What is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic or keto diet for short is a type of low carbohydrate diet.

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.

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.

For a full guide to all the pros and cons of low carb diets see this guest article I wrote for Dietetically Speaking.



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