Ketogenic Diet: Myths vs. Facts
by Taranum Sultana
A ketogenic diet is high in fats and low in carbohydrates. By lowering carbohydrate intake, the body switches the energy source from glucose to ketones, derived from the breakdown of dietary fats and the body’s stored fat.
This process of ketone production from fat is termed as nutritional ketosis that lowers blood sugar, improves insulin sensitivity, and reduces inflammation.
Despite all the benefits of the keto diet, there’s a plethora of disinformation about this high fat and low carb diet that deters people from trying it.
Some of the opponents claim that the keto diet is highly restrictive, unsustainable, and an impractical diet loaded with side effects and health problems.
In this article, I will dissect these claims and dispel myths with strong scientific evidence.
Myth 1: Keto is unhealthy because of fat overload (Eating fat makes you fat)
Fats, both saturated and unsaturated, are an essential part of many foods like butter, cheese, eggs, meat, avocados, oils, seeds, and nuts, etc.
Fat is indeed an important source of energy, and it also performs many vital functions in our bodies to maintain optimal health.
For instance, fats support cell growth and produce important hormones. They help in absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants. It is also the precursor of vitamin D and bile salts.
Although fat has more calories per gram than carbohydrate and protein, eating healthy fats does not cause weight gain. In fact, it helps us shed a few undesired pounds if consumed in combination with low carb and moderate proteins.
Myth 2: Keto causes heart disease and elevates blood cholesterol
A large-scale study published in the journal The Lancet compared more than 135,000 people on low-fat and low-carb diets across 18 countries.
The researchers concluded that the diet rich in healthy fats and low carbs significantly lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, or heart disease mortality.
Eating cholesterol has very little impact on the cholesterol levels in your body. About 85% of circulating cholesterol is synthesized by the body in the liver, and dietary intake does not affect blood cholesterol levels.
Myth 3: Keto is dangerous for diabetic patients
By shifting the body’s fuel from glucose to fat, the ketogenic diet is actually fully capable of successfully reversing diabetes, particularly type 2.
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic condition that causes blood glucose levels to rise higher than normal. However, the human body always likes to maintain blood glucose in a very narrow range using the hormones insulin and glucagon.
Eating a high-carb meal spikes insulin due to increased blood glucose. However, due to the development of insulin resistance, insulin does not work properly in a diabetic patient. Therefore, it causes high blood sugar and inflammation.
The keto diet, being low in carbohydrates, does not cause large spikes in blood sugar, so it reduces the need for insulin.
As mentioned above, the ketogenic diet forces the body to use fat as a primary fuel instead of carbohydrates to achieve nutritional ketosis, which is currently being used to reverse type 2 diabetes.
I strongly recommend that you consult any diet changes with your doctor if you are on medication. It is particularly important for diabetics to discuss adjustment of dosage with their doctor before starting a ketogenic diet. Low carb intake in combination with medication for diabetes may lower the blood sugar level below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less and may cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Myth 4: Keto causes flu-like symptoms and electrolyte deficiencies
Inflammation and stored carbohydrates (glycogen stores) in the liver and muscles retain equivalent amounts of water.
By switching to a ketogenic low-carb diet, we essentially deplete carbohydrates and reduce inflammation that results in water loss. The electrolytes are also flushed out together with water in the process. It therefore causes electrolyte deficiency and may generate symptoms of “Keto flu” like fatigue, headaches, and muscle aches.
A simple cure is to drink several cups of water with added electrolytes, bone broth, and pink Himalayan salt in water throughout the day.
Myth 5: Keto is not good for athletes
Several recent studies confirm that keto adapted competitive athletes use fat as a primary source of energy to boost their performance. Fat provides more energy per gram, and it is a slow burning fuel too.
Keto adapted athletes burn ketones instead of glucose. And ketones, being a cleaner and efficient fuel, lead to improved levels of concentration and longer periods of focus. Consequently, keto adapted athletes experience increased cognitive and physical performance which helps them perform better.
Myth 6: Keto diet is difficult to follow and unsustainable
Keto is a lifestyle, not a diet. It is perfectly sustainable over the long term. It actually teaches you how to acquire healthy eating habits and stick to it.
With discipline and planning, you will witness the impressive results in both the short and long term. In particular, ketogenic lifestyle is effective for fast weight loss.
Most of the people on keto fail due to lack of information, planning, and supervision. It is equally important to seek help from a professional coach/dietician, especially during the first few months, for successful transition.
Keto actually frees you from calorie counting. It offers a variety of food to choose for your meal planning. When combined with intermittent fasting, it also offers freedom from hunger, cravings, and the need for three meals a day.
In conclusion, a correctly used ketogenic diet can serve as a therapeutic tool to promote health and wellness. It is highly effective for fast weight loss. It also improves sleep, mood, memory, energy, focus, and mental clarity.
Dr. Taranum Sultana, PhD, has a doctorate degree in Medical Sciences, with specialization in Endocrinology from Karolinska Institute and is a certified keto coach. She is CEO of Salutem Keto and Wellness and loves to support her clients on how to lose weight and to reduce the risk of diabetes. To contact her, call (306) 737-8704, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and/or visit ketoandwellness.ca.