Over the last 100 years or so, we’ve seen a plethora of fad diets come and go: in the 1930’s, Hollywood popularized the Grapefruit diet; in the 1950’s, Maria Callas made the tapeworm diet famous... In just the last 20 years alone, all of us have either tried or known someone who’s done the Atkins diet, Weight Watchers, Paleo, Vegan, and the list goes on. Some of these fad diets have their merits; others...not so much. The Keto diet is a diet that’s netting more and more press these days...and you may be wondering: what, exactly, is it? It’s a diet...but its focus is not weight loss or even optimum nutrition.
The History of the Keto Diet
Believe it or not, the Ketogenic diet is nothing new: it’s a therapeutic diet that was developed in the 1920’s to treat epilepsy in children. It proved to be effective for this in many cases, and use of the Ketogenic diet continued into the 1930’s. With the advent of anticonvulsant drugs, the Ketogenic diet became a second line treatment for those who did not achieve control with pharmaceuticals.
The ketogenic diet went largely unnoticed for decades; in the 1990’s, a Hollywood producer’s child Charlie was successfully treated with the Keto diet when first line treatments failed; a movie starring Meryl Streep, based on the producer’s son, hit television screens in 1997. Jim Abrahams, the producer, went on to found the Charlie Foundation to promote the diet and to gather funding for it. As a result of all of this, the ketogenic diet has gathered a great deal of steam. The ketogenic is now under consideration for the treatment of a wide variety of disorders in addition to epilepsy.
What is the Keto Diet?
In a nutshell, keto is requires high-fat, extremely low-carb, and average protein intake; the breakdown varies based upon a physician's specific recommendations, but generally it is 5% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 70% fat. Achieving the ideal ketogenic ratio is the #1 goal of this diet.
Approved amounts of low-carbohydrate vegetables get the green light with the Keto diet. Fats in the diet, both unsaturated and saturated, can be from sources such as avocados, fish, and whole dairy. Carbohydrates such as flour and sugar are avoided; moderate amounts of nuts are allowed. Only small amounts of fruit are allowed
Why such an emphasis on the ratio...and why such restricted food intake? The entire goal of the ketogenic diet is to force your body into the state of ‘ketosis’. Ketosis happens when your body runs out of carbs to burn for energy: the body must move on to both fat and protein for energy.
The Ketogenic Diet Comes with Serious Health Consequences
Although you may have heard of people finding success with the ketogenic diet for weight loss, the fact is that this is a diet that’s first and foremost designed to treat specific medical conditions.
With fat and protein burned for energy, your body goes into a state called ‘acidosis’. Take note: acidosis can cause damage to your organs...and can be fatal. Following such a restricted diet can lead to heart disease and serious nutritional deficiencies. It goes without saying, then, that the ketogenic diet should only be followed under the strict supervision of a specialist.
The bottom line? The keto diet is not something you rush into: it’s something you do under the care of your medical care team. This is a powerful diet that’s changed lives over the years. The keto diet is not, however, meant to be a fad diet. It’s a serious diet...with serious implications.