The trends of weight loss programs and fads can rise and fall in popularity at some surprising rates with very little staying power in today’s society. However, there are a few that have stood the test of time so far. One such example is the Ketogenic Diet and its goal of achieving a state of ketosis. In this article, the Ketogenic Diet will be examined from the basic information of the diet along with the pros and cons and a couple of samples of this diet.
So, how did the Ketogenic Diet come to pass?
Though there are arguments made towards the fact this diet has existed since the days of our early ancestors, the diet itself didn’t become a well-known and keyed term until the 1920s. Physicians and researchers from the early 1900s were looking for solutions in the relief of epileptic symptoms in children. It wasn’t until 1921 when Rollin Woodyatt makes the greatest discovery towards a useful solution. He found the three types of ketones that are created within the body by the liver when there are fats from foods present. However, his research didn’t go much further than that until Russell Wilder, from the Mayo Clinic, was able to expand on this new knowledge. In the same year, he took Woodyatt’s discovery and provided it with the name “Ketogenic Diet” which consisted of an excess of fat as well as lack of carbohydrates in a person’s food intake. He built some trials based on this new diet with those suffering from epilepsy. Those same trials in 1921 found that the diet was fairly successful in lessening the symptoms and the frequency of epileptic occurrences.
This new diet became a popular solution in treating epilepsy for almost two full decades, but it was soon pushed over for drug plans that were supposed to aid in greater results where epilepsy was concerned. However, the pills soon prove to be less effective especially without assistance from a change in the diets of those that suffer from this condition. It came back into popularity as a treatment before it became known as a viable option for those looking to lose excess weight by restricting their diets, resisting carbohydrates and eating higher fat contents.
How does the Ketogenic Diet work?
As mentioned before this diet focuses on a person’s food intake being mostly fats with very few carbohydrates and a moderate level of protein. By eating more fatty foods than those loaded carbohydrates, a person is changing the type of energy source that his/her body is using. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose that is then burned when it’s needed throughout the day while fats are broken down into ketones, another energy source, that aids in burning other stored fats. A build-up of these ketones in the blood is known as ketosis, a state in which the body utilizes this energy source in more substantial ways than glucose, lessening epileptic episodes as well as burning through more energy as the day progresses. Unlike glucose which can be stored within the adipose layer of skin where it can become excess fat, ketones aren’t stored, but rather flushed from the system if they aren’t used within a certain time frame.
What are some sample daily menus with this diet?
With the focus on low carbohydrate and high fat intakes, the following menus are some viable options for this diet, breaking down what to eat for each meal as well as the totals of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and total calories. Each sample comes with foods easy to prepare within a short amount of time.
Option one is as follows:
- Breakfast consists of hot peanut butter flax cereal with a quarter cup of blueberries. Fresh or frozen berries are fine, just avoid canned ones because of added sugar potential.
- Lunch is a simple salad made from four cups of romaine lettuce, half an avocado, and four ounces of cooked chicken meat. All of this can be topped with a Vinaigrette dressing of your choosing as long as the sugar levels are low.
- A quarter cup of almonds (whole, sliced, or chopped) makes a great afternoon snack.
- When it comes to dinner, steak, either grilled or pan-fried, can be accompanied by a cup of green beans and a cup of mushrooms and peppers.
- The grand totals for this menu plan equals to 26 grams of carbohydrates, 32 grams of fiber, 95 grams of protein, and only 1500 calories.
Another menu plan that’s just as easy and appealing is the following:
- In this plan, breakfast is made up of a half cup of low-carb cereal with a high fiber content, a third cup of milk, an eighth of a medium-sized melon, and an ounce of almonds.
- With lunch, it’s an easily made fare of four cups of salad greens tossed together with half an avocado that’s sliced, two tablespoons of sunflower seeds, three and a half ounces of some kind of protein, and two tablespoons of an Italian dressing without sugar.
- A Swiss cheese and ham roll-up complements this menu because of its simple ingredients and quick preparation time. Pair this with some mustard and a dill pickle.
- Dinnertime is a great time to break out the basil chicken with some prepared vegetables. This can also be topped off with a dessert of a half cup of ricotta cheese with a favorite flavoring (avoid artificial sweeteners).
- The totals for this selection equates to 49 grams of carbohydrates, 36 grams of fiber, 101 grams of protein, and only 1569 calories.
What are the pros and cons of the Ketogenic Diet?
Like any diet currently on the market, there are several pros and cons with this diet; however, the ultimate choice of implementing this diet by one individual is his/her choice regardless of the risks associated with this diet.
Starting with the advantages, there are several that are attributed to following the restrictions of this diet. One of the first items on this list is the fact that it helps with improving fat loss because of the ways ketones are made from the fats being introduced into the body, burning as energy or being expelled from the body if they aren’t converted. Once the ketones made from food intake are used up, the body goes looking for other sources to obtain energy to finish out the day, usually from the excess fat found within the skin’s adipose tissue. Along with improved fat loss, ketosis helps in decreasing one’s appetite because ketones are more complex energy sources than that of glucose which come from carbohydrates. It also lowers insulin levels within the blood, which can help relieve symptoms or even eliminate diabetes from those suffering the disease. Without the presence of glucose in the blood, the body doesn’t have to produce as much insulin to break down those glucose molecules into energy. Lower levels of insulin helps with maintaining healthy levels of blood sugar, which protects from possible developments of diabetes of both types.
The other advantages of the Ketogenic Diet are epilepsy management as well as a possible cancer treatment. Since its development in the 1920s, the use of the Ketogenic diet has become a powerful treatment for managing the symptoms of epilepsy as well as the disease itself. By overloading the person’s body with enough ketones, the person’s brain and other systems can remain stable without fear of misfires in the nerves of the brain, setting off a chain reaction leading to a seizure. As for treating cancer, there is some evidence that has proven promising in reducing cancer symptoms along with stopping the growth of cancerous cells before they can even form. This hasn’t been proven by full-blown studies, but with any theory, there is a possibility that could be promising with further research and trials.
Now, the disadvantages of this diet are just as numerous as the advantages, making the decision harder for those looking for some sort of weight loss option; however, having this knowledge can provide an interested individual with all the tools to make his/her decision about taking on this type of diet. These disadvantages include those associated with the benefits of losing weight. If a person remains on the diet too long, he/she has the potential to damage the metabolism rate within his/her body by slowing it down, potentially reversing all the weight lost. The diet itself is fairly restrictive which can be hard on some individuals and their ability to stick to the diet until they have achieved their weight loss goals. Others can take the restrictions too far and cut out key nutrients needed for daily health by eliminating most, if not all, fruits and vegetables in their diets that contain even a hint of sugar or other carbohydrates within them.
There are even questions of whether this diet is even healthy for those considered extreme or dedicated athletes who burn massive amounts of energy a day through workouts and other activities. If they aren’t getting enough energy from either glucose or ketone sources, their body could find itself struggling to complete a day’s worth of activities or even remain healthy in the long run. There is also a chance that fatigue and brain fogging can be triggered through this diet because people aren’t eating enough carbohydrates in their daily food intake. Without carbohydrates, these people aren’t getting the energy boosts they need from the present glucose in their systems, which leads to feeling weary and/or struggles with getting through their daily activities at work and at home. All of these disadvantages can ultimately lead someone into a marked state of high ketosis that develops into a condition known as ketoacidosis. Though this condition is more likely in alcoholics and in diabetics, it can happen from taking this diet to the absolute extreme by overproducing ketones in order to stay in ketosis for far too long. Those suffering from this condition are fairly easy to identify because of the odor that’s released from a person in this state.
Overall Impressions of the Ketogenic Diet
Due to the benefits in treating epilepsy, this diet can provide substantial improvements in these sufferers lives; however, for those using this diet to lose weight, the disadvantages of lowering carbohydrate intake can prove a mistake for those taking this option to the absolute extreme. Before diving into this diet, there are some considerations to take into account, such as the ability to stick to the diet and keeping a level head about the restrictions without going overboard. It’s also recommended to talk with a physician to see if this diet is the best option for an individual. Though this diet is a great success for many, it’s not suitable for all. The decision, in the end, is up to the individual him/herself and one that shouldn’t be made on a whim.