Spotlight: Keto diet is not for everyone

Muscat: Ketogenic diet is in the news again. The recent death of a South Indian actress due to renal failure has left many wonder how this hardest diet cannot be taken lightly.

Many are inquiring about the diet not necessarily for a long-term solution but to jumpstart their weight loss journey.

Keto is primarily a diet with very low carbohydrates, moderate protein and high fat. Unlike other low-carb diets, which focus on protein, a keto plan centers on fat, which supplies as much as 90 per cent of daily calories. And it’s not the type of diet to try as an experiment.

Keto diet is so named because when one reduces the intake of carbohydrates the body uses fat to produce energy and leads to a metabolic state called ‘ketosis.’

Liver produces ketones from fat which is used up by the body for energy.

Jishy Seby, diet consultant, explains that Ketogenic diet was initially used as a part of nutrition therapy to treat epilepsy in children. When it was found that it led to weight loss it was used as a means for weight reduction. It has many benefits including shedding weight and sugar.

“The present keto diet widely spread through the internet includes high fat, especially saturated fat and very low carbohydrates with moderate protein and can affect the kidney and liver functions of an individual,” says Jisha.

Nadeesha Basheer, clinical nutritionist and dietician, says “Due to ketosis, the switch to burning stored fat creates a diuretic effect, losing water weight quickly compared to other methods of dieting. This can make progress feel quick at first.”

However, she warns the diet also has some potentially serious drawbacks.

“Being in a ketosis state can be dangerous for people with kidney and heart disease, diabetes, especially Type 1 diabetes. I would not recommend it for individuals with an unhealthy relationship with food as restrictive diets can worsen this relationship.”

Jisha cites the case of a 38-year-old Omani man who weighed 180 kg. He followed a systematic diet plan with low carbohydrates, high protein, and low fat and lost around 100 kg in 18-months-time.

“We started with a very low carbohydrate diet with exercise and modified the diet as the patient started losing weight. Exercise and regular check-up are needed while following such diets. Good results are achieved by most of the patients who follow a diet plan with exercise,” Jisha explains.

Dr Fariha Shahbaz of the Ministry of Health (MoH) says many patients enquire if the ketogenic diet was safe or not. “Breaking down of stored fat usually happens over two to four days of after eating fewer than 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. Keep in mind that this is a highly individualised process, and some people need a more restricted diet to start producing enough ketones,” warns Dr Fariha.

This also brings up with the question: Is keto good for you.

Nadeesha mentions that if your goal is weight loss, you do not need to be on a keto diet to achieve this.

One can cut weight by making different dietary changes and eating patterns and physical activity.

“The average person considers a balanced, heart-healthy diet consisting of lean protein, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and high-fibre and whole-grain carbohydrates,” she says.

All of them noted that patients follow the diet available on the internet for weight loss.

They cautioned that while ultra-low-carb nature might be able to help shed weight quickly, it is not a universal solution for everyone, and any new diet should be undertaken with a thorough guidance from a dietician.

“One can definitely get an accurate answer from a qualified practicing nutritionist and dietitian who can advise after a consultation,” Nadeesha says.