According to SportsRDpro, a Ketogenic Diet is an extremely low carbohydrate and high fat diet. It has been shown to produce beneficial metabolic changes and weight loss in the short-term, however not much research has shown benefits on the long-term. Health parameters associated with carrying excess weight do improve, such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol and triglycerides. There is also growing interest in the use of low-carbohydrate diets, including the ketogenic diet, for type 2 diabetes.

The ketogenic diet originated and has been proven to help children and adults with epilepsy.  The majority of research on the ketogenic diet is in therapeutic uses such as treatment for epilepsy. What about the general population? Is a ketogenic diet sustainable?

Research from Harvard University has shown:

  • A satiating effect with decreased food cravings due to the high-fat content of the diet.
  • A decrease in appetite-stimulating hormones, such as insulin and ghrelin, when eating restricted amounts of carbohydrate.
  • A direct hunger-reducing role of ketone bodies—the body’s main fuel source on the diet.
Increased calorie expenditure due to the metabolic effects of converting fat and protein to glucose.
Promotion of fat loss versus lean body mass, partly due to decreased insulin levels.

Daily Caloric Recommendations:

  • less than 50g of carbohydrate
  • 75-80% fat, 20-25% protein

Health Claims:

  • substantial weight loss and improved associated health factors
  • increase in metabolism

In summary, the ketogenic diet certainly has its place in a clinical setting, however for the majority of the population carbohydrates play a valuable role in general health.  Complex carbohydrates, such as quinoa, oatmeal and whole wheat products, are important sources of dietary fiber, several B vitamins, magnesium and selenium. Restricting carbohydrates may lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as irregular bowel pattern. Fruits and vegetables are also primarily carbohydrate and  provide many health benefits and are an essential part of a healthy diet. They contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet can aid in weight loss by decreasing total calories consumed overall and fiber will help you feel full longer. More research needs to be done on the long term benefits of the ketogenic diet in a general healthy population.

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