Keto Diet: Benefits and Drawbacks You Need to Know

Originally developed to treat epilepsy in children, the ketogenic (keto) diet has gained massive popularity as a weight loss strategy. Social media influencers and coaches promote its benefits, claiming mental clarity and reduced inflammation among others. But do these claims hold up under scrutiny?

While proponents of the keto diet provide a laundry list of perks, the reality is a bit more complex. It’s essential to understand both the potential benefits and the risks involved. So, what are the real pros and cons of a keto diet, and is it worth trying? Let’s dive in.

The keto diet is known for being high in fat and very low in carbs. It’s much higher in fat than a typical diet, which might surprise you. There are two main types of keto: standard and therapeutic. The standard version is what most people try for general health and weight loss, while the therapeutic version is used by healthcare professionals to treat conditions like epilepsy. Their macronutrient breakdowns differ slightly.

It’s crucial to note that keto isn’t the same as a standard low-carb diet. Most low-carb diets aim to keep carbs under 150 grams per day (about 6 bananas’ worth), but keto restricts you to under 50 grams per day to reach ketosis. Ketosis is the metabolic state where your body produces ketone bodies from fats in the liver, which can be used for energy once all available carbs are depleted.

However, there’s a catch — most research on keto for weight loss involves people with obesity. If you’re trying to shed just a few pounds, you might not see the same dramatic results. But for those with significant excess weight, keto can be effective.

There are a few reasons for this. First, cutting carbs leads to a rapid drop in water weight, which is quickly reflected on the scale. After the initial drop, weight loss continues at a more normal pace. While the first pounds lost aren’t from fat, the quick results can be motivating and help people stick to the diet. Additionally, research suggests certain ketones released during ketosis may suppress appetite, aiding in calorie deficit adherence.

Eating low-carb might also make it easier for your body to burn fat. Research from 2022 indicates that keto may reduce insulin spikes. Insulin inhibits lipolysis (fat breakdown), so keeping blood sugar levels stable might facilitate body fat loss. This is particularly relevant for those with type 2 diabetes, as low-carb diets have long been a staple in diabetes management. Keto offers a unique approach by increasing fat intake, which helps stabilize blood sugar levels.

A 2019 study found that a keto diet reversed type 2 diabetes in some participants. After a two-year follow-up, many showed improvements in their diabetes markers, with a remission rate of 17.6%. These results highlight keto’s potential benefits for managing diabetes.

However, the diet isn’t without its drawbacks. A 2021 meta-analysis revealed that the benefits of keto tend to decrease after one year, with many participants struggling to stick to the diet long-term. This suggests that a slightly less restrictive, more sustainable eating plan may yield better long-term results.

In conclusion, while the keto diet can offer significant benefits, particularly for weight loss and managing diabetes, it’s important to approach it with a balanced view. The initial rapid weight loss can be motivating, but the long-term sustainability of such a restrictive diet is questionable. As always, consult with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet.

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