Is This The Diet We Should All Be On?
As I write this article, it’s a Monday. Also known as D-Day for those who lived the entire previous week by the adage ‘it’s ok, diet starts Monday’. So on a day where the entire office is eyeing up their salads and groaning, such an article seems apt. This time, it’s the Ketogenic Diet – the high-fat diet, designed to optimise fat-burning, a statement which seems in itself somewhat paradoxical.
The latest in a stream of low-carb, high-fat diets such as the Atkins, the Dukan, the Ketogenic diet takes this further still. The idea is that the adoption of the diet results in ketosis of the body, which, rather than being harmful as it perhaps sounds, is beneficial to the body in a variety of ways.
Unlike high-protein diets, the aim of the ketogenic diet is not to load up on protein, but to keep fat consumption as high as possible. Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy – and for the most focused, it’s possible to measure and adapt to reach optimal ketone levels for health, weight-loss, as well as mental and physical performance.
A reduction in carbs (which convert to blood sugar) leads to an increase in ketones in the body, which are produced in the liver and used as fuel throughout the body. This means that the body has essentially switched its fuel supply, to run almost entirely on fat: insulin levels become very low, and fat burning increases dramatically, as the body can easily access fat stores to burn them off.
The positive effects of the Ketogenic diet seem valuable and endless – not only does the diet promote weight-loss, but it also reverses type two diabetes (in most cases); improves mental focus; increases physical endurance; and has the potential to mitigate acne, Alzheimer’s, cancer, migraines and Parkinson’s disease.
It is also used to treat epilepsy in children – although tests to find out how or why it works remain inconclusive. But is this too good to be true?
Does burning fat by consuming fat really work, and if so – is it really good for us? Even advocates of the diet agree that even though they believe the diet is beneficial, the two-to-three-week adaptation period that the body goes through can be a struggle for anyone.
Side effects such as ultra-frequent urination; fatigue and dizziness; sodium and magnesium deficiency; headaches; constipation; shakiness or weakness; sugar cravings; muscle cramps and disturbed sleep are just a few of the common side effects experienced within the first few weeks – side effects which put many off remaining on the diet.
Although these side effects alleviate themselves after a few weeks, some scientists have raised other, more worrying, concerns. It has been argued that since Ketosis puts the body in what is essentially starvation mode, the weight loss halts after a certain point, and it becomes harder to lose weight.
Some also argue that it can damage the heart muscle; affect bone-growth; cause kidney stones; as well as result in what can be severe nutrient deficiency – and these are just some of the side effects. In addition, the diet is incredibly strict – and must be fully adhered to in order to work – something which the vast majority might struggle with in a non-medical setting.
So should we approach this diet with caution?
Perhaps a good way to look at it would be to examine whether the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, which they certainly seem to – the positive health effects are far more common. The vast majority of health and dietetic professionals would advocate the diet – if adhered to properly.
But, even as we are becoming more health-conscious and stricter about what we eat than ever before, are we ready yet for a diet this strict? Do you have any particular questions about the Ketogenic Diet? Or are you simply looking for more information? Call us on 01803 203387 or email at [email protected].