A beginner’s guide to the keto diet: is it right for you?

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It might often seem that not a month goes by without a new zero-carb diet hitting the headlines. In the 1980s, Atkins took the world by storm. It didn’t lose popularity throughout the 90s, but it did kind of make room for South Beach. Then the Paleo diet muscled in there, before allowing the Keto diet to hit the headlines.

Those who promote diets high in protein are often quick to claim that they result in rapid weight loss. They’ll then follow this with the idea that diets such as the keto diet prevent chronic disease. However, research-based evidence shows us that the average American diet is already too protein-heavy.

Even with all the evidence in the world, you can’t stop celebrity proponents of the Keto diet claiming it’s the best thing since…sliced bread. So, with their claims gathering plenty of media attention, it’s worth examining what this lifestyle involves and whether it’s right for you.

What is the Keto diet?

In a nutshell, the Keto diet involves eating fewer than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. If you’re going to follow the diet’s rules, you should focus on consuming 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates.

Like many carb-free diets, this one aims to refocus the body’s metabolism so that it enters a state of ketosis. In other words, you’re burning fat rather than depending on external sources of fuel such as carbohydrates. By encouraging your body to focus on fat only, you’ll also, supposedly, avoid burning the proteins that make up your muscles.

Is there any evidence to support the Keto diet’s claims?

Like many low-carbohydrate diets, the Keto diet’s success probably lies with the way it forces participants to scrutinize their usual calorie intake. Let’s say you spend most of your days walking around eating unconsciously. Junk food is often easier to access than healthy food, so junk food is primarily what you consume. When you start a diet such as the Keto diet, you’re paying closer attention to what you eat. As a result, you’re replacing your previously unhealthy diet with one that’s healthier, but not exactly ideal.

Some studies that have investigated the Keto diet have found that it may increase your risk of Type II Diabetes. When your body is focusing primarily on burning fat, it isn’t allowing insulin to fulfill its primary role. Eventually, this could lead to insulin resistance, which may pose other health problems further down the line. However, it’s worth noting that this study focused on mice and didn’t highlight an established risk – just a theoretical one.

Where did this dieting craze come from?

Interestingly, the Keto diet’s roots can be traced back to 1911 when children with certain forms of epilepsy were pushed into a state of ketosis to control their seizures. Although we now have anti-epilepsy medications to do some of the work, some children with the condition will follow a ketogenic diet to initiate the same effects.

Naturally, as the Keto diet gained traction in the medical world, its weight loss benefits became apparent. Anecdotally, it can make weight loss easier. However, there’s a danger in blindly pursuing the diet without the guidance of a nutritionist who’ll make sure you’re meeting all your body’s needs. This danger heightens when you’re managing ongoing health conditions.

Is this a sustainable low-carb diet?

Can you picture committing yourself to eat 75% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrates? In the absence of a nutritionist, you might not enjoy the same success as the celebrities who love the Keto diet so much.

It’s also worth considering whether the diet is affordable. And, could it impact your ability to socialize? The Keto diet is unlikely to complement your existing family life, especially if you have young children.

Although it’s likely that celebrities who follow this diet are benefiting from it, you may not. Diets that exclude large percentages of a food group aren’t often successful in the long term, especially if you don’t have a professional to hold your hand through the process.


About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.