In the last few weeks, I’ve been bombarded with tons of queries about a new craze called Ketogenic Diet meant to facilitate weight loss. Like other previous food fads including the Bood Group Diet, it is gaining attention in Ghana without proper education on the suitability, dangers, even the very benefits for which it is being ingested wholly without common sense, much more professional guide. Herewith my professional vox.
What is it?
Ketogenic or Keto diet, emphasizes extreme carbohydrate restriction, moderate protein but very high fat intake. Mark you, the most important reason we eat is for energy. Note also that the human body is normally programmed to use carbs as the primary energy source, before fat, and protein as a last resort.
Owing to extreme limitations in daily carb intake (up to 50g maximum) however, the body on ketogenic diet, easily moves to break down fat in the liver to a by-product called ketones (which is why it is called ‘ketogenic’ diet). These ketones accumulate in the blood providing energy source for the brain and the rest of the body.
The ketogenic diet was originally formulated many decades ago to treat epilepsy in children when medications were found ineffective. In these children, it was found that the use of ketones rather than glucose for energy in the brain, reduced the frequency of seizures. With time, weight loss in the short-term was realised as a side effect. This is why proponents of ketogenic diet preach it today as a weight loss strategy.
Besides epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, certain cancers and polycystic ovarian syndrome have all been targeted by the diet, albeit under close professional monitoring.
For a healthy individual seeking to lose weight and sustain it, the ketogenic diet is not advisable due to possible rebound weight gain and other likely health concerns in the long term.
Limited research back weight loss from ketogenic diet in the short term, despite possible rebound weight gain in the long term. Probable reasons for the weight loss in ketogenic diet include rapid energy expenditure in the body due to increased fat usage and a general decline in appetite.
Other health indicators associated with excess body fat, such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterols and triglycerides, have seen some improvements in the short term.
Likely Health Dangers
In the short-term, extreme carbohydrate restriction presents hunger, fatigue, irritability, constipation, headaches, and brain ‘haziness’. These surely could affect one’s attention and productivity at each point in time. Though the discomforts may subside with time, a high-fat diet with limited variety of foods as ketogenic diet is, is not sustainable and may present new challenges.
Most importantly, research have suggested negative side effects of a long-term ketogenic diet to include: increased risk of kidney stones, osteoporosis (a serious bone disorder) and gout.
Possible nutrient deficiencies and their concomitant health dangers have also been identified in the long-term use of ketogenic diet. This happens because whole food groups are excluded. For instance, there is a high risk of inadequate intakes of fibre, B vitamins, and minerals (iron, magnesium, zinc) — nutrients typically found in whole grains — but are restricted or avoided in ketogenic diet.
So Apply Common Sense
There is abundant scientific evidence backing healthy eating (balanced and moderated diet) with moderate exercises for weight loss and optimal health. So why opt for a regimen like ketogenic diet which cannot guarantee sustainable weight loss but is rather pregnant with likely health dangers. Use your head!
Carrying a copy of the Constitution in your pocket will never make you a lawyer. You’d still need one when need be. And I bet you’d not play ‘chaskele’ with your health when you need a doctor for medication or surgery. Why then allow ‘Diet Galamseyers’ to toy with your health at their pecuniary benefits? Cerebrate, my friend!
Remember the maladies — diabetes, obesity, cancers, hypertension, stroke, deranged cholesterols, heart diseases etc — which account for most deaths today are diet- and lifestyle-related. So don’t just take any diet advice from just anyone at all; ask a Registered Dietician.
Even if you still want to lose weight in the short term using ketogenic diet, seek the professional counsel of a Registered Dietician to give you a bespoke healthier plan (which include other food groups) so as to avoid the associated risks. Pay for health with your wealth; it’s worth it. But, always apply common sense!
Author: DESMOND PAA KWESI HACKMAN
The author is a Registered Dietician & Nutritionist of years of experience in the use of appropriate diet in treating and preventing all sorts of diseases including obesity, underweight, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, deranged cholesterols, anaemia, heart diseases and many others which are diet-indicated.