Also, plan for modifications to the meals for other people in your home. You wonít be able to make totally different meals for yourself and your family for the long term. The best approach is to use the main meat dish for your meal for the entire family and then a carbohydrate side dish for your family. For example, if you are eating meatloaf you can add half a potato for the other members of your family.
Thanks for the great article! As a fellow dietitian I think its challenging to stay on top of the fads and weight loss trends. The way I see it is that there are two types of ketogenic diets – lifestyle (for weight loss) and therapeutic for some of the medical conditions you mentioned above. Bottom line, the ketogenic diet is not a “natural” diet and there are serious associated side effects. I believe that people following the diet need to be supported by a team of medical professionals to ensure adequate monitoring.
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There are so many tricks, shortcuts, and gimmicks out there on achieving optimal ketosis – I’d suggest you don’t bother with any of that. Optimal ketosis can be accomplished through dietary nutrition alone (aka just eating food). You shouldn’t need a magic pill to do it. Just stay strict, remain vigilant, and be focused on recording what you eat (to make sure your carb and protein intake are correct).
The findings below have been limited to research specific to the ketogenic diet: the studies listed contain about 70-80% fat, 10-20% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrate. Diets otherwise termed “low carbohydrate” may not include these specific ratios, allowing higher amounts of protein or carbohydrate. Therefore only diets that specified the terms “ketogenic” or “keto,” or followed the macronutrient ratios listed above were included in this list below. In addition, though extensive research exists on the use of the ketogenic diet for other medical conditions, only studies that examined ketogenic diets specific to obesity or overweight were included in this list. (This paragraph was added to provide additional clarity on 5.7.18.)
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The ketogenic or “keto” diet is a low-carbohydrate, fat-rich eating plan that has been used for centuries to treat specific medical conditions. In the 19th century, the ketogenic diet was commonly used to help control diabetes. In 1920 it was introduced as an effective treatment for epilepsy in children in whom medication was ineffective. The ketogenic diet has also been tested and used in closely monitored settings for cancer, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies found that endurance performance, whether it was anaerobic or aerobic was impaired or maintained with a ketogenic diet. This is still a complicated area to study, since majority of studies used in this review had small sample sizes, no control group or were very short in duration (no more than six weeks). Because of this, it is still unclear whether endurance performance is enhanced or impaired with a ketogenic diet.
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Here’s what you got wrong…Keto is about a balanced fat and protein diet with very low carbs and high nutritional content. No one on keto shoots for an 80% fat intake, that’s just impossible to achieve and isn’t what keto is about. I targeted 110g of protein and 90g of fat in a day … and under 20g of carbs. I ate a lot of leafy/dark green vegetables and got most of my carbs from other veggies and fruits like tomatoes, onions, and berries (with a high GI). This is what most people target, a 40/40/10 ratio of protein, fat, carbs … but the common misconception is that the fat amount is a goal, whereas it’s a limit. The protein is more important to a healthy body, but the fat teaches the body to release/produce the ketones in the bloodstream.
So where did the ketogenic diet come from? Interestingly enough, this fad diet didn’t spark from a celebrity endorsement or some guy missing a medical license. There’s evidence of the keto diet being used back in the early 1920s to treat severe childhood epilepsy and it’s still being used today for that purpose. Research suggests that the production of ketones may influence neurotransmitter activity in neurons allowing for a reduction in seizure attacks. A recent Cochrane Review demonstrated a 30-40% reduction in seizures compared with non-keto diet controls. One thing to keep in mind, however (which is a theme when discussing the keto diet) is that it’s generally difficult to adhere to and difficult to tolerate for a lot of people. In other words, people go on it and then come off it pretty damn quick.
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One of the latest trends in weight-loss diets, the ketogenic or “keto” diet is so effective for some of its devotees that it may be here to stay. So, what exactly is this diet that you’ve heard so much — or so little — about? Simply put, a keto diet drastically reduces the amount of carbs you eat and increases the amount of healthy fats you consume. A percentage of protein is allowed. This is supposed to put your body in the metabolic state of “ketosis” where it burns fat instead of carbs. Sounds simple enough until you try to eat that way 24/7!
Available research on the ketogenic diet for weight loss is still limited. Most of the studies so far have had a small number of participants, were short-term (12 weeks or less), and did not include control groups. A ketogenic diet has been shown to provide short-term benefits in some people including weight loss and improvements in total cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. However, these effects after one year when compared with the effects of conventional weight loss diets are not significantly different. 
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Excessive ketone bodies can produce a dangerously toxic level of acid in the blood, called ketoacidosis. During ketoacidosis, the kidneys begin to excrete ketone bodies along with body water in the urine, causing some fluid-related weight loss. Ketoacidosis most often occurs in individuals with type 1 diabetes because they do not produce insulin, a hormone that prevents the overproduction of ketones. However in a few rare cases, ketoacidosis has been reported to occur in nondiabetic individuals following a prolonged very low carbohydrate diet. [4,5]
Thermal Effect of Activity, also known as Activity Level, determines additional energy expenditure due to moving around and exercising. According to Lyle McDonald, broadly speaking, there are 5 categories / activity levels. We readjusted the multipliers from Lyle McDonald's book to better reflect different activity levels that work for most people.
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When I first started my keto experience, I didn’t have much fruit. I would occasionally have one strawberry or 1/4 cup of frozen fruit, but I kept it to a minimum. Now, the good news is that fruit sugar is different than white sugar. First of all, the fruit has fiber in it. Unlike eating white sugar which goes straight into the bloodstream and is combated with insulin spikes, the fiber in fruit is harder to digest, so it doesn’t cause your body to react in the same way. So a little fruit can be a good thing.
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Get Plenty of Sodium. This might sound counter to what you’ve been told before, but your body really needs sodium. It’s one of the ways that your cells transport nutrients in and out of cells. And when you stop eating processed grains and sugar, you often get much less sodium. So when you go keto, just be sure that you’re eating salt or sodium-rich foods. If not, you will often experience fatigue.
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This article covers everything I’ve read about the diet. They’re still testing it on Alzheimer’s I believe so I’m interested in seeing complete results of that study as neurological diseases are somewhat like cancer in being able to find cures for them. I do believe our bodies genetic makeup has more to do with optimal diets. Though I wonder how many are doing keto thinking it will prevent disease? Because there are no studies on that from what I’ve seen, though prevention and diet seem to not have any long-term studies completed.
I have never tried a keto diet (don’t like the idea myself) but I am what you could call moderately (or “liberal”) low carb. Around 125g max net per day, which as you likely know is half the RDA of 250g. I get most of the rest of my energy from protein and some for fat. The RDA of protein, around 50g, is only just enough to sustain muscle of a sedentary or low movement individual – and this is proven by the fact that a lot of people who hit the gym eat easily 2-3x the RDA of protein.
I also want to add that I absolutely agree with your verdict! As a type 1 diabetic who has experienced the sickening feeling of ketones’ presence, and known about the dangers of ketoacidosis since childhood, the concept of this diet for weight loss has always rubbed me the wrong way and struck me as a bit off (although I know ketosis is a different thing and is alright for the body, its extreme form is ketoacidosis, after all). I also have seen the diet, used for weight loss, cause dramatic results that then rebounded afterwards. I understand it is an incredible revelation in treating some epileptic individuals, and I see how it makes sense and can be helpful for type 2 diabetics or pre-diabetics. But as for a weight-management diet, like with everything else in life, I think we should strive balance. And enjoying summer peaches!
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I am with you! I have been a WW member and been years without going outside of my suggested guidelines. I would lose weight, plateau, go on one of their plateau breaking diets for two weeks then have to go off and slowly gained weight again. I was teaching my body to live on less. I have been down as low as 800 kcal a day and not losing. Eat more fiber so you feel full was what I was told. Try eating 800 kcal, high fiber and see how balanced your diet is. I am eating between 1800 – 2000 kcal now and dropping 10 – 15 lbs a month on Keto. Long term diuretic user, I no longer have water retention. I am salting and using fat and I am off my blood pressure medicine. I am not hungry so I am wondering why is this not sustainable? I eat mostly carbs from vegetables, I eat a variety of meats, I eat a variety of vegetables, I feel great and my blood tests are better than they have been in 2 decades. I am starting to feel that the carb revolution is because we are told by the government what is good to eat. We all know that vegetables are good to eat but the government subsidizes corn, wheat and soy, not spinach, kale and cucumbers. Do your research, follow your hearts, do what works for you.
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If you haven’t already jumped on the keto diet bandwagon, I’ll give you a brief introduction. Basically, the ketogenic diet is a super high in fat (65-75% of your diet is fat), a super low carbohydrate (<5% of your diet) and moderate in protein (15-20% of your diet). Surely, not the most balanced of diets considering Health Canada your diet should contain 10-35% of protein, 45-65% of carbohydrate and 20-35% of fat. So how to you meet that skewed macronutrient distribution? Well, you load up on keto diet staples like meat, fish, butter eggs, cheese, heavy cream, oils, nuts, avocados, seeds and low carb green vegetables. And you cut out all your go-to carb sources like grains, rice, beans, potatoes, sweets, milk, cereals, and fruits. These kinds of restrictive diets tend to make nutrition professionals like dietitians run for the hills but I’m going to give it my honest unbiased account.
First of all, don't weigh yourself more than once a week. There are natural fluctuations related to water retention and hormonal balance. If you are a woman, you will notice these fluctuations more often. If you see no movement on the scales or even if your weight goes up, it doesn't mean you are not losing fat. If you exercise, you may even see a little increase in weight, as muscles are heavier than fat. The important thing here is to concentrate on losing body fat. Don’t rely just on scales, use body tape, calipers, belts or clothes to see any changes.
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So one study looked at the long-term effects of a keto diet in obese patients and after 24 weeks, patients lost weight, reduced their total cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides and increased their HDL. Another study conducted on 132 obese patients found that the low carb (keto) group lost more weight than the low fat group while improving biomarkers like decreased triglycerides, improved insulin sensitivity, and decreased fasting glucose. This all was confirmed in a 2013 meta-analysis, 13 RCTs (1,569 participants) found that patients assigned to a very low carbohydrate diet resulted in greater weight loss compared to those assigned to a low-fat diet.
Done Keto diet for over a year now. I started it due to increased liver enzymes showing a start on a path towards low-level diabetes due to being about 30 lbs overweight (229 lbs, 5’10” endomorphic, muscular build). After a year, my Cholesterol is excellent, I dropped to 192 lbs (37 lbs lost), maintained muscle mass through maintenance workouts and cardio, resting heart rate is 50bpm, EKG shows perfect results, blood pressure is excellent, and full panel of bloodwork shows zero abnormal liver enzymes.
I give you points for not completely bashing the Keto diet but I have to ask you why do you think it is hard to follow? Do you tell vegans that their diet in unsustainable? I know for myself I can go to almost any restaurant and eat a keto meal the same could not be said with vegans. A properly balanced keto diet would require no vitamins or minerals (the reason for Keto “Flu”) the same can not be said for vegans, most vegans have major deficiencies and some vitamins like B12 are near impossible to obtain without supplements.
I’m new to all Keto…trying desperately to loose weight…besides giving up sweets (which completely understand) need to know if hummus is okay…and what I gather from the extensive info I’m guessing like everything in life, the key is balance… too much fat? Hi calories? Do we have to worry about cholesterol in nutritional labels? Again thanks for the great information
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While I do appreciate the amount of research that went into this article, I need to weigh in here— no pun intended. I am a 44 year old woman who suddenly and inexplicably gained a lot of weight at about age 20 and pretty much (albeit a few bouts of massive dieting and exercising) have remained fat until the age of 42. I had always been thin without having to give my lifestyle much thought before my sudden weight gain — so I have spent the last 20+ years becoming pretty proficient on learning how the body uses fuel. I have had success losing great amounts of weight a few times in my life — twice reducing my calories the “nutritional counseling” way — using the old school and outdated food pyramid and tons of exercise. It took literally having to spend hours and hours at the gym — being miserably hungry all the time — only to achieve slow progress at the scale. Months and months I would spent this way only to gain the weight right back the minute that I let go of the reins. I’m always hearing about “sustainable lifestyle changes” from you nutritionists— an I believe in daily exercise — but that lifestyle was completely unsustainable in the long term which is why so many people are unsuccessful.