In the past few years, a few diets have gained growing popularity, especially on social media channels like YouTube and Instagram. Keto is one of these diets. There are thousands of articles and videos from more or less qualified people, some promoting the diet and others being against it. But what exactly is this diet about?
What is the keto diet?
The name keto, or ketogenic, is due to the fact that the main purpose of the diet is to reach a state of ketosis. This happens when your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to turn into energy and your liver uses fat and turns it into ketones that get sent into your bloodstream and your body uses for fuel.
Because your body will use fat rather than sugar for energy, the keto diet is a high-fat and extremely low carbohydrate diet. Initially, the diet was used to treat epilepsy in children, with good results. Lately, this has become a diet for weight-loss.
While there are several low-carb diets around, like the Atkins or the Paleo diets, Keto is even more extreme as it has a very low limit for the carbs you can consume, around 20 to 50 grams per day. Furthermore, the diet is predominantly focused on the consumption of fats. Protein can be eaten in moderate quantities but too much can interfere with the state of ketosis.
The diet has become so popular that there have been many studies on its efficacy in weight loss but results are still mixed.
The idea is that burning fat for energy will lead to losing weight. However, high fat intake can become an issue, especially when it comes to saturated fats.
Are there any risks to the keto diet?
Like many diets, keto doesn’t come without side effects. One, in particular, is the risk of increased LDL cholesterol levels, or what is known as “bad cholesterol”. This is due to the fact that the keto diet allows you to eat high amounts of saturated fats from oils, butter, or lard.
Furthermore, keto can lead to liver issues and even nutrient deficiency given the lack of certain foods like fruits and vegetables which are rich in carbohydrates.
Should you try the keto diet?
Starting a keto diet should be taken seriously and with approval from a doctor. The major restriction in carbohydrates and a high intake of fats can also lead to minor side-effects in the first days of the diet. You may be feeling weak and dizzy or even have flu-like symptoms.
Furthermore, it may take some days for your body to reach a state of ketosis and these are considered to be the hardest days. For your body to fully adapt to this new way of producing energy, it may take from two to six weeks.
Generally, it is advised to follow the diet for a minimum of three months to start seeing results. However, it can be challenging so it’s important to be aware of all the pros and cons.