The keto diet for weight loss. Does it work?

June 23, 2020

This post was originally written by former staff member, Erin Dwyer.

It's so hot right now - but is keto going to treat you good? Read on to find out.

What is the keto diet?

The ketogenic diet – (let’s call it keto) – is a restricted diet that significantly reduces the amount of carbohydrates (grains, breads, pasta, fruit and some vegetables) in your diet.

breads = carbs = you don’t get to have any on keto.

Most ketogenic resources suggest for a keto diet, we should aim to get:

70 – 80 % of energy from fat
10 -20 % of energy from protein
10 % of energy from carbohydrate

(Remember that energy refers to either kilojoules (kJ) or calories.)

Let’s see what that looks like when we compare it to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating:

ight up wire spelling out 'no guts no glory'.  a keto diet won't be great for your gut.

You can see the significant difference in recommendations for carbohydrate and fat. Switching to a keto diet would mean about a 50% drop in carbohydrate and a 50% increase in fat.

Why the buzz about keto?

Our bodies prefers to run off the carbohydrates that we eat for energy. If however, we eat more than we need, this carbohydrate is stored.

The way a keto diet is intended to work is by reducing carbohydrates so significantly that the body is forced to find an alternative energy source.

The next best thing for the body to use after carbohydrates is dietary fat and stored fat. When the body runs on fat its called ‘ketosis’.

The body works well on fat, however it costs the body more energy to do so. As a result, you are theoretically burning more of your stored fat for energy doing your day to day activities than you would have if you were eating carbohydrates. And the result? A reduction in fat stores – well that’s the theory.

What are the some of the concerns about the keto diet?

The keto diet dramatically cuts back on the foods groups in our diet, particularity those containing carbohydrates. A low intake of carbs in turn means that our intake of all the good stuff we get from carbs – like fibre and prebiotics – is also reduced. Our poor gut microbiome! Not to mention the likely constipation. And the possible increase risk of bowel cancer. So yes. Some pretty big concerns, particularly if the diet is followed long term.

love thy gut – a keto diet may not be the best choice for your gut health

There is also the social aspect to consider. Having to follow such strict dietary guidelines can impact on the enjoyment and socialisation that ideally goes along with eating.

What does the research say?

What we know:

  • Weight loss often occurs quickly
  • Being in ketosis acts like a natural appetite suppressant as the appetite stimulating hormones are reduced. This means the diet can be easier to adhere to. Also, foods high in protein and fat are more generally more satisfying / filling, another reason you don’t feel as hungry.
  • Issues related to carrying excess weight improve as weight decreases, including insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol and triglycerides.

What we don’t know:

  • The long term effect (more than 1 year) of a ketogenic diet?
  • How much weight is regained when you stop eating ‘keto’?
  • Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
  • Is it safe for people with kidney or liver issues?

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