To Keto or NOT to Keto?

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To keto diet or not to keto diet, that is the question. The original ketogenic diet was developed to control pediatric epilepsy in the 1920's.

In my Dietetic internship in 2005, there were a few life-threatening conditions that I was able to study in the classroom and then observe a patient with the same condition in the hospital. Some of these conditions were scary and life-threatening.

I observed as family members wept at the bedside of their loved ones who were fighting for their lives as they lay in a coma in the hospital bed. One of these nutritional complications that really made a lasting impression was a very scary complication from diabetes called a Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA).

According to the American Diabetes Association:

“DKA is a condition that is so serious it can lead to a coma or death if not corrected. When your cells do not receive glucose (blood sugar), your body begins to burn fat for energy which then produces ketones.

Ketones are chemicals that the body creates when it breaks down fat to use for energy. The body does this when it doesn’t have enough insulin to use glucose, the body’s normal source of energy. When there is an excessive amount of ketones in your blood, they make it very acidic.

That’s a warning sign that your diabetes is out of control and causing you to be sick. High levels of ketones can be poisonous to the body. When levels get too high, you can develop DKA.”

“Diabetic Ketoacidosis is a condition that is so serious, it can lead to coma or death if not corrected.”

Some of the warning signs for DKA: dry mouth, frequent urination, feeling tired, high levels of ketones in the urine, nausea, and vomiting, difficulty breathing and many other side effects including coma and death.

Does not seem like the state that anyone would consider or want their body to be in?

The reason I am listing this warning signs is you will see the similarities in this could be a fatal condition to a trendy fad diet that is in and all the rage right now:

The Keto Diet

The original ketogenic diet was developed to control pediatric epilepsy in the 1920’s under strict medical watch and Registered Dietitians.

Normally, when you eat foods that contain carbohydrates (such as grains, fruit, and dairy products) they turn into glucose (or blood sugar which is the bodies preferred energy source) which is then transported through the bloodstream and is particularly important for fueling the brain.

However, if there are limited carbohydrates in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood, a state known as ketosis, leads to a reduction in the frequency of epileptic seizures.

“The original ketogenic diet was developed to control pediatric epilepsy in the 1920’s.”

Again professionals are to monitor these patients for any potential medical problems and ensure that they remained in ketosis. However, this is no longer the first line of approach due to the development of anticonvulsants.

First of all, no matter how you wrap up the Keto diet, it is the first phase of the Adkins Diet that was very popular in 2003-2004.

It is a low carbohydrate, moderate protein and high-fat diet which puts the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis. It is currently “recommended” for people with PCOS, infertility and those with high blood sugars.

The Keto Diet in a Nut Shell

I can’t actually get to the diet’s specific recommendations on the websites without purchasing the diet specifics and this should be a huge red flag! Basically, you are to eat 80-90 percent of your calories from fat which is to help you remain in “keto.”

Since it lacks carbohydrates the ketogenic diet is rich in proteins and fats. This includes meats, eggs, processed meats, cheese, sausage, fish, nuts and fibrous vegetables. The other recommendations are to fast, because “fasting” is the quickest way to enter ketosis.

Since when was the last time that a person who has fasted for weight loss was successful? It is very difficult for an adult to remain in ketosis. Also, very few fruits and vegetables are consumed.

“Remember, diets do not work!”

Only 10-15 grams are recommended and that is hard if 1 apple has 15 grams of carbohydrates. Most of the time, the lack of nutrients leave a person tired from lack of ability to sleep well, bad breath and constipated. The side effects from the diet also include loss of electrolytes, constipation, heart palpitations, AND KETO FLU (sound familiar?) What?

A diet that makes you feel like you have the flu? If you don’t have time to cook well-balanced meals at home for yourself, then do you really have time for the flu? Oh, it only should last a “few days.”

So why would it be recommended for children with epilepsy but I am not recommending for someone who desperately wants to lose weight?

First of all, this very rigid diet is only recommended for children as a last resort or medication does not help. Then the diet is administered by a medically supervised team including a Registered Dietitian and then it is only recommended for a short amount of time.

Remember, diets do not work. I have hope that one day America will wake up and stop handing over their money to the billion-dollar diet industry! According to Lisa Cimperman, RD at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio; most the weight loss that occurs on the keto diet is water weight.

Once you enter ketosis, you began losing muscle and become fatigued and enter starvation mode. This actually makes it harder to lose weight. It can actually do more harm than good and can damage the heart. It can also raise lipids in the blood leading to high cholesterol.

Click here for more content by Lindsey McKeon, RD, LDN, MA!

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