Wise to go the keto way?

Find out how safe a ketogenic diet really is

An Instagram search for #keto, #keto diet and #keto transformation will tell you why ketogenic diet remains the most popular fad diet among youngsters. While it is considered as a magic weight-loss diet with more than 61,24,287 people talking about it on Instagram and other social networking websites, here is a word of caution from health experts.

Dietitians classify ketogenic diet as a stringent nutrition plan which is high in fat, moderate to low in protein and very low in carbohydrate. It is said to promote weight loss, but doctors say it can cause side effects too and therefore one should avoid blindly following it without consulting an expert.

While explaining how ketogenic diet works, Naaznin Husein, president of the Indian Dietetic Association’s Mumbai Chapter said, “This diet is extremely low in carbohydrates and high on fat. It turns your body into fat burning machine. As carbs are reduced and fat is increased, the body enters a state called ketosis (a natural process the body initiates to help us survive when food intake is low). It converts fats into ketones — molecules that supply energy to the brain. Ketones become a form of energy when a person is on a keto diet.”

She further explained that by restricting carbohydrate intake, insulin levels and fat accumulation reduces. 

It is said that ketogenic diet has been around since the time of Hippocrates. Dietitians say that ketogenic diet has been used to manage epilepsy. “Research has shown that ketogenic diet helps in reducing food cravings. It may benefit people struggling with obesity, insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes,” said Husein.

It is also said that ketogenic diet plan is very effective in controlling PCOD, kidney and heart problems and many more.

Why should you be careful?

There are hundreds of success stories and yet, ketogenic diet remains the most debated diets in the last two years. Dietitians say ketogenic diet is a modified form of Atkins diet — another popular fad diet. It is popular among youngsters who workout and want to build their muscles.

“It is a major dietary change. In a ketogenic diet, intake of fruits, carbohydrates and sugar are restricted. This deprives your body of sugar. However, your brain requires sugar and carbs for its functioning,” said Zamurrud Patel, a dietitian at Global Hospitals- Mumbai.

While the high-fat ketogenic diet is said to benefit people with epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer, doctors say it can have side effects for some people if blindly followed.

“A diet that is high in fat and very low in carbohydrate can be taxing on the liver and kidneys. It may cause constipation and bad breathe too,” said Sheela Krishnaswamy, a Bengaluru-based diet, nutrition and wellness expert and all India IDA president.

A ketogenic diet should be prescribed by a registered dietitian or doctor after evaluating the person and needs regular monitoring.

“Each of us is different. For some people, a high fat and low carbohydrate diet may mean a lot of hard work for their body. You may also miss out on vitamins, which is not healthy,” said Krishnaswamy.

A short-term solution

Many health experts term ketogenic diet as a short-term solution that can have a long-term adverse effect on health.

“It is not a scientific and a safe diet and can be recommended for only six to eight weeks. In an epileptic patient, this diet helps in losing weight and controlling seizures and may not show many side effects. But, in a normal person, it can lead to constipation, loss of salts, keto flu, leg cramps, bad breath, hypoglycaemia, frequent urination, anxiety, irritability, sweating, chills, lack of antioxidants, tachycardia, bad breath, excessive thirst,” warned Ankita Ghag, clinical nutritionist, co-founder and director, Vacchan Aarogya.

She further said that doing it mindlessly can cause kidney failure, hamper the brain function, dizziness and diabetes.

Things to remember...

Ketogenic diet depends on an individual’s metabolism rate, genetics, size and lifestyle. While your dietitian will help you prepare and plan, remember to keep yourself hydrated, eat well and have a good multivitamin. Do not self-prescribe keto diet.

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Wise to go the keto way?

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