So, What is the Ketogenic Diet?

Recently, the ketogenic (or keto) diet has gained popularity as the newest weight loss strategy by following a low carb, high fat eating pattern. But, the diet is actually nothing new. Since the 1920s, this diet has been used as a dietary intervention to help control seizures in those with epilepsy. But due to the restrictive nature of the diet, it is typically only recommended when medications to control seizures have failed. Patients are followed closely by a Registered Dietitian and their medical team for monitoring.

The diet is named after the process of ketosis, an adaptation that allows the body to survive during times of famine or starvation. During ketosis, there is a lack of carbohydrates, the brain’s primary energy source. So, the body will metabolize fat, creating ketones and providing the body with energy. Those following the ketogenic diet achieve ketosis by drastically reducing carbohydrate intake to less than 5% of daily calories or about 20 to 30 grams of fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy. Fat consumption is increased to up to 80% of daily calories. Butter, bacon, oils and mayonnaise are suggested ways to increase daily fat intake. Protein consumption is moderate and typically unchanged from the recommended dietary guidelines.

Prohibiting certain foods can put the body at risk for developing deficiencies in important vitamins and minerals, so a daily multivitamin will likely be necessary. Consuming adequate fiber while following the ketogenic diet can also be a challenge from the removal of fibrous fruits, vegetables and grains.

Diets that eliminate entire food groups can create unhealthy eating behaviors over time. To date, there is a lack of scientific evidence about the long-term effectiveness and safety of the ketogenic diet. Until then, a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates from whole grains, fruits and vegetables is still the recommended eating pattern for long-term health.

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