The Ketogenic Diet (Keto) is all the rage. Claims are being made that it will speed up weight loss, fight cancer and improve brain function. What is it and is it right for you?
Keto is typically 70-75% fat, 20-25% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrates. For someone eating 2000 calories a day, 5% carbohydrates is 25 grams.
What are ketones?
Ketones are molecules produced when the liver breaks down fat in response to a low level of sugar in the blood. We naturally make ketones throughout the day to maintain a supply of energy to the brain, but ketone levels increase in response to a low carb diet. The bottom line: our brains come first, and need glucose as food. If we’re not eating sugar, our body will prioritize making something the brain can use. To keep the body in ketosis, we need to eat fewer than 30 grams of carbohydrates a day. For some people, 50 grams of carbs will do the trick.
Ketones consist of acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone. Acetone is removed through urine and breath, producing the characteristic nail-polish remover smell.
The Ketogenic diet has been used since the 1920s to treat seizures. Doctors found that potassium channels, which quiet the brain, work better when ketone levels are higher. Another way Keto might fight seizures is by decreasing glutamate activity in the brain.
What Can Keto Do For Me?
Keto is about as effective for weight loss as a low-carb, or “modified ketogenic”, diet. Keto has similar benefits for lowering insulin, improving blood sugar levels, and lowering body fat as a low-carb diet.
Are Ketones Dangerous?
Ketones are not dangerous EXCEPT in insulin-dependent diabetics. If a diabetic doesn’t have enough insulin, they make too many ketones to compensate for low sugar levels in the cell, leading to a condition known as DKA, or diabetic ketoacidosis.
For non-diabetics, ketones don’t get to a high enough level to be dangerous.
So, Is Keto Safe?
No way of eating is perfect. A high fat, low fiber diet can increase the risk of gallstones, kidney stones and bone loss.