Keto Diet Basics

By now, anyone concerned about weight loss has heard of the ketogenic diet — a low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat diet that puts the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis. The diet works based on a chemical shift in the body and is touted as the best thing since sliced white bread (all puns intended). When a person is in ketosis, the liver produces ketones, which become the main energy source for the body. The diet involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat, which increases the body’s efficiency in burning fat for energy. Known colloquially as the “keto diet,” the plan lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, shifting the body’s metabolism away from carbs and toward fat and ketones. The keto diet has taken the world by storm and is based on the premise that the body is designed to run more efficiently as a fat burner than a sugar burner.

Jackie Ballou Erdos, RD, a registered dietitian in New York City, talked about the origins of the dietary plan. “The ketogenic diet was first heard of as an intervention for children with epilepsy and was successfully employed with this population when medications alone were not preventing seizures. There is good, substantive research documenting the diet’s effectiveness with this population and strong evidence that supports its efficacy with migraine headaches, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Emerging research evidence shows that the ketogenic diet may be helpful with neurological disease, acne, and polycystic ovary disease.” When asked why the diet has been so fully embraced by the general population, she said, “I don’t really know. The diet is not new for special populations and has skyrocketed as a weight-loss plan. It does have value as a weight-loss strategy and is reasonably safe, although it is fairly restrictive.”

Jackson Rainer, PhD, is a board-certified clinical psychologist who practices with the Care and Counseling Center in Atlanta. He specializes in work with individuals and families dealing with chronic illness. He is the author of our “Pain Q&A” columns.

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