The keto diet is, no doubt, one of the most popular diets out there. But does keto really work? The main reason people follow the diet is to lose weight and judging by the number of people following the ketogenic lifestyle I guess you could say it does.
The keto diet is a low-carb diet that focuses on eating a high proportion of healthy fats. It promotes weight loss by transitioning the body into the state of ketosis, where it uses fats for energy instead of carbohydrates.
Related reading: How Ketosis Works for Burning Fat Faster?
The keto diet has become so popular that Hollywood celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian, Halle Berry, and Megan Fox have promoted the lifestyle.
According to Mark Sisson, founder of Primal Nutrition, it may be the most effective weight-loss strategy ever.
Not everyone is a fan of the diet though. Some say it’s unhealthy and ineffective while other critics say that it’s a dangerous way to lose weight since it could lead to devastating side effects.
Amidst all the positive and negative reviews, you might find yourself wondering, does keto really work? So here’s everything you need to know about the keto diet.
What is the Keto Diet?
Keto is the shortened term for the ketogenic diet. It is a low-carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet that will help you to burn fats more effectively.
According to Scott Keatley of the Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy,
“this eating plan is all about minimizing your carbs and upping your fats to get your body to use fat as a form of energy.”
Aside from weight loss, the keto diet comes with many other health benefits. Studies show that it can also help to treat various illnesses, such as diabetes, arthritis, certain types of cancers, and epilepsy and may be a way to prevent and treat cognitive decline.
As a matter of fact, the diet has been around since the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy.
By drastically reducing your consumption of carbs and eating foods high in fats, you will be putting your body into a state of ketosis. In this state, your body will become incredibly efficient at burning fats for energy, which then leads to rapid weight loss.
Pros and Cons of the Keto Diet
A lot of people have benefited from the keto diet, which is why it has become so popular. To look further into answering the question “does keto really work?” let us identify some of the pros and cons of following the keto diet.
• Weight loss – when you restrict your consumption of carbs low enough your body will start burning fats for energy, which allows your body to lose fat more quickly.
• Treat seizures – as mentioned, the keto diet was first used as a treatment for epilepsy. Several studies have shown that it could reduce seizures among patients with epilepsy.
Eric Kossoff, M.D., a pediatric neurologist and director of the ketogenic diet program at Hopkins Children’s states:
Despite its temporary side effects, we have always suspected that the ketogenic diet is relatively safe long term, and we now have proof. Our study should help put to rest some of the nagging doubts about the long-term safety of the ketogenic diet
• Lowers blood sugar – restricting carbs can lower blood sugar levels over time and maintain a healthy level for a long time. Since the keto diet eliminates large spikes in blood sugar, the need for insulin will be greatly minimized.
• Minimizes the risk of cancer – some studies have shown a link between an extremely low carb diet and cancer prevention. But this is still being studied, and there’s not yet enough proof to validate this claim.
• May lead to nutrient deficiencies – some foods that are high in nutrients are excluded in the keto diet and this could lead to deficiencies, especially if the diet is followed incorrectly and lacks proper guidance. This is why it’s important to include a wide variety of foods in the diet while making sure to eat high amounts of healthy fat.
• Can come with side effects – during your body’s transition to ketosis, you could experience some initial unpleasant side effects. Your body is used to carbs, so when you significantly cut it off, you could find yourself suffering from what they call the “keto flu”.
You could suffer from headaches, fatigue, nausea, constipation, and irritability. However, these side effects are only temporary and will go away once your body starts to get used to your new lifestyle.
• Challenging to follow for the long-term – the keto diet is very restrictive, which is why it’s very challenging to follow and maintain for the long-term for most people. For many people, giving up their pleasurable foods like pasta, pizza, and ice cream is just too difficult.
They may be able to do it for a short while, but it won’t be long before they will be tempted again. If you want to truly benefit from the keto diet for the long-term, you should be serious about giving up your favorite carbs.
• Could affect gut health – when following the keto diet, you’ll have to avoid fruits and whole grains and this can lower your fiber intake, which is not good for gut health. Eating many low carb vegetables, nuts and seeds can help.
Does Keto Really Work?
So does keto really work? Given the pros and cons above, it’s easy to conclude that the keto diet might only be beneficial for some people for a short amount of time. In addition, the keto diet is also difficult for most people to maintain for the long-term due to its restrictive nature.
Dr. Gianfranco Cappello, who is reputed to be the creator of the modern keto diet, states that the diet has had great success among thousands of users.
In his study 19,000 patients who were fed a keto diet by tube had a rapid 10% weight loss, 57% of which was fat mass. No significant adverse effects were found and he stated:
The treatment is safe, fast, inexpensive and has good one-year results for weight maintenance.
If you are really keen on following the keto diet after you have reached your health and weight loss goals you can resort to the modified versions of the diet. Some people find it helpful to increase their carb intake each day for about 10 percent, after their initial weight loss.
Others would resort to Ketoflex 12/3 diet, which is a time-restrictive eating where a person eats only within a 12-hour period and will stop three hours before bedtime.
The cyclical keto diet is also another good alternative to the standard keto diet. It involves rotating between a high-fat, low-carb meal plan and a higher carb intake.
Related reading: What is Keto Carb Up and How To Do It
Given the controversies surrounding the keto diet, it’s easy to see why so many people are asking, does keto really work? While the diet works for many people, it’s important to know that not everyone is the same.
Several factors could play a part in the effectiveness of the keto diet, such as the person’s health history and activity level.
There is evidence that people can thrive on good ketogenic diets for at least five years without incurring any serious side effects.
And Mark Sissons says “I certainly know people who have lived a keto lifestyle for years without issue”