Fat: From foe to friend, and back again

Ketogenic and other high fat diets have taken the world by storm with people from all over the world jumping on board. But is eating bacon and butter everyday benefiting our health, or making it worse? I’m reviewing the evidence to give you a non-biased view of this style of eating and allowing you to decide whether this is right for you!

The keto diet is a low carbohydrate, fat rich diet that has been around since the 1920’s as a treatment for severe childhood epilepsy. More recently it has gained considerable attention as a weight loss strategy, with many people across the globe jumping on the latest “diet” wagon. This style of eating is distinctive for its exceptionally high-fat content, which is typically around 70-80% of daily calories. The carbohydrates are reduced to less than 50g per day – less than that of a cup of pasta or rice – and can go as low as 20g per day.

So, we’ve heard all about this diet that is reported as being a fast way to lose that unwanted weight. But what does the evidence say? Studies have indicated beneficial changes in metabolism over a short period due to the satiating effect (fullness) and decrease of food cravings. Other research has shown a decrease in our appetite-stimulating hormones, which makes us less likely to overeat during the day. Over a short period of time, this style of eating has shown to be beneficial for weight loss; however, long term studies have shown no difference between a low-carbohydrate, high fat diet and a low-fat, low calorie diet.

The keto diet definitely produces weight loss – quite rapidly in the beginning- but what other impacts does it have? The most commonly known effects that are experienced when initially starting a keto diet are a group of symptoms referred to as the keto flu and include dizziness, fatigue, headache, insomnia, along with others. Most people can get past these symptoms as they only last for a few days to a few weeks. The longer-term effects that may arise without noticing initially are kidney stones, fatty liver, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Compliance of this diet is rather difficult for many people as it is hard to remain in a ketosis state, and the limited variety and restriction can become a challenge.

So, to confirm. Yes, this diet can help you reach your weight loss goals, and yes, your brain can function without carbs – but carbs are still the brain’s favourite food. One thing to keep in mind is that this style of eating can be difficult to adhere to and maintain long term, and we still don’t know enough about the long-term health effects of following this type of diet.

Jessie Walter is a dietitian and nutritionist currently working in private practice. She enjoys working with people to establish healthy relationships with food and reduce the stress that can be involved with food, eating and nutrition.

SOURCES

Ketogenic Diet – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/

The Ketogenic Diet: evidence for optimism but high-quality research needed- https://academic.oup.com/jn/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jn/nxz308/5673196

Comparing the efficacy of ketogenic diet with low fat diet for weight loss in obesity patients: Evidence-based case report https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327189134_Comparing_the_Efficacy_of_Ketogenic_Diet_with_Low-Fat_Diet_for_Weight_Loss_in_Obesity_Patients_Evidenc-Based_Case_Report

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