The Keto Diet or otherwise ketogenic diet is recognized and extensively studied for its contribution to the treatment of epilepsy in children. Its effectiveness in weight loss and in improving other conditions is encouraging but remains under investigation.
The general guidelines are that about 50% of our diet is made up of carbohydrates, about 30% of fat and the rest of protein. Under "normal" conditions, our body uses glucose, which comes from food carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, potatoes, bread, rice, spaghetti, etc.) to produce energy for its functions.
The keto diet is therefore quite low in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and high in fat. There are several types of keto diets that play a role in maintaining a healthy carb intake, always having a low carb intake of less than 50 or even 20 grams per day.
The philosophy on which is based:
Since there are no carbohydrates to be used for energy production, our body metabolizes fat into ketones or ketone bodies. Ketones become the main source of energy for the body and the brain, hence the name of the diet. A few days after the adoption of the ketogenic diet, the body reaches the state of ketosis, where there is increased fat burning. The exact mechanism by which it helps with epilepsy is not yet known. It appears to affect abnormal electrical activity in the brain, either through the ketone bodies produced or through the metabolic changes that occur due to ketosis.
If one decides to follow the keto diet, one should definitely consult a Dietitian-Nutritionist, with a professional license, to decide together if it is the right shape for him and to plan it carefully and comprehensively. In general, avoid foods that contain carbohydrates such as fruits, legumes, rice, potatoes, bread, spaghetti, starchy vegetables such as peas, corn, potatoes, sweets, etc. On the contrary, in order to achieve the appropriate level of ketosis, the diet should be rich in red meat and its derivatives, fatty fish, poultry, eggs, cheeses, cold cuts, butter, nuts and seeds, oils such as olive oil, etc.
The results are contradictory. There are studies that claim that the ketogenic diet helps in weight loss as much as another "classic diet" would help and that any effect is due to the reduction of calories and the removal of foods that people tend to overeat. On the other hand, there are studies that show greater weight loss with the ketogenic diet compared to other types of diet, especially in the first 6 months.
In particular, a meta-analysis conducted in 2020 clearly concluded that the ketogenic diet, in some cases, is superior to other types of diet and should be used as a strategy to manage overweight and obesity. At this point, it is worth mentioning that ketosis causes a reduced feeling of hunger and reduced appetite, so the person reaches satiety more easily.
In what other areas can the Keto diet help:
Some of the health conditions that have been studied and show encouraging results with the adoption of the ketogenic diet are the following:
The ketogenic diet, in addition to the epilepsy part, needs further research to draw safe conclusions about its usefulness in weight loss and other health issues. By definition, it is a diet rich in saturated fat, cholesterol and foods that raise uric acid, while it is low in fiber, folic acid, vitamins A, C, K, and leads to greater fluid loss.
Therefore, there are both short-term and long-term risks. In the short term it can lead to dehydration, electrolyte disturbances, constipation, headache, fatigue, hypoglycemia, sleep disturbances and bad breath. The most serious long-term complication that can occur is ketoacidosis, a condition in which excess ketones accumulate in the body, which can even lead to a heart attack. In addition, other unwanted long-term side effects are the increased risk of osteoporosis and kidney stones, hyperuricaemia (increased uric acid levels), etc.
The ketogenic diet is life-saving and has improved the lives of many children with epilepsy. But it is not a panacea, as it needs additional study. In certain cases it seems to be able to help people, to whom other approaches have failed, to improve their health and quality of life. It is a special dietary approach that excludes whole food groups and carries many risks. If you decide to try it, do not do it alone, seek the advice of a Dietitian.
In collaboration with Nutritionist - Dietitian Thalis Panagiotou
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