Breaking down the pros and cons of the ketogenic diet

Breaking down the pros and cons of the ketogenic diet

Credit: Original article published on The Seattle Times

Originally developed to treat severe epilepsy in infants and children, today the ketogenic diet has gone mainstream — but not without controversy.

The ketogenic diet isn’t just any low-carbohydrate diet. It’s very low in carbohydrates and very high in fat, putting the body into ketosis, a state where it burns fat instead of glucose (sugar) for fuel. But while research has demonstrated some short-term benefits, research on long-term effects — both positive and negative — of the ketogenic diet is currently lacking.

Diets labeled as “ketogenic” vary widely, but the true ketogenic diet can have a ratio of 75% to 85% calories from fat, 10% from protein and as little as 5% from carbs. That often means 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day, primarily from nonstarchy vegetables like salad greens and broccoli. Because protein can be converted to glucose, it’s kept high enough to reduce the risk of muscle loss but low enough to prevent nudging the body out of ketosis.

Many people think they are following a ketogenic diet, but they’re really just eating low-carb, which means they aren’t in ketosis. One reason I often hear: “I just can’t eat that much fat.” Or, they take “breaks” from doing keto on the weekends. But researchers I’ve asked about this say that going in and out of ketosis is not a good idea. Many people don’t want to measure ketones using a finger stick device, but peeing on a urine strip isn’t …

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