Thank you so much for this article! My husband and I have been following keto for a little over a month now and we love it! I did a lot of research before starting, and am still doing lots of research because I like to be armed with the best information I can have when friends question my choices. Just yesterday I had a friend tell me that our brains need carbs to function (more than what we get from veggies). I hadn’t heard that before so I didn’t know what to answer. Thanks to your article now I know, and I have lots more answers in case more points come up. 😉
Despite its explosive popularity, there’s a lot of confusion about what the ketogenic (keto) diet really is. “Many people think they’re following a keto diet when they’re really just consuming a low-carbohydrate diet,” says Patti Urbanski, MEd, RD, CDE, a certified diabetes educator with St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. “So one person’s ‘keto diet’ may look very different than another’s.”
Our bodies are incredibly adaptive to what you put into it – when you overload it with fats and take away carbohydrates, it will begin to burn ketones as the primary energy source. Optimal ketone levels offer many health, weight loss, physical and mental performance benefits.1There are scientifically-backed studies that show the advantage of a low-carb, ketogenic diet over a low-fat diet. One meta-analysis of low-carbohydrate diets showed a large advantage in weight loss. The New England Journal of Medicine study resulted in almost double the weight loss in a long-term study on ketone inducing diets.
The Ketogenic Diet is a low carbohydrate diet, consisting initially of less than 20 carbohydrates per day. Not per meal, yes, you heard me correctly, per day. It is not for the faint of heart and yes I am writing from experience. Of course I have tried it! Hasn’t everybody in America at some point who has wanted to lose weight? Does it work you ask? Of course it does! The problem is how long can you keep it up?
I have great respect for Harvard Medical School. I notice that they support their readers posting comments and I am most appreciative of the article and all the many thoughtful comments by the readers. The readers seem to have the most expertise here and I hope that the doctor who wrote the article will think long and hard about the comments by readers. After 35 years of clinical practice in mental health, I notice that all issues of emotion involve medical issues, nutrition, and the gut bacteria. I would say that these issues and all of the executive brain functions seem to improve with ketogenic principles. For those that apply it in a flexible and smart manner, it appears to improve every area of their lives. I strongly encourage the author of the article to take one class via The Institute for Functional Medicine. If he is open to more learning he can take more classes and get certified. I’m sure a fine doctor, he will be an even better doctor and personally healthier, if he gets more training. Are we all open to new learning(especially us healthcare providers)?
I suffered through a year on 20 grams of carbs per day and it was the worst year of my life. Yep, I lost weight, but at my current weight of 130 lbs and eating 30 carbs per meal and remaining in a prediabetes state for 15 years, I am healthy AND happy now. None of us know the long term effects of most of what is offered to us…medications, diet drinks, processed foods, restrictive diets. The point I was trying to make was eating healthier, more natural foods will be better in the long run, I believe we all have the common sense to agree on that, even if we can’t agree on how many carbs we will eat!
For me, I chose to become a CDE because I had worked as a Registered Nurse first on a medical unit, then in a Medical ICU. These are the units where most of the people with diabetes are, so I had seen every horrific complication that diabetes can cause. When I had a chance to become a Diabetes Educator…to actually help PREVENT some of those horrible complications…I jumped at the chance!
On the flip side, hypos can be an issue, especially early on…and if you treat them too aggressively, they could knock you out of ketosis. I remember my first 3 weeks on keto, my CGM trend line hugged a blood sugar of around 80. It was glorious, but I had to reduce insulin substantially through trial and error and felt like I was low every five seconds.
There are a number of different causes of acne, and one may be related to diet and blood sugar. Eating a diet high in processed and refined carbohydrates can alter gut bacteria and cause more dramatic blood sugar fluctuations, both of which can have an influence on skin health. Therefore, by decreasing carb intake, it's not a surprise that a ketogenic diet could reduce some cases of acne.
There are so many tricks, shortcuts, and gimmicks out there on achieving optimal ketosis – I’d suggest you don’t bother with any of that. Optimal ketosis can be accomplished through dietary nutrition alone (aka just eating food). You shouldn’t need a magic pill to do it. Just stay strict, remain vigilant, and be focused on recording what you eat (to make sure your carb and protein intake are correct).
I’m in ketogenesis now – 3 weeks in. Lost over 10kg. Protein shakes. Great. But what I wanted to add was that i’m Diabetic (2) and quite badly so. I was Injecting insulin twice a day – Novomix (part immediate, part slow acting). But since I went into keto, my blood sugar has been steady between 5-9, normal range. No injections needed. And no hypo attacks either – that occurs below a reading of 4, for me. This is NOT a cure of course – it’s directly related to low carb intake. But I do wonder if discontinuing insulin is partly responsible for my improvement in alertness, activity level and so on. Magnesium tabs, 1000 units twice a day, have also been helpful – I suffer leg and foot cramps due to spinal arthritis – but they had worsened until I upped the dose.
The good news is, it is not necessary to stay on a ketogenic diet at all times to reap this benefit. Our ancestors went through fast and feast cycles and the body is designed for flexibility. We may be able to reduce cancer risk, prolong life, improve brain function, and benefit from ketosis otherwise by being in ketosis or fasting a few days a week.
Make sure you consult with your doctor and track relevant biomarkers before you start the ketogenic diet. This is a big adjustment for your body and your life, so do not take it lightly. If you follow our beginner’s guide, join the Ruled.me community, and have check-ups with your doctor, then you will be able to get all the benefits of the ketogenic diet and take your health back.