The ketogenic or Keto diet – what is it, and should I try it?

The keto diet was developed for children with intractable epilepsy, as a short term measure to get their seizures under control. The diet was only used for a maximum of 2 years, and stopped early if seizure control was not achieved. ⠀

However, over the last 10 years it has become increasingly popular, with modifications of a true Ketogenic diet such as the Atkins and Paleo diets now mainstream.⠀

The basis is to exclude virtually all carbohydrate and sugar, instead focusing on eating primarily fat, so that the body is forced to metabolise (burn) fat. ⠀

While this sounds appealing if you wish to lose weight, I would advocate that a more balanced diet of whole grain carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables is a better way of achieving a healthy body weight long term. ⠀

Additionally, some advocates of the ketogenic diet report anti-cancer effects. To date good quality trials have not shown this to be the case, and more research is needed.⠀

There are numerous risks associated with the diet including:⠀
– high saturated fat diet can lead to increased LDL (bad) cholesterol and liver strain (fatty liver)⠀
– limited range of food (especially vegetables) can lead to micronutrient deficiencies
– low fibre can lead to constipation and negatively impact the micro-organisms which live in the gut
– the brain preferentially uses sugars from healthy carbohydrates – lack of these can lead to confusion and irritability.⠀

Longer term, we don’t yet have the data to know the effects and risks of the keto diet. Additionally, such a restrictive diet is difficult to maintain, and therefore any weight loss is likely to be temporary.

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