It seems everywhere you look in the world of nutrition and diet it is ‘Keto this and Keto that’ (Keto being short for Ketogenic diet), which is fascinating considering that prior to 2016, most people had never even heard of a Ketogenic diet and thought it was something brand new. Fast forwarding 2 years later to June of 2018 the Keto diet is the most Google-searched nutrition term and the most talked about method of dieting in every social media platform and is now considered the most popular diet in the country. Interestingly, the Ketogenic diet was first discovered by doctors in the 1920’s for treatment of pediatric epilepsy to control seizures, and it has been a known of and respected diet for nearly a century.
So why is it so popular now?
and what exactly is a Ketogenic diet and should you be on it? More importantly, is it safe? The answers to these seemingly difficult and frequently asked questions have been surprisingly simple. First and foremost, the diet is popular because it has been found to be scientifically effective for fat-loss. Let’s face it, our society has been plagued with obesity and countless health problems. When you combine this with our need for ‘instant gratification’ that the media places on us to look good and to be thin, you begin to see why a Ketogenic diet is attractive to so many. Secondly, because Keto is a very low carb diet it fits perfectly with the plethora of scientific information on limiting sugars (carbohydrates) for better health. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is the fact that the Ketogenic diet has proven itself during the past century of use. Here is a diet that works profoundly well for epilepsy and weight-loss, and we now have decades of published research that scientifically substantiate the use of the Ketogenic diet because of the health benefits it can provide for other medical conditions. Areas of study currently include, but are not limited to, tumor shrinkage, cancer management, type 2 diabetes, improve symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, bipolar depression, autism and even schizophrenia, not to mention chronic inflammation, migraines, high blood pressure. Of course, the Ketogenic diet, while loved by researchers, is hated by fungus because like the Kaufmann diets, it assists in starving them.
What exactly is a Ketogenic diet?
Moving on to the next and obvious question: What exactly is a Ketogenic diet? This should be an easy question to answer and it is, but herein lies the confusion. Depending upon whom you ask, you might get a variety of different answers. To a large extent, the confusion stems from modern marketing and the desire for companies to sell you products that taste good. Much like the subjective term “all natural,” the term ‘Ketogenic’ has gotten diluted and lost in translation, hence the title of this blog ‘Keto Confusion’. Simply put, the term Ketogenic diet has an exact definition but unfortunately, we have been inundated with so-called ‘modified Keto’ and or ‘Keto friendly’ versions, all of which lead to “pseudo Keto!” These are not what the originators intended the diet to be, nor should it be what you indulge in when you trust that you are following a Ketogenic diet. The word
“Keto” itself has become overused to capitalize on its trending popularity and upon close examination the overwhelming majority of so-called Ketogenic diets, recipes and supplements are in fact NOT “Keto” at all!
In short, the EXACT & true definition of a true and very clean Ketogenic diet is as follows:
A calorically controlled very high-fat diet that should be at least 70 to 81% FAT, no more than 20% protein (optimally less than 15%) and absolutely no more than 5% total carbs. By the way, these percentages should be calculated on a meal-by-meal basis, not on a daily basis. From a scientific standpoint in terms of how the ketogenic diet is intended to work these ratios must not be compromised for this reason: The entire foundation of a ‘true’ therapeutic ketogenic diet is based on ‘Nutritional Ketosis’ and this is critically important because without nutritional ketosis there is no “Keto!” A true ketogenic diet DOES NOT exist without this key component. This is the core foundation of the diet and why and how it works. In order to achieve and maintain a deep long lasting state of ketosis, the diet must be high in fat, very low in carbohydrates and only adequate in protein.
This will create a state in which your body produces ketones and burns fat as its primary fuel source rather than glucose (sugar). If you deviate from these percentages and follow a so-called “modified Keto or Keto friendly diet” it becomes counterintuitive to the purpose of following a ketogenic diet in the first place because this usually means not enough fat, or too much protein, or too many carbs, which can either prevent nutritional ketosis and or knock you out of ketosis. Having written that, a ‘modified version of Keto’ actually makes it void of being Keto at all and therefore causes all the well-researched benefits to go by the wayside.
Should you be on a ketogenic diet?
Yes, no and maybe. Yes if you follow it therapeutically for a chronic health issue as mentioned above and are coached by a competent and knowledgeable person. Yes, if you follow it based on its true definition as mentioned above with precise ratios and have proper coaching. Yes, if it is calorically controlled and fortified with specific vitamin and mineral nutrients that may be lacking on a ketogenic diet. If adhering to the Ketogenic diet for extended periods of time (ALWAYS use a competent coach while doing this), you will probably also want to use supplements like vitamin C, B vitamins, and selenium.
Where you can go wrong…
The high fat component of the Ketogenic diet is done for a purpose. Just because it is a high-fat diet, however, does not mean that it is a no holds barred all you can eat fat buffet, nor does it mean any type of fat, as not all fat is created equal. This is where it becomes a “NO” to the Keto diet. Ingesting oils like canola and vegetable oils are unequivocally disqualified under the actual definition of a true Ketogenic diet. This also applies to large quantities of conventional bacon, hamburger meat, eggs, and cheeses, especially if your intended purpose is to deal with chronic health problems. The last things you want to unknowingly consume are hormones, steroids, antibiotics and added chemicals. Doing so makes it unhealthy and once again makes it void of therapeutic value.
The aforementioned ‘unhealthy’ or modified versions essentially are manipulated ‘hacked’ versions that minimize and/or void out all of the benefits, while adding to the confusion. The Ketogenic diet does not have to be confusing unless you follow the marketing hype surrounding it.
In closing, if you are going to embark on a Ketogenic diet, do it under the guidance of a qualified healthcare practitioner. Today there are many good ones. Follow a healthy and clean Ketogenic diet and be very careful about so-called “Keto” products/supplements. Just because it says “Keto” or ketogenic on the label, or in the recipe does not mean that it is. Also keep in mind that different people may respond differently to the same diet. In all reality, a real ketogenic diet is cumbersome to follow and requires meticulous planning. It is not for everyone. Some people absolutely love it and get remarkable results quickly with it, while others have a difficult time adapting to it. A perfect example of the latter is our own dear friend Kyle Drew. He followed a true Ketogenic diet for 16 months and reported dismal results, which brings me to one last controversial point; should it be followed as a long-term lifestyle regimen? Many people, including prominent experts in this field, advocate eating “Keto” as part of a healthy lifestyle program and or a preventative program that should be followed long term. I, personally, believe as others do, that if it is being used therapeutically to help manage certain chronic health conditions, notify your healthcare provider to monitor quantitative improvement while on the diet.
For many people, a few weeks of strictly following it might be enough time for your blood work to show improvement. Others follow a true Ketogenic diet for longer periods of time. Generally, it is then segued into the Kaufmann 1 diet, which is designed as more of a long-term healthy lifestyle nutrition program that doesn’t require a prolonged state of nutritional ketosis. Or you may intertwine both diets together to make it easier to follow. Both diets are closely related cousins, given their ability to hush symptoms while on these two diets that have survived the past 140 years. Staying on a Ketogenic diet takes a lot of effort and education as you separate the hype from the facts. Long-term ease without ketosis goes to the Kaufmann 1 Diet!
Certified sports nutritionist, weight-loss expert, former top personal trainer, dietary supplement formulator & industry consultant with hundreds of appearances on national tv & radio.