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Ketogenic Diet…what’s the deal?

What’s the deal with a ketogenic diet? 

By Brigid Chunn, Registered Nutritionist

Is it a fad or are there some benefits – let’s have a look.

Firstly what is a ketogenic diet?

This is a very low carb diet, with high fats and moderate protein intake. The aim is to get your body to use ketones stored from fat as its energy source rather than glucose from carbohydrates.

Ketones are produced by the liver from fat when the body is starved of carbs (ie 50g or less of carbohydrates)

NB 50g carbs = 1 banana plus a cup of cooked white rice OR just over ½ cup of raisins

What are disadvantages of following a ketogenic diet?

  1. Low fibre. When keeping carbohydrates low you run the risk of a low fibre intake from wholegrains which may lead to constipation issues
  2. Lethargy. This is not surprising especially considering carbs are the preferred source of energy
  3. Drop in mood. An Australian study found there’s a connection between carbs and mood with those on a low carb diet experiencing more depression, anxiety and tension
  4. Hard to sustain. A ketogenic diet is very restrictive and hard to maintain for more than a couple of months
  5. By severely limiting foods that contain carbohydrate, you may not get enough of nutrients including folate, B vitamins, calcium and trace elements
  6. Ketoacidosis – a production of excessive ketone bodies leading to a dangerously toxic level of acid in the blood. In a few rare cases, ketoacidosis has been reported to occur in nondiabetic individuals following a prolonged very low carbohydrate diet
  7. Increased risk of kidney stones, osteoporosis and increased blood levels of uric acid (a gout risk factor)
  8. Not recommended from the ministry of health for weight loss – their recommendation is reduce total energy by reducing energy-dense and nutrient-poor foods

What are the advantages of following a ketogenic diet?

  1. Reducing or cutting out poor quality carbs (such as cakes, biscuits, white bread and sugary foods) from your diet is beneficial
  2. Successful treatment for epilepsy has been well established
  3. Ketogenic diets may be useful for weight loss – possibly more so than low fat diets BUT there is still debate regarding this and some doubts about the safety of it
  4. There is new research and some evidence that ketogenic diets may be useful in treating type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome BUT more research is needed to investigate the safety and effectiveness and the mechanisms

While it’s always a good idea to cut down on energy-dense, highly-processed foods that contain lots of refined sugars, fats and salt, strict ketogenic diets should only be followed under medical supervision and for a limited time.

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