Safety of the ketogenic diet for weight loss
Ketogenic diet, or “keto” as it is also called, is an increasingly popular diet but at the same time restrictive and difficult to adhere to in the long run. Keto means that the body produces small molecules from the breakdown of fat, these molecules are called ketones and are used as fuel by the body’s cells. Ketone bodies are an alternative fuel used when the body does not have access to blood sugar (glucose).
There is little scientific evidence that the keto diet is an effective long-term weight loss method, but the keto-diet leads to a rapid and dramatic weight loss in the short term. Ketones are produced by the liver and are used as fuel by the whole body, even the brain which is very energy-consuming. The brain can only be powered on sugar (glucose) or ketones. When blood sugar levels decrease due to low carbohydrate intake, insulin levels in the blood also decrease. Your stored fat becomes easily accessible as fuel for your body.
A ketogenic diet consists of eating an 80% fat diet, and there is no distinction between healthy or unhealthy fats. When you reduce the intake of carbohydrates, the body needs to receive energy from other food products, in this case the body uses all the fat that you consume.
What is ketogenic diet?
A ketogenic diet, or keto commonly called, is an intense low-carbohydrate diet with a high fat intake similar to the Atkins diet. The purpose of this diet is to significantly reduce the amount of carbohydrates in your diet, so that the body switches from carbohydrates, to burning fat, for energy. When your body goes over to fat for energy recovery, the liver produces a substance called ketone bodies, leading to your body getting into a metabolic state called ketosis. During ketosis, your body becomes incredibly effective at using ketone bodies, which are generated from the breakdown of fat, as fuel.
Benefits of the keto-diet
- Keto diet improves your fat burning, resulting in a stable energy level during everyday life, and greater endurance when exercising.
- Reduces blood sugar levels and thus lower the risk of getting diabetes or suffering from diabetes-related complications in the future.
- Abdominal obesity is significantly reduced, which in In turn, leads to a lower risk of a number of age-related diseases such as myocardial infarction, stroke, heart failure and dementia.
- Increased mental and physical strength
What foods are prohibited on a keto diet?
In general, in the ketogenic diet, several food groups or carbohydrate-rich foods are reduced or excluded. Below are listed several food products that you should exclude from the diet:
- Breakfast cereals
- Starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes)
- Other barley products such as bulgur, barley, corn and oat dried beans and lentils root fruits
- Milk and yogurt
- Sugar incl candy and soft drinks
Instead, you are encouraged to consume more fat-rich foods, such as low-fat meat, low-fat dairy products, butter, nuts, avocados, olive oil and coconut oil.A regular ketogenic diet consists of a breakdown of about 30 percent protein, 60 percent fat and 10% carbohydrates. Experts advise not to eat more than 50 g of carbohydrates a day for the body to stay in a ketogenic state (ketosis).
- Protein rich yogurt like skyr, quark and Greek yogurt
- Fish and shellfish
- Coarse vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, peas and green beans.
Is ketogenic diet safe?
Ketogenic diet can be safe in the short term, but at the same time can cause various health problems. It is a diet that is not recommended for the general population in the long term. By drastically reducing carbohydrate-rich foods you will miss out on healthy nutrients such as whole grains, fruits, starchy vegetables and legumes such as beans, chickpeas and lentils.
Carbohydrates are important macronutrients used to produce energy in the cells of the body. The fact is that our brain, nervous system, kidneys and red blood cells prefer carbohydrates as the main source of energy. Foods rich in carbohydrates usually also contain important vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, vitamin C, folate, potassium and magnesium, as well as dietary fiber.
Who should not eat keto?
- Individuals with high blood pressure
- People with type 1 diabetes
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
Side effects of the keto diet
- Low energy levels
- “Brain dim”
- Increased hunger
- Sleep problems
- Discomfort in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Poor exercise performance
- Bad breath is also a common symptom, due to ketones that smell like acetone.
Important about the keto diet
Keto prohibits most carbohydrates and encourages you to eat a lot of fat, including saturated fat that can be unhealthy.Ketogenic diet is difficult to follow because many foods are excluded and it is difficult to consume too much fat and ignore carbohydrates in the long term. Keto is challenging for vegetarian or vegan as most foods recommended are animal, including butter, meat, cheese and fatty dairy products. Most fruits and vegetables, as well as herbal sources of protein (tofu, beans and legumes) do not provide enough nutrition and energy.
To lose weight and successfully maintain weight loss for a long period, it is necessary to gradually change one’s eating habits and make several healthy lifestyle changes such as moving every day.
Signs that you are in ketosis
It is possible to measure ketones in the blood, urine or breath to find out if you are in ketosis. It is important to control the degree of ketosis because a pronounced ketosis is dangerous, there is an “optimal level” that is not all too intense. Below are a couple of symptoms that indicate that you are in ketosis.
- Dry mouth and increased thirst
- Increased urine volume
- Keto breath
- Decreased hunger and more energy after a few days
How do you measure ketone bodies?
There are three methods to measure ketone levels:
- Urine ketone analyse
- Breath analyse
- Blood ketone analyse
Urine test is the easiest and cheapest way to measure ketosis. Various companies sell urine tests that measure ketones. Some individuals with type 1 diabetes use these to control their diabetes. Signs of ketones in the urine of an individual with type 1 diabetes indicate that the person has taken insufficient insulin recently. You dip the stick into the urine and after a few seconds a marked color change is noted that speaks for the degree of ketosis.
Breath analyzers are an easy way to measure ketones in your breath, but they’re more expensive than urine tests, although cheaper than blood ketone meters. Breath analyzers do not provide an exact ketone level, but displays a color code that indicates whether you are in ketosis or not.
Blood ketone measurement
Blood ketone meters show exactly the instantaneous levels of ketones in your blood. It is the standard method of measuring ketosis and the most accurate method. The big disadvantage is that it is quite expensive.
How does the keto diet affect your blood sugar?
The ketogenic diet may reduce blood sugar levels (HbA1c) in individuals with and without diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes are often recommended to control their carbohydrate intake as sugar can cause blood sugar spikes. However, carbohydrate count should be determined individually with the help of your doctor. If you already have high blood sugar, eating too many carbohydrates can be dangerous. By switching focus to fat, some people experience less symptoms from high blood sugar.
Monitor your diabetes
The ketogenic diet seems uncomplicated. However, unlike a typical low-calorie diet, a low-fat diet requires careful monitoring. Your doctor or other healthcare professional should monitor both blood sugar and ketone levels to ensure that your diet does not cause any adverse effects. When your body adapts to the diet, you may still need to see your doctor once or twice a month for testing and adjusting medications.
Even if your symptoms improve, it is still important to regularly monitor blood glucose levels. For type 2 diabetes, the test frequency varies. Be sure to check with your doctor and determine the best test schedule for your situation.
Results from studies investigating the effect of low carbohydrate diets and high-fat diets show that a high intake of beneficial fats can be effective for short-term weight loss, but little is known about their long-term safety and efficacy. For this reason, the ketogenic diet should be followed only under the supervision of a doctor or other health care professional, especially in individuals with diabetes.