Ketogenic diet: Is it right for you?

The latest diet craze sweeping across America is the ketogenic diet. Although very closely related to the Atkins diet, the “keto” diet, as it is called, focuses more on high fat and moderate amounts of protein. Both diets emphasize low carbohydrates. Like the Atkins diet, most people are using it for weight loss, but it can also benefit diabetics, and some preliminary research shows that it might help prevent cancer.

First discovered in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic, it was found to help treat epilepsy. But it fell out of favor with the advent of effective anti-seizure drugs in the 1940’s, only to resurface recently to help people lose weight. Some elite long distance athletes also have found that it benefits their performance.

So, how does it work? When consuming a very low carbohydrate diet (usually recommended to be 20–50 grams/day), the body quickly uses up its stored carbs, and the liver is then forced to turn stored fat into ketones, which the body can then use as an alternative source of fuel. Advocates of the keto diet suggest that 70–80% of the diet come from fat (fatty fish, butter and cream, nuts), 10–20% come from protein (meat, eggs), and 5–10% from carbs (fruit, starchy vegetables). As a point of comparison, a small apple has 25 grams of carbs and a cup of milk has 12 grams of carbs.

This diet can be very effective in helping people lose weight, but most people find it hard to stick with for very long, and some have experienced bothersome side effects, such as flu-like symptoms, digestive issues, sleep issues and kidney stones. It is certainly lacking in important nutrients that come from eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, and in my opinion, it is not a sustainable, healthful way to lose weight. For more information on healthy eating, go to


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