Keto diet – benefits and risks
A keto diet or a ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet. The ketogenic diet focuses on fats, which supply up to 90% of daily calories. The typical keto diet consists of at least 70 percent of the calories derived from fat, less than 10 percent of carbohydrates, and less than 20 percent of protein.
What is ketosis?
In simple terms, ketosis is a state of metabolism whereby the body relies primarily on fat as a source of energy.
In our modern high-carb diet, our primary source of energy is glucose. When glucose is available, the body first targets it as it metabolizes the fastest. That is, if you eat like an average person, your metabolism will burn mostly carbohydrates (glucose) for energy.
When you are in a state of ketosis, things are different – the body relies predominantly on ketones rather than glucose. To understand how this process works, we need to be aware that some organs in the human body (especially the brain) require a certain amount of glucose to function. If our brain does not have glucose, we will not be alive.
But this does not necessarily mean that you need to get glucose through your diet. In essence, the body can get the right amount of glucose, even during prolonged fasting or periods with minimal carbohydrate intake.
There are two ways this can happen:
The first is through the breakdown of muscle protein, which is used as fuel for the brain and liver. This is certainly not the ideal option because muscle mass is a metabolically active tissue that you do not want to lose.
Fortunately, there is a second way to synthesize glucose: ketone bodies.
How does it work and what are ketones?
Ketone bodies are water-soluble molecules produced in the liver by fatty acids. These cover part of the needs of the brain and other major glucose organs (not to break down too much muscle protein).
The idea behind a keto diet is to force your body to use different types of fuel. Instead of relying on sugar (glucose), which comes from carbohydrates (such as cereals, legumes, vegetables, and fruits), the keto diet relies on ketone bodies, the kind of fuel that the liver produces from stored fat.
This reduction in carbohydrates puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis or ketosis.
In the ketogenic state, the body uses mostly fat for energy instead of carbohydrates – with low carbohydrate levels, fat can be converted to ketones to fuel the body.
How Does the Keto Diet Work?
If you follow a diet that restricts carbohydrates (which forces the body to look for an alternative source of glucose), your metabolism will shift to ketones. This condition is known as ketosis.
To get ketosis, that’s where the name “keto diet” comes from you need to take 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day (keep in mind that a medium-sized banana has about 27 grams of carbohydrates, fat bread adds 21 carbs, medium apple 25 and a glass of milk 12).
It takes several days to reach a state of ketosis. It usually takes 3 – 4 days. Then you will start to break down proteins and fats for energy, which will make you lose weight.
A ketogenic diet can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with elevated ketones, has numerous health benefits.
What are the potential benefits?
Bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts use ketosis for one main purpose: to burn subcutaneous fat. Several independent studies have concluded that the keto diet performs better than a standard low-carb diet and other low-calorie diets. When the body uses fat as a primary source of energy, it is much more likely to target body fat in addition to the fat taken through food.
As a bonus, ketosis suppresses appetite and keeps blood sugar stable – without sharp peaks and falls. As a result, if you have not eaten for several hours, you do not feel exhausted and dizzy. Besides, the keto diet is affluent in healthy fats and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants), while being low in toxins.
Ketosis has also been used in the treatment of many diseases. Studies show that in obese individuals with insulin resistance, the keto diet helps to improve insulin sensitivity and restore normal metabolism.
Improvements in blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels have been observed in people in ketosis. Scientists are still not sure why, but the keto diet is an extremely effective tool for treating many neurological diseases and conditions such as epilepsy, migraines, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and even brain tumors. The answer may lie in the change from glucose to ketone bodies, but the specific causes are still being clarified.
In summary, because of its proven benefits, the keto diet seems appropriate for people with health problems such as obesity or epilepsy. In such conditions, ketosis is relatively safe and effective – it is certainly better than taking medication for the rest of your life.
For the first two to six months, there is evidence that a deficient carb diet can help you lose more than a standard high carb and low-fat diet, according to a new literature review of low carb diets National Association of Lipids.
Studies show that a ketogenic diet is much better than a commonly recommended low-fat diet.
What’s more – the diet is so good that you can lose weight without counting calories or keeping track of food intake.
Risks and disadvantages of ketosis
We cannot deny the benefits of ketosis, but it also has certain risks.
Ketosis is good to avoid in some rare conditions such as pyruvic carboxylase deficiency, porphyria, and any other fat metabolism disorder.
In other conditions and diseases, the introduction of a keto diet is not possible, but additional attention and specialist supervision are required. For example, as mentioned earlier, people with type I diabetes should be cautious not to cause ketoacidosis.
But even in healthy people, ketosis can have side effects. However, from a metabolic point of view, ketosis is the first cousin of hunger.
Therefore, it is not suitable for pregnant and lactating women, as well as those attempting pregnancy. To conceive, you must eat balanced. The same applies to nutrition during pregnancy – ketosis can be dangerous for both mother and fetus.
Ketosis does not work well with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). In HIIT, the body needs glucose for energy. You already know that the body can only produce glucose, but the speed of the process is relatively slow. If you rely on a keto diet during a high-intensity workout, you will quickly burn muscle glycogen and probably not be able to complete the entire workout. Instead of bothering your body and your metabolism, include some carbohydrates in your diet.
Other risks of ketosis include loss of bone density, constipation (due to reduced fiber intake), thyroid problems, and vitamin C deficiency. If you have kidney problems, the keto diet can lead to complications. I also do not recommend this diet for children and adolescents, as there may be a slowdown in growth.
As you can see, ketosis has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to consider both sides of the coin when considering betting on it.
What should we eat to keep our keto diet?
Followers of the keto diet should eat fat every meal. With a daily diet of 2000 calories, this may look like 165 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbohydrates, and 75 grams of protein. However, the exact ratio depends on your specific needs.
You should strive for most of your meals when you are on a keto diet:
- Meat: Red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, and turkey meat.
- Oily fish: salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel.
- Eggs: Whole eggs.
- Cheese: Unprocessed cheese (cheddar, goat, cream, blue or mozzarella).
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, nuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia, and more.
- Fat: Mostly extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
- Avocado: Fresh avocado or freshly prepared guacamole.
- Low Carb Vegetables: Most green vegetables, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and more.
- Some fruits: Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries.
- Spices: You can use salt, pepper, and a variety of healthy herbs and spices.
- Drinks: Coffee, tea, and water.
- white and red cabbage
- cauliflower broccoli, Brussels sprouts
- onion, garlic
- leeks, peppers
- blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries
- All cereals, legumes, potatoes, and other starchy vegetables,
- all processed foods, artificial sweeteners, refined vegetable oils, fresh and yogurt,
- tropical fruits
It is essential to control your protein intake. When you get more protein (20-25% of your calories per day), the excess is converted to glucose from the liver, and the body will not start producing ketones. The idea is to give your body no alternative but to use ketones for fuel.
To be sure you are in ketosis, you will need to purchase urine test strips. Ketosis strips change color depending on whether or not ketone bodies are present in the urine.
Initially, the color of the bands is quite dark, which means that the levels of ketone bodies are high. Over time, the color fades, which confuses most people. This is entirely normal and does not mean that you are out of ketosis. Initially, the body first produces too many ketone bodies and discharges excess through urine.
As the body adjusts to its new state, it begins to produce as many ketones as it needs. In other words, fewer ketone bodies are expelled through the urine, and the color of the bands fades. If you are strict with the keto diet, there is no need to worry.
What to drink
What can you drink on a ketogenic diet? Water is the perfect drink, and coffee or tea is fine too. Ideally, use no sweeteners, especially sugar
How to reduce the risks of side effects?
A ketogenic diet can be great for overweight people, diabetes, or those wishing to improve their metabolic health.
It may be less suitable for elite athletes or those who want to gain large amounts of muscle mass.
And as with any diet, it will only work if you are consistent and stick to it for the long term.
The ketogenic diet has many risks.
At the top of the list is the high content of saturated fat. McManus recommends that you keep saturated fat to no more than 7% of your daily calories due to the association with heart disease. Indeed, the keto diet is linked to the rise in “bad” LDL cholesterol, which is also linked to heart disease.
Other potential risks of a ketogenic diet include:
- Nutrient deficiency. “If you don’t eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and cereals, you may be at risk of a deficiency of trace elements, including selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins B and C,” says McManus.
- Liver problems. With so much fat, the diet can worsen the liver.
- Kidney problems. The kidneys help metabolize the protein, and McManus says the keto diet can overload them. (The current recommended protein intake is an average of 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams for men).
- Constipation. The keto diet is low in fiber, such as cereals and legumes.
- Fuzzy thinking and mood swings “The brain needs sugar from healthy carbohydrates to function. Low carb diets can cause confusion and irritability, “says McManus.
These risks are increasing – so be sure to talk to your doctor and registered dietitian before attempting a ketogenic diet.
Even if you are convinced that the benefits of ketosis are more than the disadvantages of your particular case, you hardly want to develop kidney stones or bother with constipation and vitamin C deficiency.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce these risks to a minimum!
Certain foods and nutritional supplements (for example, the amino acids lysine and leucine) support ketosis, which allows the consumption of more protein and carbohydrates without suffering. The short-chain fatty acids contained in coconut oil also have a ketogenic effect because they signal the liver to produce more ketone bodies.
This gives you more flexibility, and you know that diet is safer in the long run. Vitamin D intake, however, will reduce the risk of bone loss.
Another solution is to take a more conservative approach – a cyclic keto diet. In cyclic keto diets, several ketosis days are usually alternated with one or two high carbohydrate days. Take it as a kind of recharge. This allows you to be more flexible and enjoy a more varied diet. Cyclic keto diets are, in most cases, the better option because they retain the benefits but reduce the risks of ketosis.
How Much Does Weight Loss With Keto Diet?
A study found that overweight people who follow a diet for 24 weeks had positive results. But the results may not be the same for everyone.
Sample diet plan for a keto diet for one week.