The ketogenic diet is always gaining popularity, but is it healthy?

What is the ketogenic diet?

With a ketogenic diet, you limit the amount of carbohydrates on your plate to 50 grams per day, so that your liver is able to produce ketones. That puts your body in ketosis: blood sugar levels drop, forcing your body to draw energy from fat instead of glucose, resulting in fat burning.

What do you eat in a ketogenic diet?

A keto diet consists of 70 to 95 % healthy fats, 5 to 10% carbohydrates and the rest protein. You mainly eat meat, fish, eggs, avocado, butter, cream, cheese, oils, nuts. As for vegetables, it is best to choose low-carbohydrate varieties such as green leafy vegetables, onions and tomatoes.

What are the pros and cons of the keto diet?

The biggest advantage of the keto diet is that you lose weight very quickly. That can be motivating when you’re trying to lose weight. And since your blood sugar levels stabilize, you get more energy. On the other hand, a carbohydrate intake of 50 grams per day is extremely low. Your body may have a reduced carbohydrate intake, but it’s not common. In many products there are carbohydrates and most people eat and drink them several times a day. Suddenly limiting your intake to 50 grams is a big step. In addition, it is not easy to maintain the diet and in the long term you may even get deficiencies in certain nutrients.

Is the keto diet healthy?

Researchers at Ben Guriën University in Israel looked at the effect of different slimming diets, using a two-year study involving 322 subjects. All groups lost weight, but the weight loss was greatest in the ketogenic and Mediterranean diet. Those subjects lost 4.7 and 4.4 kilograms, respectively. People who followed the low-fat slimming diet lost 2.9 kilograms. After six months, all participants had regained the weight. However, the yo-yo effect was least large on the Mediterranean diet. That diet would also produce the best long-term results, because the amount of fats and carbohydrates you absorb is more balanced.

One possible explanation may lie in the fact that a Mediterranean diet most approximates our eating habits, while a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet excludes many foods. A Mediterranean diet is also most in line with the recommended dietary patterns.

Beneficial for type 2 diabetes and obesity

The ketogenic diet does have a positive effect for people with type 2 diabetes or obesity, according to a US study of 262 people with type 2 diabetes. The weight of the subjects decreased by an average of 7.2 percent after 10 weeks. In addition, improvements in insulin sensitivity can also be seen. At the beginning of the study, 56% of the participants had an HbA1c value below 48mmol/mol. In 57% of the participants, medication could even be reduced or stopped. After one year, weight loss averaged 12%. The study is still ongoing.

Guidance is always needed

If you want to follow a ketogenic diet, consultation with your doctor and guidance from a dietician is always necessary. You probably need less insulin or medication. And a weight loss diet is never intended as a diet for the long term, a dietitian can also guide you to adopt a healthy diet in the long term.

Cassidy Perry

A certified dietician specializing in diabetes care, Cassidy has over a decade of experience working with diverse patient backgrounds. She writes health-related articles for the Scientific Origin.