What is a Ketogenic Diet?

Summer is approaching fast and many of my patients are asking about the ketogenic diet to shed some pounds for the bathing suit season. The “keto diet” is not a new fad and has been around for years. It’s having an upsurge in the media where they are touting its weight loss benefits through sexy gym advertisements that target younger people. Interestingly the ketogenic or paleo diet scored last in the US News and World Report of “Best Diets in 2018”.

Medically, ketogenic diets have been used for years to treat seizure patients – especially children, as well as for difficult to treat diabetic patients. Otherwise, it’s regarded as another diet for weight loss.

A ketogenic diet simply forces your body to break down fat as an energy source because there’s no available glucose and fructose which are what your body normally uses for energy sources. Your calories in a ketogenic diet are made up of 80% fats, 15% proteins and 5% carbohydrates. Dietary guidelines for Americans suggest your calories be made up of 20% fats, 25% proteins and 55% carbohydrates. With less than 20 grams of carbohydrates/day in a keto diet, your body will start to go into ketosis or starvation mode. This means your body will break down fat for its energy source because there are no carbohydrates to break down into glucose for energy.

People that start the keto diet will know their body has started to flip into ketosis when they feel fatigue, nausea, weakness, headaches, diarrhea, bad breath and insomnia. It can take anywhere from 730 days to be fully in ketosis. Once your body has gotten used to being in ketosis these symptoms disappear. Weight loss occurs immediately as you lose a lot of fluid initially in ketogenesis.

The problem with a keto diet is that it’s very difficult to eat that way long term. One apple is about the amount of carbs you can have in a day. If you “cheat” and eat a piece of cake then that day is ruined because your body will use the cake for glucose and all the fat you continue to eat that day will be stored as fat and not used as energy. You can’t drink alcohol (lots of carbs) and the food choices patients make are usually cheeses and meats which are full of saturated fats and promote heart disease. You also need to have your blood monitored because you will be missing essential nutrients in your diet without the fruit, grains and vegetables you’d normally eat.

I have always felt that any restrictive diet is difficult to follow and the keto diet is very restrictive. It may sound great to be able to eat lots of meat and cheese but remember, that burger has no bun, there’s no ketchup allowed, forget the ice cream and pizza on the boardwalk, soft pretzels are out and there’s no more quick spaghetti dinners. Also, you’ll miss your summer fruits because watermelon, peaches and plums are a no-no.

The best way to control chronic diseases and your weight is through a healthy diet that contains all kinds of foods. Most of your food should be whole fruits, vegetables and grains. Most of your food should be prepared in your kitchen and not processed in a factory. You should be eating more fruits and vegetables than meats and meat products. None of your food should contain high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats). Sweets should be limited and artificial sweeteners should not be used. Watch your salt and added sugars. Drink lots of water.

If you feel a ketogenic diet is something you’d like to try, please discuss this with your physician so you can be monitored. In my practice we spend a lot of time discussing diet and activity because 90% of diabetes and 70% of heart disease comes from poor diets and lack of physical activity. Medication is
always available for diseases but learning how to eat a healthier diet and staying active can prevent disease in the first place and improve or regress already existing disease. Call 215-832-0135 for a meet and greet.