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SHOULD I START A KETO DIET?

Today’s most trending diet is the keto diet. We hear about it all over social media and from our friends and family. But what is the keto diet? Why is it so popular? Everyone is talking about this diet, but what do people really know about it other than you cut out the carbs from your diet? Let’s discuss the basics:



What is it?


A keto diet is a structured food plan in which you eat only certain types of foods in order to promote, or “wake up”, certain “sleeping” parts of your metabolism. Parts, which remain underused when we follow the typical occidental diet we are used to.


There are three basic types of molecules which our bodies use to obtain energy from and keep its structure: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Remember, it is important for our bodies to maintain an equilibrium to achieve maximum results. The body has a tendency to function preferably with carbohydrates (let’s call them CHOs for short). When lacking CHOs, the body switches to use fats and proteins as an alternative energy source.


CHOs are found in all kinds of foods including, but not limited to:

  • Sugars

  • Flours

  • Bread

  • Juices

  • Rice

  • Beans

  • Pasta

As we all know, these elements are a large part of the average diet, and most of the time, we consume them excessively, breaking the equilibrium. So, what happens when we consume too many CHOs? They can’t remain in that form in our bodies forever. The body can’t store beyond a small amount of sugars, so the only way out is converting them into fat. It then gets stored which increases our body mass index or BMI.


It also impairs our ability to process further sugars over the years leading to insulin resistance and diabetes. Fat excess could lead to atherosclerosis, hypertension, and other cardiovascular diseases. All are demonstrated by the statistical fact that nearly a half of Americans (48%, more than 120 million people) have some cardiovascular disease (1). That’s an astounding number of people!


The keto diet basically pulls out most of the CHOs from your dishes, increasing the amounts of fats and proteins to substitute, forcing the body to choose another energy source: the excessive fat stores present in the body. Because there are no more CHOs available, the body must instead use not only the fat we can appreciate to see go, but also the excessive fat stored in internal organs.



Why should I try it?


When you reduce the number of CHOs you consume, you reduce the production of insulin, a hormone needed to process them. You also reduce the number of fats in your system which impair the insulin signaling system. Therefore, you decrease the chances of developing insulin resistance and diabetes. By reducing the CHOs, you reduce the amount of excessive fats which could be attaching themselves to the arterial system and cause many cardiovascular diseases. So, you reduce the chance of getting high blood pressure. In addition, studies have shown that keto can be helpful in the treatment of certain neurological diseases (2).


According to an avid keto dieter, Rachel Lawrence, who turned to the keto diet over a year ago to help manage some chronic health issues. After making the change, Lawrence lost 50 pounds in the first 4 months and her anxiety and depression symptoms have almost ceased to exist. Lawrence says, “It is a huge lifestyle change, and I love that my joints don’t hurt as much anymore and I can do so much more physically now. I feel more at peace and overall healthy.” She also noted less nausea and inflammation this past year including mental clarity.



So, all I have to do is stop eating carbs?

No. You can’t just cut all carbs out because you still need to produce insulin to sustain many physiological processes. Besides, the body takes some time to switch to keto state. Usually, a person needs around five days with a diet consuming less than 50g of CHOs daily to make the body go into ketosis, or convert to using fats as primary fuel instead of CHOs (3).




Should I follow this forever?


No. Reaching equilibrium is always required, and you wouldn’t reach it, tipping the balance to the other way forever, right? You should make that change for a few weeks and then come back to a diet with a bit more CHOs but don’t have to go back to the previously full CHOs diet. Choose one in which you use an adequate proportion of all types of food to achieve your equilibrium.


When asked how long she plans to stay ketogenic, Lawrence says, “I have considered transitioning to a low carb diet instead of keto now that I am at my goal weight. I have tried some “low carb” days and each time I haven’t felt the best. I start to feel groggy, anxious and nauseous. I then have to spend a few days getting back into ketosis.” She also noted that finding keto meals at restaurants is starting to become much more popular which makes sticking to the diet a lot easier.


Can anyone start the keto diet?


The short answer is no. As you can surely imagine, the scientific aspects of this are widely more complicated than what we discussed in this article. For example, I wouldn’t recommend it for people with illnesses affecting the normality of mineral states of the bones, such as osteoporosis. Studies have shown a decrease in mineral bone composition in this type of diet (2), which can be a reasonable effect to handle in people with no bone diseases but not so good for people who already have osteoporosis.


Many factors play into the eligibility for a person to follow a ketogenic diet. My recommendation is to always discuss this with your doctor to determine if this is possible or if you need to follow another path.

I encourage you to reach equilibrium, take actions in order to restore your body and improve your metabolism, and consider trying the keto diet.


Bibliography

1. Benjamin EA, Muntner P, Alonso A, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2019 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2019.

2. Allharbi A, Saleh Al-Sowayan N. The Effect of Ketogenic-Diet on Health. Food and Nutrition Sciences. 2020;(11): p. 301-313.

3. Ding J, Xu X, Wu X, et al. Bone Loss and Biomechanical Reduction of Appendicular and Axial Bones under the Ketogenic Diet in Rats. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. 2019.






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