The ketogenic diet, also referred to as the keto diet, is continuing to grow in popularity. Keto diets were initially created as a medical treatment to help regulate seizures in children with epilepsy. They have recently become popular as a means to lose weight. As with all diets, there are advantages and disadvantages that can greatly affect your health when following the keto diet. Understanding how it affects your body and brain is important when deciding whether or not this diet is safe for you.
A keto diet involves eating high amounts of fat and very low amounts of carbohydrates. This drastic change in diet causes your body to go into a metabolic state called “ketosis.” In ketosis, your body reduces your insulin levels, which in turn causes your fat to break down into ketones. When your body is in ketosis it burns ketones for energy instead of carbohydrates. This is due to the low amount of sugar in your body that is available to be used as energy.
After beginning the keto diet, one might experience what is called a “keto flu.” Unlike other diets, this occurs as the body undergoes changes that it may not be used to. Your body is transitioning from a high-carbohydrate diet to a low-carbohydrate diet, meaning that you are going from using sugar as a source of energy to using fat instead. This transition lowers your blood sugar, which in turn can cause an array of symptoms similar to the flu. These symptoms may include headache, fatigue, increased hunger, poor sleep, nausea and decreased physical performance. All of these are due to the lack of nutrients needed by your body.
For some, the keto diet can be effective for weight loss. However, it is important to recognize the negative effects that this diet can have on your body. Everyday Health claims that being on the keto diet puts stress on your kidneys, which can result in kidney stones. The keto diet can also lead to dehydration and loss of electrolytes in your body. Due to the severely low amount of carbohydrates consumed in a day, you can develop a deficiency in nutrients, such as potassium, magnesium and sodium, that your body needs in order to function. Leading a lifestyle based on the keto diet can also lead to high cholesterol due to the increased amounts of fat consumed. Finally, your brain needs to carbohydrates in order to function. When following this diet, you can be restricting your brain from functioning at its highest potential. Sawyer King, a fourth-year history major, is currently on the keto diet. “There are negative aspects to any diet,” said King. “You have to diet safely and correctly, or you will end up doing more harm than good to your body.”
Finally, it is important to recognize that each individual is different and that they should consult their doctor prior to starting a new diet regime. Little research has been done on keto diets for weight loss, as it is quite a new diet. As well, there as been almost no research done on the long-term effects of using this diet for weight loss. Students who may feel like they should contact a doctor can make an appointment at the Wellness Centre. The Wellness Centre can be contacted by emailing [email protected] or calling 506-364-2163.