February 1, 2018

The Keto Diet is gaining interest from those fed up with trying to lose weight. It all sounds promising, but it is all it’s cracked up to be?

Firstly, what is The Keto Diet?

Also known as very-low-carb, low-carb / high-fat, ketogenic etc, it involves eating sufficient protein and fat to avoid hunger, whilst avoiding or keeping all foods and drinks that contain carbohydrates very low. This changes the body’s fuel source from burning glucose (or sugar) to burning fat.

When any food (or drink) containing carbohydrate is consumed, digestion breaks it down to glucose and the hormone insulin is released to drive the excess glucose into the cells; the liver, the muscles and your fat cells.

Excess insulin in your blood stream has a side effect. It turns off the ability of the body to access stored fat for fuel. And so, the body relies on you feeding it more glucose. It induces hunger, typically 60 to 90 minutes later.

Have you ever wondered “Why, when I have so much energy stored as body fat (10 kg = 77,000 stored calories!) do I every get hungry?” The answer is that if your body has high insulin levels, your access to all that energy is switched off. 

So, reducing carbs (and therefore the resulting glucose and your insulin) causes the liver to produce ketones from the release and breakdown of stored fat. The ketones are like glucose as they too can fuel your brain, and weight loss results. 

It’s often said that when any diet can cause weight loss but some are unsustainable, and so weight regain is common. It seems that The Keto Diet is different. A meta-analysis of 13 randomised controlled trials suggested that those on a ketogenic diet tend to lose more weight and keep more of it off than people on low-fat diets and, as a bonus, with less hunger.

Could it be that protein and fat actually satiate more than carbohydrates? Might the protein and fat produce different hormonal responses than carbs? Perhaps the ketones reduce hunger? Maybe it’s all three, or even something else? 

Researchers care about the answer, but for the average person who just wants to lose some weight, the reason is less important than the result.

As for weight regain, a study found that a low-fat diet slowed metabolism by more than 400 calories per day, while a very-low carb diet showed no significant decline in metabolism. This could well be the difference between bouncing back to the original weight or maintaining the new lower weight.

Years of hearing the low-fat message has left many suspicious about the new advice to increase fat consumption. “Won’t fat make me fat?” To be specific, eating fat and carbs at the same time will make you fat (e.g. spaghetti carbonara). Keeping carbs low keeps glucose and insulin low, so ketones are produced to keep your brain happy.

One of the keys to success is not just whether you follow a low-fat diet or a Keto Diet, it’s actually about how well you stick to it. This is where the importance of a well-planned and nutritionally adequate program is important, along with the experienced support to help you implement it and stay the course. 

There may be a small percentage of overweight people who are “metabolically healthy” for whom a low-fat diet works fine, as long as they stick to it. An indicator that a person may be becoming “metabolically challenged” is that their waist is growing. For them a keto, or low card diet will be easier and studies are showing, more effective.

Researchers note that it’s possible for dieters to start with a restrictive ketogenic diet and as they are losing weight, it may be possible to customise their diet and systematically introduce more carbohydrate options whilst maintaining weight control. This extra variety adds extra nutrients and potentially makes it far more sustainable, family-friendly and sociable. 

Researchers make two other points:

  1. People who are medicated or have any metabolically-affected disease (e.g. insulin resistance or diabetes) should be communicating with their doctor when considering any dietary change.
  2. Ketogenic diets can create short term side effects like headaches. These can be stimulated by the sudden reduction in sugar and electrolyte deficiency when dietary changes are made. These symptoms may be avoided with the right keto strategies.

Going it alone, unless you’ve got a nutrition qualification or are prepared to do endless hours of your own research, is unlikely to work. It’s good to have support from people who work with low carb dieters every day.

The Healthy Inspirations ICT Reset program starts with a very low-carb, Keto-style eating plan and systematically increases the amount of daily carbohydrate to determine each person’s Individual Carbohydrate Tolerance. Combined with reports to member’s doctor, regular resistance exercise, one-on-one coaching and great low-carb meal ideas, it’s unique in Australia and New Zealand. Give your nearest centre a call.