Research by Supplement Place found keto is the diet the world is paying the most attention to at the moment. The keto diet came above the likes of Weight Watchers, Intermittent fasting, Slimming World and veganism. But does keto really help you lose weight, and is it dangerous? Express.co.uk spoke to Clarissa Lenherr, a nutritionist for personalised healthcare service, bioniq to find out.
What is the keto diet?
The keto diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein and low-carbohydrate diet.
The diet was devised in the 1920s to treat epilepsy in children and was (and still is) successful.
About half of the children and young people with epilepsy who have tried this diet saw the number of seizures drop by at least half, and the effect continues after resuming to a regular diet.
On the keto diet, you normally have to exclude grains, dairy, legumes, soy, most fruits and starchy vegetables.
You eat very few carbohydrate, most of which come from non-starchy vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Does keto help you lose weight?
While the keto diet does help you lose weight at first, it is probably too good to be true.
Clarissa explained: “The majority of people who manage to successfully enter a state of ketosis can lose weight fairly quickly, however it might be short term as the initial weight loss tends to come from water weight rather than fat loss.
“This is because the keto diet is very low in carbohydrates, and for every one gram of carbohydrates we hold in the body, we also hold roughly four grams of water. So once the carbohydrates are reduced, we lose water.”
Once this weight is lost, keeping the weight off is really down to sticking to a calorie deficit, Clarissa said.
The ketogenic diet will make you feel less hungry, but it may still be tricky to stay within a calorie deficit
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Clarissa added: “As the ketogenic diet is high in fat and moderate protein, people can find they are left feeling more satiated and full.
“Studies have linked the ketogenic diet to a reduced production of Ghrelin, our hunger hormone.
“Therefore, people eating this way may actually feel less hungry, and therefore consume a lower amount of calories.
“If people consume an excess of calories on the diet, their weight loss results are unlikely to be the same as those who follow the keto principles and are in a calorie deficit.
“Additionally, like with most fad diets, whilst weight loss might be the initial outcome, if the diet doesn’t fit your lifestyle or becomes too restrictive, you are likely to divulge away from the guidelines and end up putting back on the weight you have lost.”
Does the keto diet have side effects? Is it dangerous?
Yes, the keto diet does have many unpleasant side effects, including diarrhoea, constipation, headaches, and cramping.
Clarissa said: “One of the dangers of any diet high in animal protein is the risk of stress on the kidneys and kidney stones.
“Our kidneys metabolise protein, and so with any diet very high in protein, it could put stress on the kidneys.”
Since the diet is focussed on high levels of fat and protein with barely any carbs, the diet is unlikely to give you enough fibre. You need 30g of fibre a day.
You may also be left with nutritional deficiencies from this diet.
Clarissa said: “As the diet restricts carbohydrates, this means that many fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and legumes are off the table.
“These foods are rich sources of nutrients that keto followers may be missing out on. Some of these nutrients include magnesium (found in many plant foods such as fruits, veg, grains) vitamin c (found in fruits, peppers, kale, broccoli) and B vitamins.
“Calcium deficiency may also occur. Due to the high intake of animal foods, our bodies increase acid production which the kidneys have to filter out.
“To counteract this, calcium is utilised from the bone, leading to lost calcium through our urine.”
You may also lose excess sodium and potassium when following this diet.
Clarissa explained: “As you lose substantial water from the body, you also lose electrolytes with it – sodium and potassium.
“This can lead to some symptoms commonly associated with the keto diet such as headaches, cramping and diarrhoea.”