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Going Keto? Look at the science first

The ketogenic or "keto" diet has been in the news a lot lately. Health benefit claims include drastic weight loss and positive outcomes for people with chronic health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. It's no wonder so many people are saying that they are "going keto." But, is a keto diet the best long-term solution for your health?

The goal of a ketogenic eating plan is to greatly limit your carbohydrate intake, instead relying on fats as fuel. This can put your body into a state of "ketosis," a metabolic state that occurs when there is not enough carbs to supply your body with energy. Instead, fats are converted to ketones. 

Following a keto diet, means you will eat about 80 percent of your calories from fats and five percent or less from carbs. In contrast, for a nutritious and balanced diet the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends you eat between 45-60 percent of your calories from carbs and about 30 percent from dietary fats.  

In your body's natural metabolism, carbohydrates fuel your brain and muscles while fat is used to maintain cell and hormonal health. While your brain can be fueled with ketones, it isn't an ideal state. Your body prefers carbs which metabolize into sugar which is then sent throughout the body for energy.  

Likely the most common reason for choosing to follow a ketogenic diet is the hope for significant weight loss. It is important to remember that even though dietary fats are used as the back-up fuel during ketosis, this does not necessarily mean that body fat is being "burned." With followers of the diet eating 80 percent of their calories from fats, the body will use this source before body fat stores so actual fat loss is not as much as one might think.  

Overall, there is actually very limited research to support keto as a healthy approach to nutrition. There is even less research available on how a keto diet affects your body long term. In my opinion, the best way of eating is to follow a plan that supports your emotional, social, psychological, metabolic and nutritional health. If a certain way of eating alters the way you have to live your life and does not support ALL aspects of your health, it may not really be healthy at all.

So, if you're thinking about making a drastic change with the keto diet you may want to make an appointment with a registered dietitian.

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