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The popularity of the ketogenic diet for weight loss has left many of us wondering if this is just the next diet fad, or if we should all be adopting this approach to reach our weight loss goals. This month’s article reviews the research on the ketogenic diet, who benefits the most from it, and who should exercise more caution before starting a very low carbohydrate diet.

Ketogenic diets are high in fat (75-85%), moderate in protein (10-15%) and very low in carbohydrates (5-10%). The idea is to switch your body into using fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates, aiding in weight loss. Health conditions with research to support the use of a ketogenic diet include epilepsy, type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Due to the restrictive nature of a ketogenic diet, it is important to speak with your primary care provider before adopting this nutrition plan.

Over the short term, many people who follow a ketogenic diet will lose weight. However, the long-term implications for the average, healthy individual have not been well studied. Potential health issues that may arise include:

  • disruption in the hormones that regulate ovulation, negatively affecting fertility
  • interference with thyroid hormone production, leading to fatigue, hair loss and feeling cold all the time
  • rebound weight gain (as seen after most restrictive diets that are difficult to follow for the long term)

From my clinical experience, I find that the key to successful weight loss and maintenance is following a program tailored to the patient’s individual biochemistry, food preferences and lifestyle. Testing for insulin resistance* (an indicator how efficiently your body handles carbohydrates) can take the guesswork out of determining how many carbohydrates your body needs to lose weight. Accountability in the form of recording foods and biweekly check-ins, and aiming for consistency rather than perfection with one’s food choices are also key ingredients for success.

Next Steps:
Most people want to lose weight to be healthier, however our body has to be healthy in order to lose weight! Identifying and treating common barriers to weight loss such as lack of sleep, insulin resistance, stress and hormonal imbalances often set patients up for success. To learn more about my holistic weight loss program, click here to book a 15-minute complimentary visit. You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions about the program, and find out how naturopathic medicine can help you achieve your goals. Please note that treatment plans will not be presented at this time.

*For more information on insulin resistance, check out my past blog post here.

Van Berkel, A.A., IJff, D.M., Verkuy, J.M. (2018). Cognitive benefits of the ketogenic diet in patients with epilepsy: A systematic overview. Eplilepsy and Behaviour. Retrieved from https://www.epilepsybehavior.com/article/S1525-5050(18)30338-X/fulltext

Brouns, F. (2018). Overweight and diabetes prevention: is a low-carbohydrate-high-fat diet recommendable? European Journal of Nutrition. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5959976/

Bueno N.B., de Melo, I.S., de Oliveira, S.L., da Rocha Ataide, T. (2013). Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. The British Journal of Nutrition. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23651522

Gershuni V.M., Yan S.L., Medici V. (2018). Nutritional Ketosis for Weight Management and Reversal of Metabolic Syndrome. Current Nutrition Reports. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30128963

Hamdy, O., Tasabehji, M.W., Elseaidy, T., Tomah, S., Ashrafzadeh, S., Mottalib, A. (2018). Fat Versus Carbohydrate-Based Energy-Restricted Diets for Weight Loss in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes. Current Diabetes Reports. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30328516

Paoli, A., Rubini, A., Volek, J.S., Grimaldi, K.A. (2013) Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67, p.789-796. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/ejcn2013116.pdf