Is A Ketogenic Diet Healthy?

By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: June 17, 2018
Is A Ketogenic Diet Healthy?

The Ketogenic diet, also known as keto, has been around for almost 100 years, but it has gained immense popularity over the last while. Nutritionists and dieters are trying to study the different aspects of this diet plan, and find out is a ketogenic diet healthy or not. Actually, keto is a high fat, low carb diet designed to change the way your body produces energy. oneHOWTO will try to give you sufficient details about the diet plan, its risks and benefits, and whether or not it is completely safe for you.

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What Ketogenic Diet Is?

The ketogenic diet is a kind of eating plan which eliminates or minimizes consumption of carbohydrates and consists of as much as 80% fat. Typically, during the digestion process, our body breaks down carbohydrates to form molecules of galactose, glucose and fructose. Glucose is the major source of energy to keep the body going. When our body is deprived of carbohydrates, it starts using fat to derive energy. In other words, keto puts your body into a state of ketosis, in which cells release fat, turn it into ketones and give the much needed energy to your body for survival.

What you can and can't eat

A ketogenic diet is high in fat, moderate in protein and extremely low in carbohydrate intake. You can eat loads of fatty fish, eggs, poultry and red meat. Other foods you can eat while on the ketogenic diet include cream, cheese, butter, yoghurt, avocados, nuts, coconut oil, olive oil and others. Make sure that the vegetables that you eat have low carbohydrate content, such as peppers, onions, tomatoes, greens, etc. While on a ketogenic diet, you need to eliminate all kinds of carbohydrates from your food, including sweets, bread, grains and pasta. Saying goodbye to some fruits, vegetables and legumes is also recommended. Since most alcoholic drinks will affect your ketosis process, you will need to stay away from them as well.

Benefits of ketogenic diet

Weight loss is one of the benefits for which most people adopt a ketogenic diet. At the initial level, you lose weight because of water loss. When you reduce carbs in your body, you start using carbs stored inside the liver that holds onto water. The diet further helps in losing weight, as it encourages you to eat more whole foods and healthy fats. By reducing carbs, you also cut your blood sugar levels, due to which you receive a steady supply of energy all through the day.

In addition to weight loss, a ketogenic diet is also helpful for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Diabetics are often recommended to reduce their carbohydrate intake, as carbs turn into sugar and boost sugar levels. By increasing their fat intake, diabetic patients can have successful reduction in blood sugar levels.

Keto diet is also known to have neurological benefits. It is used to stabilize mood in people with bipolar type 2 disorder. It is also beneficial for patients with epilepsy, as consumption of more fat is known to reduce the frequency of seizures in many patients. For this reason it is often prescribed by doctors. Recent research also suggests it might be possible to help with inflammation in the brain[1].

Some cancer patients are also recommended to be on keto diet while on chemotherapy. This is proven to shrink tumors and feel better, thanks to the aforementioned anti-inflammatory properties.

Negative effects of the keto diet

While ketogenic diet is known to bring many health benefits to people, it comes with its side effects too. First of all, it is a hard diet plan to follow, because most people’s body is not used to the switched source of energy. Reducing carbohydrate consumption can make you feel hungrier than before and it can be a very uncomfortable situation during the first few days of starting the diet. It is common for people to experience flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and headache. Some people also experience nausea, brain fog and bad smelling sweat, urine and breath.

Since electrolyte levels drop drastically, you may also end up feeling grumpy and depressed. Although most of these symptoms subside within three weeks of starting the diet plan, other possible risks include gastrointestinal distress, reduced bone mineral density, kidney stones and mineral and vitamin deficiency. Since increased consumption of bad fats can lead to heart disease and bad cholesterol levels, following a keto diet is not recommended for long term.

How long to be on a keto diet

According to experts, a ketonic diet works only for the short term and may prove to be unhealthy if used for long term. Initially, your body loses water weight and once it starts the ketosis process, it starts losing muscle. As a result, you feel extremely fatigued and finally enter into the starvation mode. When this happens, it becomes even more difficult to lose weight.

You should follow a keto diet plan only under the supervision of your physician and then too only for short periods. Over long time, it can cause significant damage to the heart, since it is also a muscle. Although diabetics can benefit from it as a low carb diet can improve their insulin sensitivity, it may not necessarily be able to work long term. A ketogenic diet is prescribed by a doctor for a particular medical purpose. When used as a fad diet or as a natural remedy for weight loss it comes with risks which may not be beneficial to the individual. A doctor will also be able to tell if you have any other health conditions which make a keto diet plan unwise. For example, a ketonic diet can do more harm than good if you are already suffering from liver or kidney issues.

Experts suggest that a person can be on ketonic diet for around three months. Some people have even done well while following this diet for as long as one year. Some studies suggest there may still be benefits for longer term keto diet in patients with obesity[2], but more research needs to be carried out. This is because human biological system is not purely ketogenic, and it needs carbohydrates too to carry out different healthy functions.

Is a ketogenic diet for you?

Considering the risks involved, people with kidney damage, heart disease, pregnant women and breast feeding mothers should not try the ketogenic diet at all. Diabetics should follow the diet with care under medical supervision, as it may lower their blood sugar to healthy levels. You should also avoid if you have your gall bladder removed, as this diet is very high in fat and may not be healthy for your system.

If you want to try the diet for weight loss purposes, then keep in mind that it will completely alter the way you eat your food and is not a particularly easy diet to follow. However, if you have strong will power or if it is going to help you fight your disease, then it may be worth trying for a limited period of time. To be safe, make sure to talk to your doctor before you bring drastic changes to your food habits.

How to ensure you safely follow the keto diet

While following the keto diet, you can minimize the side effects in the following ways:

  • Drinking lots of water to replenish fluids.
  • Replenishing loss of sodium by increasing salt intake.
  • Eatng foods high in potassium and magnesium to relieve symptoms such as leg cramps.
  • Increase moderate physical activity to burn more fat and improve side effects of keto diet.
  • Do some meditation to improve your sleep and reduce stress levels.
  • Fiber is needed for your digestive health and keeping diarrhea, constipation and other such symptoms under control. So, increase your fiber intake while on ketogenic diet.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Is A Ketogenic Diet Healthy?, we recommend you visit our Healthy living category.


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