Donegal Nutritionist Sorcha McElchar from Sorchas Healthy Living looks at the pros and cons of one of the most talked about diet trends – Keto.
The Keto diet seems to be the latest diet trend, but why? It’s basically a very low carbohydrate diet. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the HSE recommend getting 45-60% of your overall daily calories from carbs. The Keto diet tells you to get less than 10% of your calories from carbs…that’s a dramatic drop! It cuts out all grains (so no bread, pasta, rice, cereals, porridge, pizza, cakes, biscuits etc). Root vegetables (bye bye potatoes!). Most fruits except berries, lemons, and limes. Certain nuts & seeds. All beans, peas, and lentils. Most beverages even diet soft drinks. Sugar, honey, maple syrup….I mean it’s a very long list of nos.
The Keto diet was originally developed in the 1920s to treat refractory epilepsy in children and it was quite successful. It’s still used today when other treatments aren’t effective. Now it’s mainly used as a weightless diet.
The Keto diet works by putting your body in a permanent state of Ketosis. Ketosis is when your body starts burning fat for fuel instead of carbs. Carbs are your body’s preferred source of fuel, so it takes about 3-4 days for it to adapt to Ketosis. During that time, you probably won’t feel so good. This is referred to as ‘Keto flu’ and it’s a real thing. Imagine you haven’t eaten in days. You’ll feel tired, irritable, dizzy. You may get headaches and a lot of people suffer from gastro issues. You’ll crave carbs too!
Health Claims Associated with Keto – True/False?
Claim 1: It causes weight loss. This is true to a certain extent. Due to the diet being so restrictive you likely will lose weight and fast, but it will be mostly water weight. Keto is not sustainable so once you start eating carbs again, even if you introduce them slowly and stick to healthier options like wholegrains, you will likely still gain back the weight you lost.
Claim 2: It can help treat Type 2 Diabetes. If you’re a type 2 Diabetic and you are NOT on insulin a low carb diet probably would help reduce your blood glucose levels. However, I don’t feel you have to be as strict as Keto. Stick to high fibre options like wholegrain bread, pasta & rice, porridge oats, beans, buts, seeds and starchy veg like potatoes.
Claim 3: It makes you live longer. Not actually true. A large study published in The Lancet in 2018 was carried out on 15,428 adults aged 45-64 in 4 US communities. This study looked at 3 groups. One group was on a very high carbohydrate diet, the second was on a medium carbohydrate diet (50-55% calories from carbs) and the third was on a very low carb diet (basically Keto. The group on the medium carb diet lived the longest. This study was carried out in different communities around the world to find the same results.
Some Health Risks Associated With The Keto Diet
- Low blood pressure
- Increased risk of developing kidney stones
- Serious nutrient deficiencies
- Increased risk of developing heart disease
- A less common, but life-threatening risk is developing ketoacidosis, when excess ketones turn your blood acidic. This is usually only seen in people with uncontrolled Diabetes, but can also occur due to alcoholism, overactive thyroid, or starvation. With such a restrictive diet it can be difficult to get enough calories to prevent your body going into starvation mode. That is why it’s so important to seek professional help when cutting back on calories for safe weight loss.
- Due to the Keto diet being so low in fibre it has adverse effects on your Gut health. Studies have shown the Keto diet has a negative effect to the Gut biodiversity. Remember, a healthy Gut = a healthy brain.
I recommend staying away from Keto unless for medical reasons. A healthy balanced diet full of healthy carbs, fats and proteins is a safer, more sustainable way to lose weight, with no restrictions!
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