Does the Keto Diet Actually Work?

There’s always some new diet touted as the one that will give you a celeb body in two weeks, and Keto Diet is currently making the rounds. But what is Ketogenesis? Did someone say Sega Genesis? Ketogenesis has a super scientific name, and a lot of science behind it… which is probably why people use the shorter name for the diet: Keto. Keto is a cutesy term for ketosis, a process where living things break down fats to sustain life — it usually happens during starvation or out of control diabetes.

But artificially putting your body into a ketogenic state is growing in popularity. The Keto Diet is basically, a temporary food restriction program that is high in saturated fat and almost entirely cuts out carbohydrates. Suggestions include having bacon with everyday, meat at every opportunity, and SIDES of veggies … but like three leaves of lettuce or AH tomato. And meal suggestions often include using both butter and olive oil.

I mean, I like a tasty meal but that’s just making my arteries hurt thinking about it… And some follow this diet for months or years at a time! But let’s back up and explain some simple biology. Your brain and body run on glucose, a simple sugar. Glucose is made from lots of things, but a big source is carbohydrates. Once carbs are converted to glucose it enters the bloodstream and can either be used immediately or stored.

Stored, if you’re eating more calories than you’re burning, can mean as fat. People see the Keto diet as a way to cut out carbs, and thus sugar storage, removing a source of fat from the body… Except that doesn’t actually happen. Even without carbs coming in, the body needs glucose, so once glucose drops to less than 100 grams, the body enters a ketogenic state — none of this is news to Keto Practitioners, but really for everyone else… The brain needs glucose, glucose is The Precious and we wants it! “Ketogenic” comes from ketone bodies. They’re another source of cellular fuel, not the body’s preferred fuel, mind you, but an alternative supply for vital organs.

This is like an emergency backup system for your body. The ketogenesis kicks in when your body is starved of glucose, starting a lipolytic process. Basically, it breaks down fat. Glossy Keto Instagrammers rejoice! Except, the keyword in there is starved.

Creating ketone bodies to replace missing glucose is what your body does as a response to starvation! And people are still willing to try the diet! Which can be dangerous. Carbs typically account for about 50 percent of a balanced diet. If you tell someone to replace those calories with proteins and fats, people can end up eating too much protein and fats from processed foods. That paired with few fruits and vegetables is a recipe for ill health.

Plus, Lots of red meat and fatty, processed foods have been linked to heart disease, kidney problems, and even osteoporosis. Some people experience nausea, vomiting, and constipation on the diet. But they also do lose weight! The problem is, like with all fad diets, the weight loss doesn’t last. As a former personal trainer, I suspect it’s the initial cutting out bread that kickstarts weight loss.

Cutting out this common source of simple sugar is every trainer’s first comment. But fat has an evolutionary purpose, it is the buffer from those ancient days when we couldn’t just walk over to the store to pick up food. So once you stop Keto, you’re likely going to gain weight again as your body tries to protect itself from starvation. There is some research that says a longer-term stint on the Keto diet can help with weight loss and cholesterol management.

But that’s in a study with supervision. It’s a hard diet to manage alone. Interestingly, there are significant health benefits from following the Keto diet. It’s been used since its development in the 1920s to effectively treat children with drug-resistant epilepsy.

And in some cases, children with certain genetic mutations can’t get enough glucose to the brain. This hypoglycemic state causes seizures in infancy and, if untreated, can lead to serious complications like microcephaly and ataxia. The keto diet takes away the glucose from the bloodstream, forcing the brain to use the alternate energy source of ketone bodies for fuel, allowing for proper neural development. But unlike body builders looking to get super lean, this diet is done all-in for 1-2 weeks with management over months or years, depending on the case.

All under close supervision of a physician, a registered nurse, and a registered dietitian. The diet is slowly dialed back to include more and more foods that produce gluten, allowing the child to adjust. Again, it’s supervised. Because there shouldn’t be guesswork when putting a child — or yourself! — into a starvation state.

Scientists are now looking into other applications the Keto diet might have for other metabolic, oncologic, neurodegenerative, and psychiatric disorders. A fad diet is a temporary way of eating that is targeted at those of us who don’t like exercise but want to lose weight quickly. This kinda sounds like that, but with some science words. The best kind of diet is one that you work out with a nutritionist that suits your body, and that you adopt for yourself and for the rest of your life.

If you want more Seeker, definitely hit that subscribe button. Diets are so much more than just food; I can tell you more about the healthiest diets right here. Amazingly, use of the Keto diet can be traced all the way back to the 5th century BCE by Hippocrates who realized seizures are biological, not spiritual.