Although low-carb diets, such as the Atkins diet, maybe nothing new, the ketogenic diet takes the low-carb principle to whole new levels. Rather than simply asking that you reduce your carbohydrate intake, the ketogenic diet requires you to drastically cut your carbohydrates to somewhere usually between 50g and 20g a day! To put that into perspective, a single large banana can contain 31g of carbohydrates, and a cup of peas contains 21g, meaning that on the ketogenic diet, you’re not only cutting out bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes but other less obvious sources of carbohydrate sources too.
In addition to requiring that you virtually eliminate carbs from your diet, you must also increase your fat intake to enter ketosis. The keto diet typically requires that 75% of your daily calories be obtained from fat sources, with 20% obtained from protein and the final 5% from carbs. Once in ketosis, your body can start to use fat as its primary energy source.
Generally speaking, most professionals agree that the keto diet is safe and beneficial when followed for short periods of time - typically between two to six months or up to two years when monitored by a doctor. But no one really knows what would happen if you followed the keto diet indefinitely. Some studies on animals have suggested that following a ketogenic diet for an extended period of time could have negative effects on the body, including insulin resistance and fatty liver disease. These adverse side effects are due to the high amount of fat required in the ketogenic diet, which could prove to be unhealthy if consumed in the long term. Although we have animal studies to suggest that the keto diet would not be suitable as a prolonged lifestyle choice, there have yet to be any long-term studies conducted on people.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, most people who try the keto diet are doing so to help them lose weight or to enable them to better control an illness or medical condition such as PCOS, diabetes, or epilepsy. Although it is agreed that eating a low carbohydrate diet and consuming a large quantity of fat may not be healthy in the longer term, the side effects of following the keto diet for a short period of time are far less dangerous than those associated with obesity, heart disease, and diabetes should the individual fail to take any action at all.
As with all significant changes to your way of eating, if you are thinking of starting the keto diet, it is always good to speak to a doctor or licensed medical professional beforehand.