Keto, or the Ketogenic Diet, might seem like the latest diet trend, but it was actually created almost 100 years ago, originally designed to help children with unmanageable epilepsy. This diet drastically limits carbohydrates, causing the body to use fat as energy, rather than glucose. When the body starts using fat as energy, it also produces ketones. This side effect can reduce the frequency of seizures in some children with epilepsy when medication doesn’t work.
Another side effect is...quick weight loss. Ding Ding Ding - how sexy is that? Because of this side effect, it has been used in a clinical setting for emergency weight loss (under medical supervision and risk factor analysis of course). Fast forward to 2018, and now it's a new diet trend.
Why does it ‘work’? Keto is a very restrictive way of eating, so of course weight loss is going to happen. Why it doesn’t work? So many reasons, but mainly because of its restrictive regime, many people can’t sustain it over the long term.
To make Keto work, you need to stay in a state of ketosis, leaving any flexibility of just living or what other people might refer to as ‘cheating’ not possible. Not to mention the fact that macronutrients need to be monitored very closely making it necessary to count everything consumed. As a Holistic Nutritionist, I love food journaling and I use it as a temporary tool for my clients. Having said that, to constantly keep such detailed tabs on your food intake is not a healthy or sustainable practice. It is my goal to help my clients develop a healthy relationship with food. I want them to be able to enjoy ‘living moments’ such as pizza and cake on occasion, without guilt or major repercussions beyond a little feedback from their bodies the next day.
In my practice, many of my clients come in with digestive issues, and as a Holistic practitioner, I know how important our gut biome is needed for overall health. A healthy gut biome supports our immune system, stabilizes inflammation, regulates hormones, allows us to metabolize our nutrients, reduces our risk for various diseases, and supports healthy weight management. I am often rebalancing client’s gut biome and addressing their digestive issues. What Keto is not? A digestive system and gut biome friendly diet. It lacks the various forms of fiber, much-needed prebiotics, and resistant starches (which come from legumes, quality intact grains, root crops). Many of the foods consumed on the keto diet, for example, dairy fats, increase inflammation in the digestive system, stress the digestive organs, as well as suppress a healthy gut biome. BUT you’ll lose weight, so all good, right?
Oh man, my nutritionist rant is bubbling up....here’s another thing, I am often addressing inflammation with clients. There are some theories out there that suggest Keto helps inflammation due to its effects on adenosine levels, but the science is still out on whether this is true or not. When it comes to nutrition and its effects on our health, we need to look at the big picture.. Nutritional science is not linear. It would be irresponsible of me to look at one concept or one benefit when there are so many intricacies to consider... Sadly, fitness professionals or ‘Influencers’ lack the formal nutritional education and tend to take the micro view and focus on one aspect of a ‘diet’. My larger, nutritionally focused view takes into consideration that dairy and high animal product consumption increases inflammation in the body through various mechanisms from the gut biome to the bodies ph.levels...I could go on.
I know you’re thinking - “But I’ve seen it work!” Here’s why - Keto requires individuals to drop added sugars, and ditch a large number of processed foods. This alone will result in weight loss, regulate blood sugar levels, and reduced pain associated with inflammation. These changes are ones I promote to all my clients; this is what we call an overlap effect and this is why we see benefits, sadly with Keto, it doesn’t last due to the points I made above and much more. This is why I don’t recommend Keto to my clients, especially when there are more sustainable and wellness-focused ways for my clients to reach their goals that do not have the potential for negative health outcomes in the future.
Dana Clark, CNHP, CHC, CHN, CLE
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