The ketogenic, or "keto," diet — which first became popular in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy and diabetes— limits carbohydrates to no more than 50 grams a day, which is the rough equivalent of a plain bagel or a cup of white rice. By comparison, dietary guidelines from the US Department of Agriculture recommend from 225 to 325 grams of carbs a day.
The keto diet is currently being used as a safe and effective addition to the treatment of several types of cancer and can help slow tumor growth. As an example, we’d like to point to a promising study showed the intracerebral growth of the CT-2A & U87-MG tumors (related to malignant brain cancer) is significantly decreased by about 65% and 35% (27).
Achieving ketosis is a pretty straightforward, but it can seem complicated and confusing with all of the information out there.4If you want to learn more about ketosis and the scientific process around it, you can visit a very in-depth discussion about on Dr. Peter Attia’s website. Here’s the bottom line on what you need to do, ordered in levels of importance:
• Water Loss: There is some evidence that higher-protein diets like the keto diet do have some weight-loss benefits, partially because both fat and protein are satiating so you don't feel hungry, but also because of the loss in glycogen stores. Glycogen is the body's glucose storage that is bound up with water, so when we deplete the glycogen, you also deplete your water storage. Lose a ton of water, and you're going to drop weight fast.
Frederick F. Samaha, M.D., Nayyar Iqbal, M.D., Prakash Seshadri, M.D., Kathryn L. Chicano, C.R.N.P., Denise A. Daily, R.D., Joyce McGrory, C.R.N.P., Terrence Williams, B.S., Monica Williams, B.S., Edward J. Gracely, Ph.D., and Linda Stern, M.D., “A Low-Carbohydrate as Compared with a Low-Fat Diet in Severe Obesity,” N Engl J Med 2003; 348:2074-2081. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa022637.
• Potassium: With the approved list of foods being so brief, you might not be getting in enough fruits and veggies on keto. One of the biggest impacts? A potassium deficiency—and all of the lovely constipation and muscle cramps that accompanies it. Aim to up your intake of foods like spinach, avocado, tomatoes, kale and mushrooms to get your potassium fix.
• Weight loss — If you're trying to lose weight, then a ketogenic diet is one of the best ways to do it, because it helps access your body fat so that it can be shed. Obese people in particular can benefit from this method. In one study, obese test subjects were given a low-carb ketogenic diet and a low-fat diet. After 24 weeks, researchers noted that the low-carb group lost more weight (9.4 kilograms or 20.7 pounds) compared to the low-fat group (4.8 kilograms or 10.5 pounds).1
The ketogenic diet is super high in fat (about 80 percent of your daily calories), super low in carbohydrates (less than 5 percent of your calories), and moderate in protein (typically 15 to 20 percent of your calories). This is a pretty drastic departure from the generally recommended macronutrient distribution of 20 to 35 percent protein, 45 to 65 percent carbohydrates, and 10 to 35 percent fat.
On the other hand, the types of foods you’ll avoid eating on the keto, low-carb diet are likely the same ones you are, or previously were, accustomed to getting lots of your daily calories from before starting this way of eating. This includes items like fruit, processed foods or drinks high in sugar, those made with any grains or white/wheat flour, conventional dairy products, desserts, and many other high-carb foods (especially those that are sources of “empty calories”).
So people saying that – despite the lack of scientific support – likely have a financial reason to say it. Some of these products are sold under something like a multi-level marketing arrangement, so sales people are entirely paid based on commission. For example, the company Prüvit sells drinkable ketones, called KETO//OS with a multi-level marketing structure.
The removal of many grains and fruits with such a large emphasis on fats can bring about its own set of side effects. “If not done properly — with most of your carbohydrates coming from fiber-rich vegetables — you may not be getting enough fiber, which can lead to constipation,” says Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, a sports dietitian based in Louisville, Kentucky, and co-owner of MohrResults.com. (5)
Thanks for the very informative article. This was the push I needed to at least try it. Starting next weekend, my partner and I will be trying keto for 30 days. I’m all for small changes, in theory, but what I sometimes discover is that sweeping changes can have their place, too, if they produce positive results. Often, what will work for me is trying a big change, and even if I then throw out 80% of it, at least the remaining 20% sticks. By contrast, any backsliding from a small change can often mean just throwing it out entirely.
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