Ketogenic Diets: Not New, Not Necessarily Safe

Blog / Saturday, May 19th, 2018

The ketogenic diet is not a novelty. Used successfully to treat drug-resistant epilepsy, it was popularized as part of the Atkins Diet and claimed as a panacea for a wide range of medical conditions. Current versions of the ketogenic diet are numerous, and include, for example,

  • Standard ketogenic diet: This is a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. A typical keto diet contains 75% fat, 20% protein, and restricts carbs to 5%.
  • Cyclical ketogenic diet: This diet features periods of higher-carb intake, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
  • Targeted ketogenic diet: This diet allows additional carbs around workouts, normally in specific patterns and quantities. Cyclical and targeted ketogenic diets are used by largely bodybuilders and athletes.
  • High-protein ketogenic diet: Similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein, e.g., 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.

The ketogenic diet is not the same as the paleo diet. The principal difference is keto’s emphasis on bringing about a state of nutritional ketosis via restriction of carbohydrates. In this condition, the body burns ketones for energy. The keto diet is low carb, high fat – period.

Extravagant health and weight loss claims are made for ketogenic diets, including those that feature daily consumption of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides). Only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been studied, however, and the findings are contradictory. More human studies, of greater duration, are needed. The consensus seems to be that these diets are hard to sustain and the transition from them is accompanied by weight regain. Such yoyo dieting has been shown to make weight loss progressively harder.

Keto diets appear to offer short-term benefits for sufferers from type 2 diabetes, but any diet that achieves significant weight loss will help. Keto diets are dangerous for dieters with more severe medical conditions such as type 1 diabetes. In general, you are well advised to consult your primary physician when you are thinking about a significant dietary change, and definitely if you have a diagnosed condition.