There has been a Keto diet craze going around in the past couple of years, with many of its followers claiming significant weight loss. With any new, trendy diet claiming miraculous weight-loss, one starts to wonder what exactly is happening behind the curtain. The keto, or ketogenic, diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that claims to help the body shift its fuel source from carbs to fat. In the medical community it has been prescribed to patients with uncontrolled epilepsy to reduce the frequency of seizures, but other than that there is little conclusive evidence to other potential benefits.
I've personally seen friends try to follow a keto diet, posting full-body selfies on Facebook or Instagram to show their respective journeys to living healthier lives. We all want to support our loved ones, but anecdotal success stories don't erase the scientific evidence that points out many flaws in the ketogenic diet. According to the University of Chicago's Medicine website, the keto diet recommends consuming 20-50 grams of carbs a day as well as getting 75 percent of calories from fat and 15 percent from protein. For reference, one medium-sized banana has about 27 grams of carbs — with that bit of information, you might notice that maintaining that level of carbohydrate restriction while still getting necessary vitamins and micro-nutrients would be challenging.
Like any highly restrictive diet, this one comes with health risks. Since not everyone is educated about the difference between heart-healthy fats and saturated fats, the keto diet can be linked to higher levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol which is associated with heart disease. The diet can also be rough on the liver and kidneys because it forces the body into ketosis which is actually metabolic adaptation to surviving famine.
For people like myself who are prone to developing kidney stones or have other liver/kidney complications, this diet can be detrimental to our health as those organs are key in metabolizing fats and proteins. In addition to this, the diet is also known to cause constipation, mood swings, brain fog, and nutrient deficiency in selenium, phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamins B and C. This diet could also cause ketoacidosis — a condition where ketones build up to dangerous levels in the body — even in non-diabetics. This is a potentially life-threatening condition that should not be taken lightly.
It's clear that the combination of its numerous side effects and the potential to develop ketoacidosis is a recipe for disaster. Even if we decided to ignore the obvious physical health risks associated with the diet, the issue of mental health still remains. Following such a restrictive diet can lead to disordered eating and social isolation, which is only going to damage our mental health. Looking for a single, magical diet that brings everyone to the pinnacle of health is a pipe dream — it doesn't exist. Each person on this planet is going to have different needs and different diets that suit them. As always, consulting a doctor or dietitian about your concerns is the best first step to living your healthiest life.