The Ketogenic Diet… This is another diet to add to the 2017 (and most likely 2018) trend list. In short, the Ketogenic diet is another low carbohydrate, high fat diet. This diet is typically based on 5% of your energy intake coming from carbs, 15% from protein and 80% from fats.
Glucose is required to fuel the central nervous system, however when the body is starved of glucose an alternative source is required. Ketone bodies are derived from an over-production of Acetyl-CoA in the matrix of the liver through a process known as ketogenesis (‘the creation of ketones’). Ketones are used in replacement of glucose to prevent the breakdown of muscle for fuel.
The ketogenic diet has had a lot of coverage for it’s role in weight loss. However, like most things it’s not quite as simple as ‘eat low carb, high fat, lose weight’. So before you start removing all carbs from your sweet, happy life. Let’s answer some of the most common questions associated with the keto diet.
WILL IT WORK WONDERS ON MY WAISTLINE?
The evidence suggests that the keto diet is effective for weight loss over a short period of time and has shown increases in both HDL (the good) and LDL (the bad) cholesterol. However, over a two-year period individuals quickly gain the weight back and there is no difference between the keto diet and low-fat diets. This could be due to the restrictive nature of the diet and difficulty with compliance. The study found that even those on the keto diet were consuming more carbohydrates than ‘allowed’ by the end of the study. Therefore overall the keto diet is not effective for long term weight loss.
AM I GOING TO MISS OUT ON MICRONUTRIENTS?
As the keto diet is so restrictive in food groups there is an increased risk of micronutrient deficiencies. The diet focuses mainly on macronutrients and micros are often forgotten about, however they are essential in every physiological process in the body. The risk of vitamin B deficiency is greater as B-vitamins are prevalent in many carbohydrate sources such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. B-vitamins are essential for energy metabolism and the absorption of other micronutrients.
WILL I GO MAD WITH MOOD SWINGS?
Some evidence suggests that the ketogenic diet can induce mood problems due to a lack of carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates stimulate the production of serotonin (the happy hormone) in the brain therefore for some individuals eating a very low carbohydrate diet may contribute to low mood. However, this will affect everyone in different ways.
GOOD FOR GUT HEALTH?
As the keto diet is low in carbohydrates and high in medium chain triglycerides there is a reduction in fibre intake and consequent reduction in fermentation of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) produced as a by-product of dietary fibre metabolism. These SCFA play a key role in feeding the gut microbiome. As a result there is an increased risk of adverse effects on gut health however, much more research is required in this area.
SO WHO DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK FOR?
So you might be confused so far. The keto diet appears restrictive and not beneficial to short-term weight loss, it could make you a moody Mary and doesn’t appear to have beneficial effects on gut health. However, there are times when the keto diet is beneficial. For example research has shown that the keto diet can be beneficial in the management of type 2 diabetes (due to its control of HbA1C) and epilepsy (as it helps to stabilize synapses and consequently reduce seizure risk). Although these are extreme cases and you should consult a dietitian before undertaking the keto diet for these conditions.
Overall, the ketogenic diet is not recommended for long term weight loss, nutrient sufficiency, mood or gut health. The diet appears to have gained so much traction due to its effects on short-term weight loss. People like to rave about their fast results but it’s funny how we never hear about it when the weight piles back on.
Should you have any specific requirements please see a health care professional for more specific advice.
Bueno, N. B., de Melo, I. S. V., 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. British Journal of Nutrition, 110(7), 1178-1187.
Lambrechts, D. A. J. E., Bovens, M. J. M., la Parra, N. M., Hendriksen, J. G. M., Aldenkamp, A. P., & Majoie, M. J. M. (2013). Ketogenic diet effects on cognition, mood, and psychosocial adjustment in children. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, 127(2), 103-108.
Wurtman, R. J. (2011). Non-nutritional uses of nutrients. European journal of pharmacology, 668, S10-S15.