Written by Samiha Ali
Imagine a diet that lets you start your day off with eggs and bacon for breakfast, cheesy casserole for lunch, and a heaping serving of buttery steak for dinner. It’s paradoxical to think of these foods as “healthy,” but they are exactly the types of meals that the ketogenic “keto” diet instructs you to have. This weight loss approach seeks to burn fat by counterintuitively following a high-fat, low-carb pattern of eating. Essentially, the diet consists primarily of high fat foods like grass-fed meat or dairy and strictly prohibits carbohydrate-based foods like grains, wheat, oats, and rice.
The aim of the keto diet is to drive the body into the metabolic state known as ketosis, where the body begins breaking down fats to use as energy rather than carbohydrates. Glucose—which is broken down from ingested carbohydrates—is the primary fuel source of the body. If not used for energy, it is converted into glycogen and stored in the liver. In the absence of this glucose, the liver instead turns to stored fat molecules as fuel. The body is forced to use this “plan B” method of energy production when carbohydrates are omitted from one’s food sources, as the keto diet mandates. The liver alternatively converts fatty acids from fat stores into ketone bodies that enter the bloodstream to be used by the brain and other organs as fuel . This needed production of ketone bodies leads to the fat reduction that dieters desire.
Backed by the theory of ketosis, the keto diet has also proven to be an effective form of weight loss by various research studies. One such study, conducted by Dr. Gianfranco Cappello in 2012, showed that individuals in a pool of over 19,000 patients lost an average of 22 pounds using the ketogenic diet and kept the weight off for over a year . The increasing popularity of the keto diet is owed to dramatic results like these. Interestingly, the diet’s origins are not in the aim for weight loss, but rather for the treatment of childhood epilepsy . Researchers back in the 1920’s found that a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet helps to control epileptic seizures, and the same approach is still accepted to this day. More recently, the ketogenic diet has been linked to benefits beyond just weight loss, proving to be a therapeutic avenue for conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome and cancer .
Despite the diet’s proven association with weight loss and other beneficial protective health effects, adopting it into everyday lifestyle may not be the healthiest long-term choice. A major concern with the diet is how restrictive it is. Entering a state of ketosis requires eating only roughly 20 grams of carbohydrates per day—which is less than what’s found in a medium-sized apple. The most recent guidelines released by the USDA recommend that a diet should consist of 45-65% carbohydrates and only 5% saturated fats. This starkly contrasts the keto diet’s approach of having roughly a 70% of daily caloric intake of fat. With such an extreme nature, the keto diet may not the best option if you want to establish consistent and healthy eating habits.
 Campos, Marcelo. “Ketogenic diet: is the ultimate low carb diet good for you?” Harvard Health Publishing. 27 July 2017. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.
 Cappello, G., Franceschelli, A., Cappello, A., De Luca, P. Ketogenic enteral nutrition as a treatment for obesity: short term and long term results from 19,000 patients. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2012. 9:96-101.
 Lutas, A., Yellen, G. The ketogenic diet: metabolic influences on brain excitability and epilepsy. Trends in Neurosciences. 2013. 36:32-40.
 Paoli, A., Rubini, A., Volek, J.S., Grimaldi, K.A. Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013. 6:789-996
Edited by Amy Huynh
How Gut Bacteria Affects Mental and Physical Health
Corticosteroid Use for Respiratory Problems
A Wrinkle in Cdk5: A Necessary Gene for Cortical Folding