The ketogenic diet: for whom and why?

The ketogenic diet has become hugely popular, but it is also a source of debates. What should one think about this?

What is the ketogenic diet?

If you get the impression that you’re hearing more and more about the ketogenic (or KETO) diet for weight loss, well, you’re not alone! In recent years, there’s been a growing interest for the diet both in everyday conversations and in the media. Why is this trend attracting such strong media attention and expansion? Here is some information to help you understand.   

The ketogenic diet is basically a meal plan that promotes a significant reduction of a daily carbohydrates intake. Conversely, it promotes a significant increase of fat and a moderate protein intake. For keto diet enthusiasts, 70% to 80% of their daily calories come from fat, 10% to 20% from protein, and 5% to 10% from carbs.

What are the advantages of eating fat?

Theoretically, since fat contains a higher concentration of calories than carbohydrates and protein, one might think that eating more of it could lead to weight gain. Factually, it is actually the reverse. Why?

First, weight loss associated with the ketogenic diet can be explained in part by a decrease of water as a result of the significant reduction of consumed carbohydrates. Additionally, eating less carbs can generally reduce appetite, which contributes to further weight loss. Of course, this is only true if the program is strictly followed.

That being said, the basis of the explanation that generates interest in the ketogenic diet is as follows. The cells of the human body much rather use glucose (sugar derived from carbohydrates) as an energy source, but when they are consumed in fewer quantities, the body must turn to another source: fat.

This process is called ketose”, and this is exactly what the ketogenic diet aims to do. The body “burns” fat to transform it into energy. This process occurs in the liver, and this combustion leads to the formation of substances called “ketone bodies” (an alternative source of energy).

What foods should you choose?

When following the ketogenic diet, this involves an increased intake of fat-rich foods (and protein):

  • butter
  • cheese
  • high-fat dairy products
  • meat
  • cold cuts
  • avocados
  • eggs
  • fatty fish
  • nuts
  • oil (i.e., coconut, olive)
  • etc.

However, consumption of the following foods must be considerably reduced:

  • bread
  • pasta
  • pastries
  • potatoes
  • fruit
  • certain vegetables
  • legumes
  • etc.

Although these foods must be eaten in moderation as part of the ketogenic diet, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t healthy! On the contrary, they contain nutrients of high nutritional value. However, they are also rich in carbohydrates, which is why they should be eaten less in the current context. It is recommended to take fibre and vitamin supplements to compensate for a potential lack of nutrients.

What are the benefits of the ketogenic diet?

The growing interest for this diet can first be explained by its positive effects of weight loss. Caution:  the benefits are not sustainable and, to maintain them, you must continue the diet or choose a meal plan aimed at reducing calories.

Those who adhere to it report certain advantages on well-being, including renewed energy. Additionally, ketone bodies produced by the ketose have the effect of reducing hunger, which also helps with weight loss.

It has been shown that the ketogenic diet is effective in treating childhood epilepsy. It is currently under study for various medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, Parkinson’s disease, certain cancers, etc. Despite some promising results, the effects of the ketogenic diet on health remain to be seen. Additional studies are needed to draw more convincing conclusions.

What are the risks and inconveniences associated with the keto diet?

First, during the initial weeks of starting the diet, flu-like symptoms may be felt temporarily (keto flu”). When the body is in a state of ketose, symptoms such as nausea and fatigue may occur. Additionally, such a drastic dietary change can lead to health issues such as digestive problems.

Choosing a ketogenic diet for the long run involves eating more fat of all types. This diet often doesn’t make the difference between healthyandunhealthy fats. The risks of unhealthy fats are well known, especially in terms of cardiovascular disease. It’s something to think twice about.

The ketogenic diet is very restrictive and difficult to follow, as it focuses little on the joys of eating and requires considerable sacrifices. Perseverance can be an issue. Many people prefer to turn to other diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, which is more in line with Canada’s Food Guide.

Is the ketogenic diet for you?

That’s an excellent question! We don’t claim that this text can provide a clear-cut answer to that. We recommend that you speak to a competent healthcare professional, such as your doctor, pharmacist or nutritionist. They can help you to choose the best option, according to your needs and your health.

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The ketogenic diet: for whom and why?

The ketogenic diet has become hugely popular, but it is also a source of debates. What should one think about this?
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