Actually, the Keto Diet has been used ever since the Ancient Greeks and Romans (Hippocrates, Galen), and then by Muslims in Europe (Avicenna) for the treatment of Epilepsy and Diabetes. But it was Dr Russel Wilder (1923), a physician at the Mayo Clinic treating a diabetic patient with a high-fat diet, the first to coin the term “ketogenic diet” (KD) as used in the treatment of epileptic children. He aimed to mimic the metabolic effects of fasting or starvation without starvation in an isocaloric diet which drastically reduces carbs and sugars. The KD replaces carbs with fat as the primary fuel, thus compensating for the obvious disadvantages of a prolonged fast.
So in the most general terms, we call any diet that induces our metabolism to burn fat rather than sugar as the main fuel a ketogenic diet.
Check last Entry: What is the KETO Diet?
Harvard Medical School
Should you try the keto diet?
It’s advertised as a weight-loss wonder, but this eating plan is actually a medical diet that comes with serious risks. And it is not the type of diet to try as an experiment.
“The keto diet is primarily used to help reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures in children. While it has also been tried for weight loss, only short-term results have been studied, and the results have been mixed. We don’t know if it works in the long term, nor whether it’s safe,” warns registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
How does it work?
Getting the liver to make ketone bodies is tricky:
- It requires that you deprive yourself of carbohydrates, fewer than 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day (keep in mind that a medium-sized banana has about 27 grams of carbs).
- It typically takes a few days to reach a state of ketosis.
- Eating too much protein can interfere with ketosis.
What do you eat?
Because the keto diet has such a high-fat requirement, followers must eat fat at each meal. In a daily 2,000-calorie diet, that might look like 165 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbs, and 75 grams of protein. However, the exact ratio depends on your particular needs.
Some healthy unsaturated fats are allowed on the keto diet — like nuts (almonds, walnuts), seeds, avocados, tofu, and olive oil. But saturated fats from oils (palm, coconut), lard, butter, and cocoa butter are encouraged in high amounts.
Protein is part of the keto diet, but it doesn’t typically discriminate between lean protein foods and protein sources high in saturated fat such as beef, pork, and bacon.
What about fruits and vegetables? All fruits are rich in carbs, but you can have certain fruits (usually berries) in small portions. Vegetables (also rich in carbs) are restricted to leafy greens (such as kale, Swiss chard, spinach), cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, bell peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms, cucumber, celery, and summer squashes. A cup of chopped broccoli has about six carbs.
A ketogenic diet has numerous risks:
Top of the list: it’s high in saturated fat. McManus recommends that you keep saturated fats to no more than 7% of your daily calories because of the link to heart disease. And indeed, the keto diet is associated with an increase in “bad” LDL cholesterol, which is also linked to heart disease.
Other potential keto risks include these:
Nutrient deficiency. “If you’re not eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and grains, you may be at risk for deficiencies in micronutrients, including selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins B and C,” McManus says.
Liver problems. With so much fat to metabolize, the diet could make any existing liver conditions worse.
Kidney problems. The kidneys help metabolize protein, and McManus says the keto diet may overload them. (The current recommended intake for protein averages 46 grams per day for women, and 56 grams for men).
Constipation. The keto diet is low in fibrous foods like grains and legumes.
Fuzzy thinking and mood swings. “The brain needs sugar from healthy carbohydrates to function. Low-carb diets may cause confusion and irritability,” McManus says.
Those risks add up — so make sure that you talk to a doctor and a registered dietitian before ever attempting a ketogenic diet.
What about the other diets?
The popular low-carb diets (such as Atkins or Paleo) modify a true keto diet. But they come with the same risks if you overdo it on fats and proteins and lay off the carbs. So why do people follow the diets? “They’re everywhere, and people hear anecdotally that they work,” McManus says. Theories about short-term low-carb diet success include lower appetite because fat burns slower than carbs. “But again, we don’t know about the long term,” she says. “And eating a restrictive diet, no matter what the plan, is difficult to sustain. Once you resume a normal diet, the weight will likely return.”
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