Ketogenic (Keto for short) diet hit the world by storm. The low carb and high-fat diet boasted plenty of health benefits and proved great for weight loss. Kitted with set meal plans and celebrity endorsement, it’s no wonder “Keto” has become the buzzword it is in the world of health and lifestyle.
How It All Began
For an incredibly buzzed about and trendy diet – the history of the keto diet proves it’s far superior to the low-fat diet it’s often sold as. The keto diet began as a treatment for kids who had a history of seizures and epileptic fits. Children would be placed on the keto diet as a means of treatment when drugs proved ineffective. The discovery of dietary requirements as a way of treating epilepsy dates as far back as 500 BC. However, the introduction of the keto diet as a formal means of treatment began in the 1920s.
Whilst scientists still don’t really know how the diet works, according to a reliable source, new studies by a research team at Emory University School of Medicine show that the diet alters genes involved in energy metabolism in the brain, which in turn helps stabilize the function of neurons exposed to the challenges of epileptic seizures.
Modern day treatments have meant keto became more and more scarce until it eventually fell into the arms of modern dietitians.
Different Types Of Keto Diets
Nowadays, for the specific promotion of weight-loss and body transformation goals, the diet has been tailored and broken off into 3 different types.
Here are the different types of keto diets:
- The standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein, and only 5% carbs
- The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher-carb re-feeds. For example, 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
- A targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) allows you to add carbs around workouts. This diet is most favored by training athletes and body-builders.
- High-protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.
Although there are variations of the diet, generally, the total consumption of calories a day on the keto diet is 2000 calories. This consists of 75 percent of your daily calories from fat, 20 percent from protein, and 5 percent from carbs. Meaning a consumption of between 30 and 50 grams of carbs a day when following the diet closely. Bread, pasta, grains, starches, as well as sugar in any form, are off the table. What’s on it, however, are healthy fats such as avocado, whole eggs, fatty fish, full-fat yogurt, nuts, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil.
How Does It Work?
The main goal when following the ketogenic diet is to get your body in a metabolic state called ketosis. In doing so, you need to keep to a strict keto meal plan. It typically takes as little as a few days to reach a state of ketosis. When your body is in ketosis it creates molecules called ketones to use as fuel. This fuel assists in the breaking down of fats resulting in the loss.
It is without a shadow of a doubt that the keto diet works wonders for weight-loss. A diet of low sugar and high in refined carbohydrates also helps to get rid of breakouts and has been known to work well when treating cases of adult acne. Preparing meals using extra virgin olive oil improves the appearance of skin; producing a glow.
Apart from helping with the treatment of seizures, following the keto diet bares plenty of biological health benefits. Studies have shown the keto diet is complementary to chemotherapy and helps treat certain cancers. This is because lowered blood sugar levels from being in a state of ketosis help argue insulin issues associated with some cancers. In addition, it also causes more oxidative stress in cancer cells than in normal cells.
A pilot study following the keto diet showed a series of health improvements in women diagnosed with Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): A disorder that causes enlarged ovaries due to the formation of cysts.
It has been a while since the keto diet stepped onto the scene. There now seems to be plenty of warning signs that have come along with it as time has gone by. According to Harvard health, “It’s advertised as a weight-loss wonder, but this eating plan is a medical diet that comes with serious risks.”
Perhaps the number one problem with the keto diet is that it took off so wildly and proved so successfully for weight-loss without any telling of what its long-term effects might be.
Short and Long-Term Effects
The production of molecules that help to break down fat – where your body is breaking down fat for energy – is not all that your body undergoes when it enters a ketogenic state. There are many other biological differences that take place.
Here are some of the most common cases that have been reportedly caused by the keto diet:
1. Bad breath
A side effect so common it gained social media fame along with the nickname, “keto breath”. This case of bad breath is caused by a ketone called acetone (yes, as in nail polish remover). It is the smallest compound in the ketone molecule and exits through urine and breath. Which is no wonder why the increase in ketone levels results in a less than desirable breath. Though this is a sign that you have entered a state of ketogenic, meaning the diet is working.
2. Digestive Issues
Whilst many have reported that in the long run, a keto diet can be good for your gut health. Due to the major change in the foods you’re eating and the subsequent neglect of whole food groups, it is bound to cause digestive issues. Digestive issues such as constipation and diarrhea are common side effects from the beginning.
Constipation is caused by a lack of fiber, dehydration (from losing plenty of water weight), as well as an electrolyte imbalance (from lowered carbohydrate and blood sugar levels).
Diarrhea is a less common side effect. It is said to be caused by the extremely lowered intake of sugar. It is reliant on how much sugar intake your body had become immune to prior to cutting it out, which is why it is uncommon.
Although this side effect is said to improve within a few weeks after your body has adjusted to its new diet and state. Insomnia has been reported on numerous occasions in people on the keto diet. The lack of sleep can be credited due to a lack of carbs and lowered blood sugar rates.
4. Vitamin deficiency
As the keto diet is one that limits your body from whole food groups, it should come as no surprise that vitamin deficiency comes as a risk. Without the plenty of types of fruits and vegetables that the diet so strictly prohibits, your body is made to go without the benefit of said foods. In fact, as your body gets used to being in this ketogenic state, it gets used to being devoid of fruit and vegetables. This will eventually result in long-term micronutrient deficiencies. It is also advised that you ensure that you are in taking enough fat during this beginning period.
5. Muscle loss
When on a diet, usually the main goals are targeted towards achieving one’s desired body. For most, this means a smaller and more defined frame. However, for those who undertake keto diets muscle building is generally not as much of a priority as weight loss is.
Muscle loss during the keto diet is a result of how the diet re-programs the body to use fat as fuel coupled with the lowered amounts of essential protein in the diet.
Another side effect is so common it got a nickname: ‘keto flu’. This is because it is the most immediate side effect of the keto diet. Symptoms of the flu include fatigue, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and stomach pains. These symptoms typically go on for a week, though many have reported cases of ‘keto flu’ lasting much longer. Following the discovery of the outbreak, doctors and nutritionists have advised that those taking on the keto diet should stay hydrated, replace electrolytes, avoid extreme exercising and ensure that you’re getting enough sleep.
7. Kidney Damage
Kidney damage is more of a long term side effect of the keto diet. Many findings of kidney damage in patients have been linked to the keto diet. This has reportedly been a common occurrence in patients following as few as two years of diligence on their diet.
Protein sources on the keto diet – such as fatty cuts of meat, whole dairy products, and other high-fat foods – can raise cholesterol. These proteins can place a strain on your kidney and lead to heart disease as well.
8. Decline In Skin Health
Perhaps the most recent discoveries are the decline in skin health. Mentioned earlier in the article, extra virgin olive oil included in the diet helps produce a glowing and youthful looking facial appearance. In spite of this, the high-fat content of the diet causes breakouts and is not good for acne prone skin. However, the diet could also help with acne over time due to the lowered intake of sugar.
Other declines in skin health when on the keto diet have inflamed skin, as well as a condition that’s been dubbed ‘keto rash’. When following an unbalanced diet – in terms of food groups – it is bound to cause inflammation within the body. This inflammation can pass out into the skin. This may cause inflammation diseases such as psoriasis. Whilst the rash is caused by high levels of ketones. This can cause a condition called prurigo pigmentosa. The rash is very itchy and looks like many tiny red pimples on the back, stomach and chest areas.
9. Hair Loss
Typically, we shed between 50 and 100 strands of hair a day. More than this could be caused by a drastic change in diet. Although hair loss caused by keto is a less common side effect. It is still one of the most notable as you may notice an increase in hair loss as you enter the state of ketosis. Due to the lowered calorie intake, your body will reduce the number of calories it uses to reproduce hair as well, resulting in hair loss. Hair loss is also caused by your body adjusting to the change in hormone levels.