March 15, 2019

The Ketogenic Diet, is it Healthy?

With the rising popularity of social media nutrition gurus, certain nutrition trends have started to gain a lot more attraction. Although social media may appear to raise awareness for new and healthy diet types, it often creates a lot of confusion! While I’ll never be able to discuss each and every new trend in eating, I hope to help clear up some of this confusion. Which brings me to my first nutrition trend: the Ketogenic Diet.

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic diet may be the most popular diet trend as of recent. It is an extremely low carbohydrate, moderate protein, and high fat diet. When accurately following the diet, the breakdown of your macronutrients should be about 70-80% of calories from fats, 10-15% of calories from protein, and only 5-10% of calories from carbohydrates. Following this macronutrient breakdown will eventually put your body into a state of ketosis, which is the goal of the diet.

This state of ketosis allows your body to burn stored fat for energy instead of burning glucose (the body’s most natural fuel source). To reach ketosis, you must follow the high fat, moderate protein, extremely low carbohydrate plan for at least 3 days. During this time, your body slowly depletes the leftover glucose that was created from carbohydrate consumption. Once the glucose supply is depleted, your body will begin to break down stored fat for energy. This creates a byproduct known as a ketone, which is where the name “ketogenic” comes from.

Ketogenic Diet - eggs

Why Would Someone Follow the Ketogenic Diet?

From a medical perspective, the ketogenic diet was originally created to treat epilepsy. Doctors prescribed the ketogenic diet to children with epilepsy that were not responding to typical pharmaceutical treatments. The ketogenic diet has been shown to reduce, and in some cases, eliminate seizures.

For diet culture, the ketogenic diet has become so popular for two main reasons. It is easy to follow, and it produces weight loss results. When following a high fat diet, people feel more satisfied with their meals. They tend not to over-consume calories. When followed accurately, the body will begin to burn stored fat, which ultimately leads to weight loss.

Why Should the Ketogenic Diet be Avoided?

This is an extremely restrictive diet plan. It eliminates entire food groups such as grains, potatoes, corn, starchy vegetables, and fruits. Removing entire food groups can eventually lead to nutrient deficiencies. The lack of fiber from these foods will also lead to digestive issues, such as constipation. In addition to issues associated with nutrient deficiencies, there are some other unpleasant short-term symptoms. These include fatigue, mood changes and irritability, headaches, and mental sluggishness. Long term studies of epileptic children following the ketogenic diet have shown stunted growth, increased risk of kidney stones and fractures, increased cholesterol levels, and constipation. No long-term studies associated with using the ketogenic diet for weight loss have been performed.

Ketogenic Diet - olive bar

Dietitian’s Recommendation

If you are planning to follow the ketogenic diet, please consult with your physician and a Registered Dietitian. They can help build a plan that will follow your specific needs. One point I like to make with those following the ketogenic diet is that it takes a minimum of 3 days for the body to go into ketosis, but only 1 meal to fall back out. Taking aspects of the  diet to help improve satiety in meals might be a better fit for your lifestyle instead of striving to be “perfect” with the ketogenic diet.

Do you have more diet-related questions? Whether your goal is for weight management, athletic performance, or medical condition management, our nutrition program can provide you with the answers and tools you need to sustain a meal plan that fits your personal lifestyle.