The ketogenic or “keto” diet has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, with tons of people talking about it on social media and in the health and wellness community. The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that aims to put the body into a state of ketosis. This means burning fat instead of carbohydrates as the primary fuel source. By restricting carbs and increasing fat intake, the body begins to produce ketones, which become the main energy source instead of glucose from carbohydrates (1).
While the keto diet promises weight loss and other health benefits for some people, it also comes with challenges that make it difficult for many people to follow long-term. Let’s talk about some of the pros and cons of this trendy diet.
Pros of the Keto Diet
• Weight loss – Studies show the keto diet can lead to more weight loss compared to low-fat diets, at least in the short term (2). This is likely due to the high fat content making you feel full.
• Improved blood sugar control – Lower carb intake can help stabilize blood sugar levels, which may benefit those with diabetes or prediabetes (3).
• Potential health benefits – Some research suggests the keto diet may help reduce seizures in epileptic children, improve symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, and more (4). However, more studies are needed to help prove this claim.
Cons of the Keto Diet
• Difficult to follow – The keto diet requires strict carb limits, which can be hard to follow long term. It can make living and enjoying life a challenge (i.e. going out to restaurants and trying to follow the diet).
• Nutrient deficiencies – Limiting some food groups may make it hard to meet nutrient needs without supplements (5).
• Unsustainable – The severe carb restriction is difficult for most people to maintain, potentially leading to regaining lost weight (6). Completely removing a macronutrient from the body long term make it pretty challenging to have a balanced life.
• Potential side effects – Some people report symptoms like fatigue, nausea, digestive issues when first starting the keto diet, which should be expected when making such a huge change to your dietary habits (7).
Why is it Popular?
The keto diet has gained popularity due to claims of fast weight loss and other potential health benefits. However, more research is needed to determine its long-term effects. As with any diet, sustainability and proper nutrition are key factors for success.
In summary, the ketogenic or keto diet aims to put the body into a state of ketosis to burn fat instead of carbohydrates. While some research suggests the keto diet may lead to short-term weight loss and improve certain health conditions, more studies are needed. The keto diet can be difficult to follow long-term due to the strict carb limits and potential side effects. As with any weight loss approach, sustainable habits and a nutritious diet are key factors for success. More research is still needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of the keto diet for long-term health. People considering the keto diet should speak with their healthcare provider to determine if it is a suitable option based on their health goals and medical history.
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1. Westman, E. C., Yancy, W. S., Mavropoulos, J. C., Marquart, M., & McDuffie, J. R. (2008). The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutrition & metabolism, 5(1), 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-5-36
2. Bueno, N. B., de Melo, I. S., de Oliveira, S. L., & da Rocha Ataide, T. (2013). Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. The British journal of nutrition, 110(7), 1178–1187. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114513000548
3. Westman, E. C., et al. (2008), as cited above.
4. Paoli, A., Bianco, A., Damiani, E., & Bosco, G. (2014). Ketogenic diet in neuromuscular and neurodegenerative diseases. Biology, 3(2), 453-471.
5. Bueno, N. B., et al. (2013), as cited above.
6. Sacks, F. M., Bray, G. A., Carey, V. J., Smith, S. R., Ryan, D. H., Anton, S. D., … & Williamson, D. A. (2009). Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. New England Journal of Medicine, 360(9), 859-873.
7. Bueno, N. B., et al. (2013), as cited above.