Today, the ketogenic diet has become popular as a weight-loss diet. Even in sports, it has also been gaining prominence due to its supposed advantages. However, many of the benefits that have been associated with the ketogenic diet are nothing more than myths. Throughout this article, we will show what is right in the benefits that have been associated with the ketogenic diet. However, we already anticipate no guidelines based on scientific evidence that supports its long-term efficacy and safety.
What Is The Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is one that provides around 20-50g per day of absorbable carbohydrates. In this way, carbohydrates constitute only 5-10% of the total caloric value. The fats contribute between 65-80% and proteins 20-25%. The foods used are usually oil, some vegetables (especially leafy ones), fish, meat, and eggs. However, this diet excludes healthy foods such as legumes, fruit, nuts, whole grains, and tubers. To give you an idea: a medium potato provides about 30g of carbohydrates. Considering the carbohydrate restriction, the potato is prohibited on the ketogenic diet.
How The Ketogenic Diet Appear
It was first used to treat children with severe epilepsy, as fasting had been shown to act positively in reducing epilepsy episodes. The episodes decreased as blood glucose and insulin levels decreased, and ketone production increased.
What Happens In Our Body When We Follow A Ketogenic Diet
By following a ketogenic diet, blood glucose levels are kept to a minimum, as if we were on a prolonged fast. This causes the pancreas to secrete very little insulin, and the cells of our body have to use fats and proteins as a source of energy. The result of the latter is an increase in the concentration of ketone bodies or ketones.
The first symptoms that can be experienced when this occurs are headaches, dizziness, vomiting, halitosis, general weakness, cramps, and bowel frequency changes. In general, these symptoms can diminish over the days. Usually, with less than 40g per day of carbohydrates, ketone bodies could already be observed in the urine. However, more restrictive advocates advise consuming less than 20g of carbohydrates a day. In this way, the appearance of ketones in the urine is achieved, and their control is recommended by using test strips.
What About Body Weight
Concerning body weight, it tends to decrease progressively. This decrease in weight is due to three reasons:
- Muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) is quickly consumed. This carries away water since they are together in a ratio of approximately 1: 4g. So if we have 300g of muscle glycogen and lose it, we carry an additional 1200g of water.
- Production of ketone bodies or ketones from the liver and the metabolism of fats. These ketone bodies are eliminated by respiration and, primarily, by urine. This also increases fluid loss.
- Protein mobilization as an energy source. For this reason, if a contribution of 1g of protein per kg of weight is not guaranteed, the loss of muscle mass will be accelerated. Even people need a daily intake of 150g of protein to achieve an acceptable nitrogen balance.
What Is The Difference Between Ketosis And Ketoacidosis
Ketosis is the increase in ketone bodies in the blood to a ratio of 3.0mmol / L. The ketoacidosis occurs from 6.0 mmol/L. The risk of ketoacidosis in a healthy person is relatively low. However, in people with diabetes, primarily type 1, it is recommended to go to the emergency room if they present more than 3.0mmol / L because there is a risk of ketoacidosis and coma.
In a healthy person, an excess of ketone bodies activates the production of insulin. This blocks the metabolism of fats and the production of ketone bodies. Then, the elimination of ketones in the urine increases so that the blood pH does not continue to fall. Insulin also activates the neoglycogenesis process in the liver. This process involves the production of glucose from amino acids and fats. Since the body can produce some glucose through other substrates such as protein, increasing the dietary intake of protein can also lead to ketosis. There would be virtually no impact on blood glucose.
What About Micronutrients
Urine excretion of minerals on a ketogenic diet is increased. For this reason, an additional intake of about 3-5g of sodium, 1g of potassium, and 300mg of magnesium are required. Also, other nutrients could be affected. Some are calcium, vitamin D, selenium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus.
Side Effects, Adverse Effects, and Possible Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
Within the ketogenic diet, there are different versions. One is the Atkins diet, with protein-free consumption. There is also a ketogenic diet side with increased medium-chain triglycerides and another with a low glycemic index. The ketogenic diet is also used in cases of children with refractory epilepsy. In the latter case, it is allowed to increase daily carbohydrates up to 60g. This is because an extreme ketogenic diet can also affect growth. It can also cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness, and changes at the intestinal level. In any case, this type of diet requires specific and continuous advice from trained health professionals.
The effects of this type of diet on diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, polycystic ovary syndrome, and even cancer and neurological diseases are still being investigated. This is so because there is decreased insulin resistance and triglycerides when the ketogenic diet is followed. However, it is also correlated with an increase in total cholesterol, especially LDL, which is deposited in the arteries.
Ketogenic Diet And Obesity
About obesity, scientific evidence clarifies that the key is the acquisition of good physical activity habits and a balanced diet. The ketogenic diet is not related to this primary goal. Also, as we have already mentioned, it can produce several adverse effects. To this must be added that being so restrictive, it is difficult to comply with, and the long-term weight loss is not higher than that achieved with a hypocaloric diet. In other words, in the long term, it has no safety or proven efficacy.
But Does It Help You Lose Fat
The key to reducing body fat is not in such restrictive diets. The important thing to lose body fat is: promote the consumption of plant-based foods such as legumes, tubers, nuts, etc., and reduce the consumption of ultra-processed foods rich in sugars, salt, and low-quality fats. Learning to plan healthy menus and use the right servings is also vital. In this way, the correct caloric deficit will be achieved to lead to the desired decrease in body fat. The personalization of the diet and the change in eating habits and physical activity are essential.
What Situations Is The Ketogenic Diet Contraindicated
The ketogenic diet is potentially contraindicated in people with APO-E4 gene alterations, people with arrhythmias, osteoporosis, kidney problems, high cortisol, chronic constipation, or intestinal problems microbiota. It is also not recommended in people with diabetes who cannot get continuous glycemic control, among other pathologies.
Also Read: How To Use And Choose Body Oil