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Published on June 27, 2018

enough with the keto diet already

Seriously, enough with the keto diet already!

For those of you unfamiliar, the ketogenic diet – shortened to "keto" – is very low in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and high in fat.

This forces the body to burn fats as its energy source instead of carbohydrates, which results in the formation of ketone bodies: a state known as ketosis. This diet was originally created as a clinical treatment for children with epilepsy to decrease seizure activity.

Now, how the ketogenic diet managed to leap from near-obscurity even as a clinical treatment in the 1930s to one of the most popular weight loss diets on the market today defies all laws of physics and still has me scratching my head. But yet, here we are. So it’s time to ask some questions.

Does it work?
It depends on how you define "work." As with many diets, there is documented evidence that this diet can result in more weight lost initially. However, because it is relatively new to the weight loss scene there is not a lot of research that has been done on the long-term effects. Moreover, we know that whatever means by which you lose the weight must be maintained in order to keep the weight off and ketosis is definitely not recommended for long-term use. It is unlikely that any initial benefit would be sustained once the diet was finished.

How does it work?
It is unclear what the mechanism for weight loss might be. Some early suggestions have included increased satiety with proteins and fats (leading to fewer calories consumed), the more taxing process of metabolizing fat and proteins (leading to more calories burned during metabolism), or simply more quality foods eaten overall (it's difficult to find processed foods that are keto-friendly). It is likely some combination of all three.

Is it safe?
Again, because this newcomer has not yet been adequately studied from a clinical perspective it is difficult to draw any conclusions here. However, putting the body into a state of ketosis is serious business and should not be done without the oversight of an experienced clinician. Risks associated with this diet range from organ damage (especially the kidneys) to an upset in blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Not only does this diet sound absolutely miserable, but the risks far outweigh any potential benefits. There are plenty of ways to lose weight much more safely and sustainably – not to mention much more enjoyably. Go ahead and eat your pasta – in moderation of course!

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System staff deliver great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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