The keto diet remains a popular diet to this day. But is the keto diet safe? To answer this question, I would like to review a few basic facts about keto or a ketogenic diet.
(Updated on 1/2/2020)
Keto diet definition
What is the keto diet about? What makes it different from other diets?
The keto diet combines fasting, high fat, and low carbohydrate nutrition.
Nothing about this diet is new. This diet is an old concept wrapped in new packaging. The principles of the keto diet have been known since the 1920s, and several people have popularized it throughout the last century.
You may recall the Atkins diet.
How does the ketogenic (keto) diet work?
Keto diet is all about producing ketones in the body.
The body cells use three sources of energy: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The majority of body cells use sugar to maintain their functions.
Now imagine you reduce your carbohydrate intake and limit the availability of sugar in your body.
The body still needs energy to survive. The next best source of energy, after carbohydrate, is fat. Our fat deposits are there to keep us alive when we hunger—somewhat like our savings or retirement accounts.
What is ketosis?
The breakdown of fat cells produces ketone bodies. This process is commonly known as ketosis.
When you reach the ketosis state, your body cells will use ketones as their energy source until you start eating carbohydrates again.
The difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis
You’ve learned that glucose is the main source of energy for most of the body cells, including brain cells.
During starvation, your body tries to survive by using fat deposits as its source of energy.
Keto dieting mimics starvation. While on this diet, your body produces a large number of ketones, yet the amount produced during the keto dieting is far below the amount seen during ketoacidosis.
Ketoacidosis is similar to ketosis. However, in ketoacidosis the body breaks down the fat at a much higher rate, leading to serious complications due to acidic blood.
Indeed, alcoholism and type 1 diabetes are the most common causes of ketoacidosis.
The keto diet carb limit
To achieve ketosis you need to limit your carbohydrate intake.
But, by how much?
To achieve a level of ketosis in your body, you need to lower your carbohydrate intake to fewer than 50 grams per day.
50 grams might sound like a lot, but remember that one medium-sized apple has 26 grams and one banana has 27 grams of carbs.
A typical ketogenic menu consists of—understandably— a lot of fat. Foods like eggs, cheese, meat, butter, olive oil, nuts, and avocados.
Most fruits and vegetables are rich in carbohydrates. But for people who like eating certain fruits, berries might be a better option.
Most keto diet plans restrict the vegetables to leafy greens such as spinach, cauliflower, asparagus, cucumber, mushrooms, garlic, summer squash, and celery.
Keto diet and weight loss
The keto diet has shown to prompt weight loss, improve blood sugar and blood pressure control.
A ketogenic diet leads to weight loss, explained by the following theories,
- High fat and low carbohydrate diets overproduce Ketone bodies. Ketone bodies on their own could provide a satiating effect and reduce the food craving.
- Converting fat and protein to glucose requires more energy, and this alone could increase energy expenditure.
Is the keto diet safe?
Now, let’s answer the big question, “Is the keto diet safe?”
First, we need to define safe. Could keto dieting kill you?
The probability that somebody could experience an early death from keto dieting is unlikely. At least I’m not aware of these cases.
However, there could be some short and long-term damage to your body because of keto dieting.
Keto diet risks
Keto dieting can result in several significant complications.
- The number and volume of high-quality research concerning the harms of high blood fat level is overwhelming. We know that high-fat diets, especially high animal fat and saturated fat intake, can and will increase the blood cholesterol level.
- Additionally, there is a strong body of data supporting the idea that lowering blood cholesterol levels can save lives. Although the keto diet might help with reducing body weight, it might also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke in the long-term.
- The keto diet emphasizes low carbohydrate intake, therefore maintaining this diet for long might result in nutrient deficiency.
- Not all carbohydrates are bad. For instance, vegetables and fruits contain the majority of your daily vitamins and mineral needs.
- Extreme fat consumption could also interfere with the functions of your liver and kidneys. Both organs aren’t equipped to handle large amounts of fatty food intake. For example, patients on long-term keto diets have a higher risk of having gout, kidney stones, and osteoporosis.
- Constipation is another major side effect of keto dieting. The main reason for that is the scarcity of fibrous foods such as legumes and grains in this diet.
- Because the body requires sugar to function. Extremely low carbohydrates could result in confusion and irritability as well.
Here’s the bottom line,
The question, “Is the keto diet safe?” isn’t an easy question to answer. If you’re simply looking to lose weight, then the keto diet might be a meaningful alternative.
However, we know that losing weight is only a small part of a larger entity we call health. To achieve greater health, you must maintain and control several important functions of your body and mind, and thus weight loss alone can’t satisfy all of those functions.
In my opinion, weight loss strategies must not impair other functions of the body. And unfortunately, most prevalent diet plans do exactly so.
The keto diet follows a very restrictive diet plan and is difficult to maintain. It pushes people to starvation mode. Most of the people who lose weight will probably regain the lost weight.
Having said this, if you like to try this diet you should discuss it with your physician first. Your doctor might want to keep tabs on your blood cholesterol, liver, and kidney functions.
Please comment below and let me know what you think. Have you tried this diet before or are you interested in trying it? What has your experience been? Would you recommend it to others?
Please share this article on social media.