A keto diet is an eating plan that focuses on foods that provide a lot of healthful fats, adequate amounts of protein, and very few carbohydrates. The goal is to get more calories from fat than from carbs.
The diet works by depleting the body of its sugar reserves. As a result, it will start to break down fat for energy. This results in the production of molecules called ketones that the body uses for fuel. When the body burns fats, it can also lead to weight loss.
There are several types of keto diet, including the Standard Ketogenic Diet and the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet.
Can I lose weight on the keto diet?
Yes. Certainly in the short-term, it appears that way. For the first two to six months, there’s evidence that a very low-carbohydrate diet can help you lose more weight than the standard high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet, according to a new literature review of low-carb diets by the National Lipid Association.
“By 12 months, that advantage is essentially gone,” said Carol F. Kirkpatrick, director of Idaho State University’s Wellness Center, and lead author of the new literature review.
After that, weight loss seems to equalize between those two popular diet regimens. She said keto was best used to kick-start a diet, before transitioning to a carb intake that you can adhere to for the longer term.
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How long does it take to see results on the keto diet?
For some, it’s the promised land of diets. Instead of cringing through carrot sticks, they can fill up guilt-free on chorizo with scrambled eggs. Indeed, some evidence suggests that people feel less hungry while in ketosis, and have fewer cravings.
“That’s why it’s become so popular for the general population,” said Dr. Mackenzie C. Cervenka, medical director of Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Adult Epilepsy Diet Center. “Because once you are in ketosis, it’s easy to follow.” Usually, it takes between one to four days to enter the state, doctors say, but it depends on many factors like activity level: a runner, for example, may sprint there faster than a couch potato.
The keto diet appears to deliver fast results: The first pounds may seem to slip off. That can be seductive but it’s likely water weight. Then, dietitians say, it’s back to energy in minus energy out. You can absolutely gain weight on any diet if you’re consuming 5,000 calories a day, according to Dr. Linsenmeyer, who is also director of Saint Louis University’s Didactic Program in Dietetics.
“It’s not like it is going to magically alter your metabolism to where calories don’t matter anymore,” she said. And when resuming the carbs, that water weight returns.
Risks and Complications
The ketogenic diet may have a range of health benefits. However, staying on the ketogenic diet long-term can have an adverse effect on health, including an increased risk of the following health problems:
- kidney stones
- excess protein in the blood
- mineral and vitamin deficiencies
- a build up of fat in the liver
The keto diet can cause adverse side effects that many people know as keto flu. These adverse effects may include:
- low blood sugar
- a low tolerance for exercise
These symptoms are especially common at the beginning of the diet as the body adjusts to its new energy source.
Some populations should avoid the keto diet, including:
- people with diabetes who are insulin-dependent
- people who have eating disorders
- those with kidney disease or pancreatitis
- women during pregnancy and breastfeeding
People who take a type of medication called sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors for type 2 diabetes should also not follow a keto diet. This medication increases the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition that increases acidity in the blood.