There has been a LOT of talk about the ketogenic (or keto) diet these days. Originally, the diet was used therapeutically to treat diabetes and epilepsy in the early 1900’s. In a nutshell, the concept is that you eat such a low-carbohydrate diet (deprive your body of glucose) for enough time (at least 4-5 days), the body will start using fat as its primary source of energy and fuel. You can tell if you are in ketosis by ketone bodies being present in a simple urine test that can be done at home. I have had several friends and clients get into ketosis and did experience significant weight loss. However, I have several concerns about using ketosis as a weight loss tool…
First, I am married to a type 1 diabetic and ketosis was never considered a good thing. Type 1 diabetics can experience a phenomenon called ketoacidosis, a dangerous and toxic level of acid in the blood which happens because type 1 diabetics do not produce any of the hormone insulin at all. Ketoacidosis can cause significant kidney and liver damage, and can be life threatening. The ketogenic diet claims to avoid putting the body into ketoacidosis if followed diligently because some carbohydrates are consumed, just not very many (approximately a maximum of 20-50 grams of net carbs per day). The fact that there is the potential health-risk already sends up a red light for me.
Second, we don’t have enough research about the long-term effects. We already know that some potential long-term side effects of staying in ketosis for a prolonged period increase the risk of kidney stones, osteoporosis, nutrient deficiencies, and increased uric acid levels. Other downsides include the “keto flu” symptoms one experiences when attempting to enter a state of ketosis. Symptoms range from headaches to constipation, but these do subside after a period.
I personally believe that the ketogenic dieth as significant therapeutic benefits for certain diseases, but it seems high-risk as a weight loss tool given how many other healthy weight loss options are out there. However, if a person is obese and needs to loose weight and has not been successful with other less extreme plans, this can be a good tool to get one into a healthier state. My biggest question is: how do you then keep the weight off? Some recommendations include going in and out of a state of ketosis. I don’t have any experience with this, and it seems like it could be difficult to easily incorporate into every day life.
What are you thoughts on keto? Have you experienced a state of ketosis? How did it feel? I would love to hear from you!