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Ketogenic Diets For Weight Loss : Their Benefits & Dangers

Ketogenic Diets For Weight Loss : Their Benefits & Dangers

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In Summary

Ketogenic diets or “low-carb diets” have been popular for quite sometime now for their desirable benefit of achieving rapid weight loss. If followed under proper clinical guidance,  sustainable weight loss is possible, without rebound weight gain of the lost weight.

Editor Posted by Nishita

What is Ketogenic Diet?

Ketogenic diets were first employed in the 1920’s as a treatment for epilepsy in children. It was observed that serving keto diets to epileptic children drastically reduced the incidence of seizures in them. The exact mechanism through which this occurs has still not been arrived at, but various propositions have been put forth stating how the keto diet works in the body.

Ketogenic diets basically composes of high amounts of fat, along with moderate amounts of proteins and lowest amount of carbohydrates. The approximate composition of the major macronutrients in a ketogenic diet comprise as follows : 60 – 75 % of calories from fats, 15 – 30 % calories from proteins & 5 – 10 % calories from carbohydrates.

After following this low carb diet for 3-4 days, there is complete depletion of glycogen stores from the body due to energy production. Then, the body resorts to breaking down fat stores in the body for energy utilization. This kind of diet was useful in putting the body into starvation mode so that fat oxidation takes place for energy production. The body’s energy source is shifted from carbohydrates to fats. This occurs wherein the body tissues utilize ketones produced by the liver as a source of energy substrate.

Ketogenic Diets & Weight Loss

In recent years, quite a good number of people have turned to following the low carb diet for the rapid weight loss which it ensures. However, clinical research has shown conflicting results regarding the benefits of following the ketogenic diet for losing weight. Their long term effects have not been studied extensively since they have been employed recently for short duration of 2-3 weeks to achieve rapid weight loss. Following are the few of the benefits as well as adverse health effects which this diet may have which have been studied :

Benefits :

  • Ketogenic diets have been found to decrease body mass index and several other biochemical parameters as well such as abnormal blood lipids such as serum triglycerides, cholesterol; and increase the HDL cholesterol (which is good cholesterol).
  • There is reduced endogenous biosynthesis of cholesterol since there is reduced insulin secretion on intake of low carb diet.
  • It allows for cutting down calories drastically without the subjects having to deal with ravenous hunger pangs due to the higher amount of fats available, which provides satiety.
  • There is correction of insulin resistance & glucose intolerance in subjects on following the keto diet.

Adverse Effects :

Though keto diets have helped achieve rapid weight loss initially, in the long run, they can lead to the following the health effects :

  • Severe carbohydrate restriction have been found to increase systemic inflammatory markers due to high level of circulating ketone bodies in the blood.
  • Some studies showed increased serum LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol).
  • Drastic reduction of carbs also results in long term vitamin & mineral deficiencies along with several GI disturbances.
  • Energy levels, general mood profile & tasks involving complex mental function such as problem solving were affected with keto diets as compared to normal low calorie diets.

Hence, keto diets needs to be employed with proper discretion & medical supervision to maximize benefits & minimize adverse effects.

References :

Johnston. C, (2006) Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ; 83: 1055– 61.

Paoli. A (2014) Ketogenic Diet for Obesity: Friend or Foe? International Journal of Research & Public Health 11(2): 2092–2107.