The ketogenic diet or low carb diet is a high-fat diet that has been particularly popular in recent years. However, it has been used for nearly a hundred years to treat certain diseases, including epilepsy. This diet aims to significantly reduce carbohydrate consumption in favor of fat to induce a state of ketosis. Beyond the significant weight loss, it would have many health benefits.
Characteristics of the ketogenic diet:
- Very high-fat consumption (75% of intake)
- Unchanged protein intake
- Significant reduction in carbohydrate intake
- Causes unpleasant symptoms in the first few weeks (ketogenic flu)
- Fast weight loss
- The state of ketosis has many health benefits (increased energy, protection against certain diseases, etc.)
The Main Principles of the Regime
Originally used in children with epilepsy to reduce seizures, the ketogenic or Keto diet was developed in the 1920s. This diet first demonstrated anti-convulsion effects in people with epilepsy. Then, the keto diet has gained popularity in recent years as a fast method to lose weight. It is also used to improve the symptoms of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease
How Does the Ketogenic Diet Work?
The ketogenic diet for weight loss is characterized by the consumption of:
- 50 g of carbohydrates maximum per day. This represents about 5% of the total calories consumed during the day. A normal diet usually provides between 45 and 65% of our calories as carbohydrates.
- 75% fat
- 20% protein
This diet therefore completely overturns our traditional food pyramid and its main principles.
How Does the Ketogenic Diet Lead to Weight Loss?
Usually, the body gets its energy from the carbohydrates consumed during the day that are necessary for the body to function properly. In the ketogenic diet, carbohydrates being extremely limited, the body begins to draw on its carbohydrate reserves stored in the muscles and liver called “glycogen” reserves. Since each gram of glycogen is linked to 3-4 g of water in the body, the significant weight loss at the beginning of the ketogenic diet is largely a loss of water. When glycogen reserves are depleted, the body naturally begins to use lipids or fats to produce energy.
However, when the body uses fat in the absence of carbohydrates, it produces waste called ketones. Then, ketones begin to accumulate in the blood and their smell, similar to nail polish, becomes noticeable in the breath. This is the main indicator that the body is in a state of “ketosis”. It usually takes between 2 to 4 weeks to reach this state. You can check for “ketosis” by purchasing urine test strips from pharmacies.
This state of “ketosis” can cause a decrease in appetite, which helps to reduce the amount of food consumed. This condition can also lead to nausea and fatigue. Although this diet does not concetrate on counting calories, those who follow it actually absorb fewer calories because they are not hungry and this leads to weight loss.
How Long Does the Ketogenic Diet Last?
The ketogenic diet specific to weight loss is not time-limited. It is more of a lifestyle than a fixed-term diet. When practiced in the therapeutic field, the ketogenic diet lasts from a few weeks to several years depending on the expected results.
The foods authorized in significant quantities in the ketogenic diet are:
- Seafood products
- Vegetable oils
- Lemon juice
- Low carbohydrate vegetables (spinach, lettuce, kale, etc.)
- Hard cheese (100 g per day)
The permitted foods, but to be consumed in moderation, are:
- Whole milk
- Whole milk yogurts
- Vegetables with higher carbohydrate content (except carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, peas and corn)
- Strong alcohol
- Sugar-free coffee
Since a large amount of fat is ingested every day, it is important to be concerned about the type of fat consumed. It is advisable to limit the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids, which, in excess, have a pro-inflammatory effect. The main sources of omega-6 are soybean, corn, safflower, grape seed, sunflower, and wheat germ oils. It is, therefore, necessary to limit the consumption of salad dressings, vinaigrettes, and mayonnaises made with these oils.
The consumption of monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts) and saturated fats (fatty meat cuts, high-fat dairy products) is more recommended. The use of coconut oil is recommended because it contains fats that are easily transformed into ketones. Finally, the consumption of Omega-3 contained in fatty fish, rapeseed and flaxseed oil, nuts or chia, flax or hemp seeds must be sufficient.
The ketogenic diet is relatively restrictive, many foods are prohibited because they prevent the body from maintaining itself in a state of ketosis:
- Sweet products
- Starchy people
- Pastry shops
- Viennese pastries
- Fruits (except berries)
- Potato potato
- Sweet vegetables (beetroot, corn, carrot, etc.)
- Soft cheese
- fresh cheese
- Soft drinks
- Honey, jams, syrup
- Fruit and vegetable juices
- Sweet sauces
- Milk or yogurt made from vegetable milk
The Ketonic Diet Daily Menu
The typical one-day menu of a ketonic diet consist of the following:
|Morning||2 eggs omelet with mushrooms and ½ cup of spinach
100 g rhubarb compo
|Noon||Rosbif (150 g)
Grated red cabbage (50g) and green salad (100g)
2 or 3 tablespoons of vinaigrette
5 black olives
Snack: gouda(40g) and cucumber (50g)
|Evening||Salmon (200 g)
Vinaigrette (1 to 2 tablespoons)
Green salad (50g)
Hard cheese (40g)
|Snack||1/4 cup almonds|
Advantages and Disadvantages
The Positive Points of the Ketogenic Diet
- Sensation of satiety
- No caloric restriction
- A good supply of quality fats and proteins
- Fast weight loss
- Potentially positive effect on blood lipid levels
- The negative points of the keto diet
Unpleasant Side Effects in the First Few Weeks
- Little food diversity
- No deviation allowed
- Difficult to follow
- Not compatible with a fulfilling social life
Recommendations and Precautions
What Are the Dangers of the Ketogenic Diet?
During the first few weeks, very unpleasant effects can occur. It is called ketogenic flu. It is a transitional period that almost systematically accompanies the body’s passage into a state of ketosis. Be careful, some side effects seem to persist even after the transition period such as hypoglycemia (lower blood sugar levels), dehydration and an increased risk of urinary lithiasis or kidney stones and constipation. A fiber and vitamin supplement is recommended when following this diet, probably due to the low content of fruits, legumes, and whole-grain products that are very good sources of fiber and micronutrients.
Cancer, Epilepsy: What are the Therapeutic Indications of the Ketogenic Diet?
Beyond weight loss, the ketogenic diet is used in the treatment of various pathologies: epilepsy, cancers, inflammatory diseases, etc. In the therapeutic environment, the value of ketogenic nutrition is no longer to be proven.
Is This Diet Compatible with Weight Training and Sports?
Yes, that’s right. Some studies even show the benefits of the ketogenic diet, which would improve performance, reduce recovery time and facilitate the effort. In recent years, this diet has been highly appreciated in the sports world.
How to Not Gain Weight?
The ketogenic diet is a way of life more than a time-limited diet. It is therefore not expected to be abandoned after a few months. However, given the very high restrictions it creates, it seems inevitable to regain weight if it is stopped. To avoid an excessive yo-yo effect, it would seem beneficial to be accompanied by a nutrition professional who could help to gradually reintroduce carbohydrates into the diet without having too many consequences.
Few Figures to go Further
Since the ketogenic diet is very high in fat, many concerns remain about its potential negative impact on cardiovascular risk. However, according to a recent study conducted in 2013, not only does the ketogenic diet result in greater weight loss than a low-fat diet, but it also has a positive impact on blood pressure, HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol) and blood triglycerides. It has also been shown that the ketogenic diet can lead to increased levels of (bad) LDL cholesterol. Indeed, saturated fats would not be as harmful as we think. These new data remain recent but still need to be taken into consideration.
In terms of weight loss, it has been shown that the ketogenic diet is more effective than a low-fat diet. Indeed, many studies have compared low-fat or high-protein, moderately high-carbohydrate diets with ketogenic diets. The results show that in the short term (1 year or less), the ketogenic diet is more effective for weight loss. However, very few studies have evaluated the effects of this diet in the longer term.
Our Opinion on the Ketogenic Diet
This diet does not frankly respect the basic rules of a balanced diet. It excludes many food groups and seems to forget the notion of pleasure. The withdrawal of cereal products, legumes and fruit can lead to deficiencies in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, among others, which play many roles in health. However, it is difficult to deny the proven positive effects that this diet seems to have on health. While it is difficult to recommend it at this time due to its very restrictive nature, many ongoing studies should make it a little clearer in the coming years.
A clinical engineer by training, I have always been interested in well-being and nutrition since an early age. On Gurze.com, I give my knowledge and tips on diets and nutrition in general. While I enjoy sharing my opinions on these subjects, you should always consult a health professional for more personalized answers on your case.