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What Is the Keto Diet?

September 9, 2019

In the past few years, the Ketogenic Diet, commonly known as Keto, has become increasingly popular as a way to lose weight. Now it seems as though everyone has an opinion about Keto, from TV health experts, to your neighbor down the street. With all of this widespread popularity and discussion also comes a lot of misinformation, which can often makes it difficult to discern between fact and fiction. 

Learn more about the Ketogenic Diet from leading nutrition and weight-loss experts at Duke Diet and Fitness Center and discover what makes it one of the most-discussed ways of eating.

What Exactly is Keto?

The keto diet is a high fat, moderate protein, very low carbohydrate eating pattern that changes the body’s utilization of energy. Carbohydrates yield glucose, which is the main source of energy for the body. In the absence of carbohydrates, the body begins producing an alternative fuel from stored fat, called ketones. Ketones then become the body’s primary source of fuel. 

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Where Did Keto Originate?

The original ketogenic diet, known as the classic ketogenic diet, was actually developed as a treatment for epilepsy by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic in 1923. Fasting has been used to control and treat seizures since at least 500 BC. The keto diet creates a similar metabolic environment to fasting while still allowing a person to eat and it is sustainable for long periods of time. 

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What are the Different Types of Keto Diet?

There are many types of keto diets, each varying in the amount of recommended carbohydrate to consume.

  • The classic ketogenic diet used for the treatment of epilepsy is comprised of a 4:1 macronutrient ratio, which means that it is made of 4 grams of fat for every 1 gram of protein and carbohydrate. This equates to 90% of total calories from fat, 6% from protein, and 4% from carbohydrates.
  • The “keto” diet (or modified ketogenic diet), commonly used for weight management, is less restrictive and generally consist of 60-80% calories from fat, 10-20% of calories from protein, and 5-10% of calories from carbohydrate. When first starting the diet, most individuals have successful weight loss with a daily intake of 20-30 grams Net Carbohydrate*. Net carbohydrate is a way of subtracting out certain carbohydrates that are not completely absorbed. This includes fibers and sugar alcohols; however, it’s important to note that they are still partially absorbed so be careful using this calculation .

The use of net carbohydrate versus total carbohydrate intake for a daily carbohydrate goal varies from person to person. An initial goal of a very low level of carbohydrate (20-30 grams per day) helps the body reach a state of ketosis, where it begins to burn body fat for energy. 

*Net Carbohydrate (grams) = Total Carbohydrate – Total Dietary Fiber – Sugar Alcohols

What Do You Eat on the Keto Diet?

The Keto diet is made up of fats, protein, dairy, vegetables, and berries. When following this diet, grains, starchy vegetables, most fruit, legumes, sugars, beer, and milk should be avoided. Adherents can eat foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, butter, hard cheese, asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, eggplant, leafy greens, mushrooms, snow peas, summer squash, tomatoes, and other vegetables.

  • Fats: avocado, nuts (macadamia, walnuts, almonds, pecans), seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, hemp, flax), olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, lard
  • Protein: beef, chicken, turkey, veal, lamb, pork, bacon, ham, fish, shellfish, organ meats, eggs, tofu
  • Dairy: butter, hard cheese, cream
  • Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, green beans, leafy greens (kale, Swiss chard, collards, spinach, bok choy, lettuces), mushrooms, okra, onions, peppers, snow peas, sugar snap peas, summer squash, tomatoes, rhubarb, wax beans, zucchini
  • Fruits: berries (in small quantities)

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What Do Experts Say about the Keto Diet for Weight Loss?

"Yes, the keto diet will result in weight loss for most individuals. Many studies have shown that this weight loss is likely due to calorie deficit created while following the diet." Christine Tenekjian, DFC Registered Dietician. 

According to Duke Diet & Fitness Center Registered Dietitian Christine Tenekjian, “Yes, the keto diet will result in weight loss for most individuals. Many studies have shown that this weight loss is likely due to the calorie deficit created while following the diet. The major emphasis of the diet is fat, which causes an increased feeling of satiety. This feeling of fullness results in an (unintentional) decrease in overall calorie intake and therefore, weight loss.”

Is the Keto for Weight Loss Safe? 

Duke Diet and Fitness Center Medical Director and low carbohydrate expert Dr. William Yancy says “Very low carbohydrate (or “keto”) eating plans have been studied widely and used extensively in clinical practice, including by numerous obesity medicine specialists. While there remain some as-yet unproven theoretical concerns about safety in certain people (for example, in pregnant women or people with chronic kidney disease), for the majority of people, a keto eating pattern can be safe and effective. The most important cautions to be aware of are that people with diabetes or high blood pressure need to consult with their doctor prior to starting a keto eating plan because they may need certain medications reduced to avoid low blood sugar, low blood pressure or dehydration episodes.”

For more information about following the keto diet, or to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, visit www.dukedietandfitness.com. 

References:

https://www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/fad-diets/what-is-the-ketoge...

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews...

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2008.01821.x

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews...

https://charliefoundation.org/learn-about-ketosis/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews...

https://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/17/3/137

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