If you’re trying to trim the excess body weight, probably you’ve already heard about the ketogenic diet, also known as keto. It is the latest weight loss trend in town, and everyone, even the Kardashians, are talking about it.
But what, precisely, is a Ketogenic diet?
Starvation of carbohydrate is at the heart of the keto concept.
You can trace the emergence of fasting as a therapeutic measure back to the Biblical time: Just think of Raphael’s “Transfiguration of Christ”, based on a quotation from the King James Version of the Bible, “this kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
Even earlier, in the fifth century BC, Hippocrates documented prescription of complete abstinence from food and drink on a man who had been seized by epileptic convulsions.
In the early twentieth century, this historically gained knowledge was put into scientific testing.
“When one wanted to turn a clouded mentality to a clear one it could almost always be done with fasting.”
That’s Dr Henry Rawle Geyelin, ninety years ago, at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association. Dr Geyelin researched extensively on therapeutic fasting in the treatment of epileptic seizures.
Today’s spotlight to Ketogenic diet, however, is more directly connected to a Dateline programme aired on NBC-TV in late 1994. The programme was based on the true story of a toddler named Charlie with intractable myoclonic, generalized tonic, and tonic-clonic seizures.
Surprisingly, the diet that was developed as a cure for epileptic seizures is being today heralded as the latest magic weight-loss programme.
Most dietary programmes focus on calories, but on the keto diet, specific caloric intake isn’t the focus. The concept is to encourage the body to enter a fat burning state by lowering carbohydrate intake. It, basically, is a very low-carb diet that invigorates the body to burn more fat as fuel instead of glucose.
Normally, the human body derives glucose from the carbohydrate for energy.  When glucose is not available, a procedure called ketosis takes place. In this state, the body depends on fats instead of carbohydrate as its primary source of energy.
A ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet given it recommends around thirty grams or bellow carbohydrate intake for a day.
And because of the scarcity of carbohydrate, the liver breaks down fat to maintain the energy supply of the body and produces a molecule called ‘ketones’ in your bloodstream. We all have ketones in our blood, but the Ketogenic diet targets a large scale production of ‘ketones’.
So what can you eat on the keto diet?
Usually, a diet plan restricts the amount of food intake, but Keto is designed as an intense weight-loss diet.
Therefore, with keto, the types of food are as important as the quantity. The standard Ketogenic diet principle is to enable the body to collect its energy requirement from 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent carbohydrate.
A few food items that can be eaten in a ketogenic diet include fish, other seafood, meat, leafy greens above ground vegetables, high-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, avocado, berries, eggs, poultry and so on.
Since the core aspect of the keto diet is to reduce carbs to 30 grams or fewer and increase fat, there are some food items that are completely prohibited on a Ketogenic diet. A few of these include below the ground vegetables such as potatoes or carrots, grains (including bread and pasta), banana, apple, yam, and anything with added sugar.
Here is a sample meal plan:
Breakfast
2-3 eggs cooked in butter.
Half a bowl of leafy vegetable cooked in vegetable oil.
1 cup of coffee or tea.
Morning snacks
30 grams nuts such as macadamia.
50 grams raspberries or blueberries.
Lunch
Fish or seafood with salad.
Afternoon snacks
Avocado and cheese.
Dinner
Steak cooked in butter.
Broccoli and salad.
Dessert
30g Dark chocolate.
If you’re still reading, at this point you may ask what are the benefits of such an intense diet? Can a low-carb, high-fat diet really help you lose weight and improve health at the same time?
While taking our regular dietary habit into consideration, giving up carbohydrate may sound like an almost impossible feat, there are two notable benefits that speak in favour of the ketogenic diet.
First, it’s quick and reliable. If you’re an obese person and searching for a way to lose weight quickly within a short time this, accompanied by an appropriate expert guideline, might be a well-suited option.
Second, health conditions such as high blood pressure are primarily connected to the level of insulin produced by the body and consumption of high carb foods increases the insulin levels. This is a well-known fact. Because of the low carbohydrate intake, the ketogenic diet helps to keep a low insulin level which also means a lowering effect on high blood pressure.
Furthermore, it reduces triglyceride levels and raises HDL cholesterol level. These are essential signs of good heart health. In addition, the decreased demand for insulin is beneficial to people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, like most other intense dietary regimes, the ketogenic lifestyle as well has its flaws. No after-work drinks, at least, for sure.
Side effects, at the beginning, of the ketogenic lifestyle can include light nausea, dizziness, loss of mental clarity and focus.
Our body is not designed to use fat as its primary source of energy and various nutrition intake – which the ketogenic diet restricts – have its functions to maintain a healthy body. It is, therefore, obvious that cutting food groups for a prolonged term can put the body at risk of nutrient deficiencies.
For this reason, the ketogenic diet is not recommended for a long-term subscription. Side effects of a long term ketogenic diet can cause problems such as muscle loss or acidosis or even kidney damage.
What, then, is the best way forward?
It must not be forgotten that the Ketogenic diet plan brings a huge change to the body – levels of electrolytes, potassium, sodium and magnesium. Even when you’re doing it for a positive reason, at least, for the first few weeks, close supervision is really important.
People with health conditions, who are pregnant, on medication, and the elderly should be very cautious before starting such an intense diet plan.
Consulting with a doctor is always a sensible beginning of any diet plan.