high fat content of the diet, certain odors, digestive issues, and even “flu like” symptoms are associated with the diet. Long term damage to gut health has also be observed, as well as raised cholesterol. The diet can be particularly dangerous to those with certain conditions like kidney disease, though anyone considering it should take into consideration their health history and individual conditions.
Another pitfall to be wary of: since so many health foods like fruits and veggies are cut from the keto diet, you can also be left with vitamin and mineral deficiencies if you eat this way long term.
Health concerns aside, a common takeaway is that keto is unsustainable and overly restrictive for many. Though it can be exciting to see initial weight loss, and to get “permission” to enjoy heavy whipping cream, bacon, and cheese, many find it challenging to face the idea of never again enjoying a piece of cake, a sandwich, or a glass of wine or beer.
Most experts and medical professionals recommend that keto never be treated as a long-term strategy for overall health. While you may lose weight initially, it could be at the detriment of your overall health, so a more balanced approach is a far safer approach. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare professional to make sure the keto diet is right for you.
- Everyday Health (What Are the Possible Short-Term Effects of the Keto Diet?)
- Harvard Health Publishing (Different Dietary Fat, Different Risk of Mortality)
- Harvard Health Publishing (Harvard Researchers Renew Warnings About Saturated Fat and Heart Disease)
- WebMD (What's a Ketogenic Diet?)
- American Heart Association (The Skinny on Fats)