The ketogenic diet, explained – The low carb diet craze is over. Okay omniscient voice on TV, calm down. It seems every couple of years or so, there’s a new diet to try.
South Beach was popular during the early 2000s, then paleo took over towards the late 2000s. But around April 2017 you can see in this Google Trend graph, a new diet surpassing it. Celebrities like Halle Berry and Kourtney Kardashian are going nuts for this diet.
The ketogenic diet, explained
Keto devotees claim that if you banish carbs and eat lots of fat, your body will start to actually burn fat and you’ll lose weight and even reduce your hunger in the process. But what’s lost in this keto chaos: there’s no evidence that keto diets work better than any other diets for most people hoping to slim down.
Although keto may be the latest in fad diets, it’s had promising results elsewhere. It was used since the 1920s to treat epilepsy. Outcomes from this 2018 study showed its potential in treating subjects with type-2 diabetes. As a diet for weight loss, it’s been around for a while. Keto’s most recognizable form is from the ’60s: the Atkins Nutritional Approach, pushed by the late doctor Robert Atkins. RIP homie.
The theory behind this diet, the insulin carbohydrate hypothesis, suggests that people start to burn more calories more quickly and burn off more fat. And several high quality studies have debunked these extra fat and calorie burning claims. So exactly what foods can people eat on keto? People are supposed to get 5% of their calories from carbs, about 15% from protein, and 80% from fat.
That means staying away from things like bread, grains, rice, you know, cereals, chips. You’re definitely not going to be eating chips. And eating lots of fish, meat, eggs, don’t throw the bacon at me! Bacon, things like this. The goal is to get your body into a state of ketosis.
So basically our bodies are fueled primarily by glucose, which we get from carbohydrates. But when you eliminate carbs and you start to eat lots of fat, instead of burning glucose for fuel, your body starts to burn fat. To get into ketosis you need to eat less than 50 grams of carbs, or two slices of bread, per day. And of course eat a lot of fat.
Sounds simple, right? Basically eat no carbs and the weight will come right off. And low carb diets like keto can sometimes give people the impression in the short term, they’ve lost fat.
When in reality it’s rapid water weight-loss. Plus the more extreme a diet, the less likely a person is to stay on track. The average person can’t stick with the keto diet for even six months. It’s especially challenging in a world with temptations of easy, over-processed, and high calorie foods at every corner.
When you stack very low carb diets like Atkins or keto against other types of diets, in the long run people lose about the same amount of weight as they would on any diet. There are always outliers, there are always people who do really really well and it’s possible you may be one of those people, who really benefits from a ketogenic diet. But on average, they don’t work for most people.
There’s some hard truths about losing weight and keeping it off. It’s really difficult. It takes a long time. And while keto may work wonders for some, like people with diabetes, the best diet overall is probably one you can stick with.