What’s the skinny on the keto craze?

Diet fads

It’s January and once again lots of you want to lose a little weight. Many people are asking about the keto diet. So what’s the skinny on the keto craze and is it any use if you want to lose weight.

If you are overweight and you have resolved to lose some weight this year that’s fantastic.

Maintaining a healthy weight will lower your risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke and avoid excess pressure on your joints helping you stay more active. Whatever you may see, hear or read, research shows that there are many effective ways to lose weight. The important thing is to find a safe way of doing it that works for you.

As with most diet crazes celebrity endorsement has fuelled keto-mania.

Halle Berry claims the approach has helped her manage her diabetes, cheat ageing, lose post baby belly fat and curb her appetite. Actress Vanessa Hudgens used the diet to lose the weight she had to gain for her role in “Give Me Shelter.” This is all well and good but it’s important to remember that these people are celebrities who do not have nutritional or medical qualifications. A diet may “work” for someone in terms of triggering weight loss but this does not necessarily mean that it’s good you or that it will work for everyone.

So what is the keto diet anyway?

A ketogenic (keto for short) diet is high in fat and very low in carbs. This forces the body to burn fat for fuel, rather than glucose. When this happens we say the body is in a state called ketosis because you will be producing ketones. You can often notice these on the breath of someone on the keto diet as they smell a bit like nail varnish remover. Ketones also make our urine smell a bit like popcorn. In order to stay in ketosis you need to keep your carbohydrate intake below 50g a day.

So what does this look like in practice?

50g of carbohydrate per day is a very low carbohydrate diet. To achieve this you would need to avoid all grain based foods like bread, potato, rice, pasta, cous cous and breakfast cereals as well as beans, peas, lentils and sweetcorn and many vegetables and fruits. You could have green leafy vegetables like cabbage and spinach and small portions of berries. You fill up on fats from eggs, avocado, nuts, seeds, meats and fish. There is also growing craze for high fat snack bars and the now famous bulletproof coffee. This is coffee loaded up grass-fed butter and medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil.

Does it work?

Fat makes you feel fuller more quickly and so you will naturally start eating fewer calories. In addition it takes slightly more energy to breakdown and use fat and protein for energy than for carbohydrates. This means you will be burning slightly more calories than you did before. So yes most people will lose weight. However if you go mad on the high fat snacks and bullet proof coffees you will still be loading up on calories so keto is not a fat “free for all.

Is it safe?

As a short-term kick-start then in my view it’s ok for most people but do check with your GP or Dietitian first. However it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Short-term issues

For the first few days you will be using up your body’s stores of glucose. During this phase people often complain of cramps, headaches, brain fog and feeling low in energy. This is because our bodies are used to having quick access to energy from carbs and we have to adjust. This phase is sometimes called “keto flu” but it doesn’t usually last more than a week or so. You may also dislike having keto breath but some sugar free gum should help with that.

Can I stay keto long-term?

I wouldn’t recommend it. This diet lacks fibre which will increase the risk of cancer, bowel disease, heart disease and stroke and is not going to support a healthy gut microbiome. Our gut microbiome is the unique mix of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and other bugs inside our intestines. Much more research is needed but what we do know is that the presence of specific bacteria in our gut and a more diverse gut microbiome is associated with better immunity and less inflammation. This might reduce our risk of disease and improve our mental health. Furthermore as the diet is so restrictive you should also take a multivitamin/mineral supplement. Finally many people over-do the saturated fats on a keto diet and this will also increase your risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Bottom line if you want to try a keto kick start to your weight loss plan then consult a Dietitian

It’s best to get good advice on how to do it in the healthiest way, how long to stick with it and what to do as you come off it to ensure that you continue to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.

If you would like some support to lose weight then do get in touch

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