Ketogenic diet: good or fad?

Health and nutrition

The ketogenic diet is popular at the moment for weight loss, diabetes management and mental health. So in my Facebook group, one of the members asked if the ketogenic diet is a good idea for mental health. The diet has fans and also people who consider it a fad diet. I dove into the science of it and will give you my take on the question: Ketogenic diet: good or fad?

What is keto?

A ketogenic diet is high in fat and extremely low in carbohydrates. The idea is that the body switches from using glucose for energy to using fat. When that happens the liver makes fatty acids into ketones. That is called ketosis. This is different from ketoacidosis, a dangerous state that can happen to people with diabetes!

What does a keto diet look like?

To enter a state of ketosis, you need to eat fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day, for some people as little as 20 grams. It typically contains 70% fat, 20% protein, and only 10% carbs. That means you need to remove:

  • grains
  • legumes (beans, lentils)
  • potatoes
  • fruit
  • anything that contains sugar like fizzy drinks, biscuits, condiments etc.

Positives

You might have noticed that many people lose weight on the ketogenic diet, especially short term. And the diet has also been used with some success on people with certain cancers, and on children with epilepsy. It also seems to reduce symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. People with diabetes often experience impressive reductions in blood sugar levels on a ketogenic diet. This is true of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

My concerns

For many of the above diagnoses there has not been extensive research. And the question is: what kind of diet did they compare the keto diet with? If it was the average UK or US diet, a whole food, lower carbohydrate diet could have given similar results.

And even though you will lose weight on this diet, I don’t recommend it to my clients. Here are some reasons why:

  • Recent research has proved that people do feel better on it but are not able to follow it long-term. Most people try it for a bit and then fall back into their old patterns.
  • I would be very cautious with this diet for those with anxiety issues as it could lead to food fear and eating disorders.
  • If you are able to follow the diet long-term, you risk deficiencies in several nutrients
  • There is so much research on the importance of the microbiome and we know that gut bacteria live off the fibre we eat and can’t absorb. Not eating whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruit and beans will affect the microbiome and make it less diverse. And less diverse means less balanced. And less balanced often means more gut problems!

Choose balance

If you need some help finding out what to eat to feel better and get to the root causes of your symptoms, let’s talk! I will support you in finding a way of eating that is as inclusive as possible and that will bring more balance and health.

Ask me a question or book a call with me here and I can help you to get a clear roadmap out of your gut misery and confusion!

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