Assessing the ketogenic diet

Monette Ho, 39 years old, tried ketogenic diet or ‘keto’ to lose weight. Her normal weight is 120-128 lbs. before giving birth to her third and youngest son, but since then, she never regained her ideal weight.

Monette started keto diet last September 2017, but she had to stop after three months during Christmas break because she can’t follow a strict diet and can’t avoid drinking alcohol.

“I lost 20 lbs. from keto diet. I only did keto from Monday to Thursday, but I stopped it already, because I drink beer with my husband on a Friday or Saturday night – that’s our bonding/date night. We want to eat ‘normal’ food and drink beer,” she admitted.

“But I recommend it to people who can follow a strict diet. It has good benefits and you will really lose weight. In one week, I’ve known people from our Facebook group who lost 10 to 15 lbs. It’s hard to believe, but it’s really true. It is super effective. You just need to eat fats, but you cannot drink alcohol, which we really can’t live without so we switched to a no-carb diet,” Monette shared.

Since she started with a no-carb diet, Monette already lost 11 pounds. It’s a small progress, she says, but at least the diet is working for her and it’s not very strict compared to keto.

Some famous international celebrities who are into keto include Halle Berry, Vanessa Hudgens, Megan Fox, Kourtney Kardashian, and Adriana Lima.

Photo courtesy of https://foodhow.com/

Locally, there’s beauty queen Ruffa Gutierrez, singer-host Billy Crawford, and the heavy weight anti-corruption advocate, Juana Change who lost 192 lbs. from a staggering weight of 275 lbs.

Just like any diet, if it worked for some people, it doesn’t automatically mean it’ll work for everybody.

You see every year, people jump on the latest diet bandwagon or trend out of curiosity. Monette’s story is just one of the many stories of people who’ve tried a new diet, hoping they can keep it and it’ll work for them.

What is keto diet?

“A ketogenic diet or ‘keto’ is a high-fat but very low-carbohydrate diet, as low as 30 grams of carbohydrates per day or even less. In a way, a keto diet may be similar to a crash diet with extreme restriction of carbohydrate intake,” said medical doctor Rafael Castillo, member of Executive Council of the International Society of Hypertension (ISH) based in United Kingdom and Chairman, Communications Committee, ISH, said in an article published online.

Keto diet originated as a tool for treating neurological diseases such as epilepsy. Numerous studies show that this type of diet can help one from losing weight, controlling blood sugar, increasing mental performance, energy and normalized hunger, managing cholesterol and blood pressure, and insulin resistance.

It may even have benefits against heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, brain injuries, and acne.

Studies show that keto naturally lowers blood sugar levels due to the types of foods a person eats. It is also more effective way to manage and prevent diabetes compared to low-calorie diets.

“It may be recommended, but it still requires some medical supervision, particularly in more senior adults, those with diabetes and other metabolic problems, and those who can’t stay away from alcohol once in a while,” Castillo warned.

He explained that patients with diabetes mellitus can benefit from keto. With less carbohydrates to metabolize, there’s a lower demand of the body for insulin.

Although some doctors treating young patients with type 1 diabetes (juvenile onset) say it’s safe for them, Castillo doesn’t recommend it for type 1 diabetics because of their higher risk of developing ketoacidosis, a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when one’s body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones, compared to those with type 2 diabetes (adult-onset).

Type 1 diabetics should be monitored by their physicians if they’re on keto diet.

What to eat

People confuse keto with high carb, high fat diets, which are terrible for the body. If one eats a lot of fatty foods that are high in sugar, he can get himself into trouble.

Majority of one’s meal should be based around meat, fatty fish, eggs, butter and cream, cheese, nuts and seeds, healthy oils, avocados, low-carb veggies, and condiments.

Any food that is high in carbs should be limited: Sugary foods (e.g. soda, fruit juices), grains or starches (e.g. rice or pasta), fruits, beans or legumes, root vegetables and tubers, low-fat or diet products, some condiments or sauces, unhealthy fat, sugar-free diet foods, and alcohol.

Due to its carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw one out of ketosis.

Common side effects

 Most people experience “keto-flu”, also known as ‘carb flu’, a natural reaction (almost like a feeling of withdrawal) when a body undergoes switching from burning glucose (sugar) to burning fat instead, but it often goes away after a few days.

As one’s body adjusts or adapts to changes, he may feel slight discomfort including headaches, nausea, fatigue, cramps, dizziness and aggravation, mental fogginess in the first week as a result of one’s electrolytes being flushed out.

One’s body is used to the simple routine of breaking down carbohydrates and using them as energy, instead the body shifts to burning fat, which produces an energy source known as ketones.

“This process is known as ketosis. So, people on ketogenic diets are in a state of ketosis. This is different from ketoacidosis, which can be potentially fatal. Ketoacidosis indicates an extremely high level of ketones, making the blood ‘acidic’ already. The three most common causes of ketoacidosis are alcohol, starvation and diabetes. And yes, it’s serious. It can cause death,” said Castillo.

While keto diet is great especially for people who are overweight, diabetic, or looking to improve their metabolic health, it is not for everyone and it needs medical supervision.

It is not recommended for elite athletes or those wishing to add muscles or weight. And time and again, any diet will only work if you are committed, consistent and you’ll stick to it in the long-term. Take things slow. Do it for yourself, not because someone else is pressuring you to do so.

Published by Mylene Orillo

Mylene Orillo is a contributing writer at the Health & Lifestyle magazine.  Prior to that, she's a former correspondent at The Manila Times; former editor-in-chief of TravelPlus magazine; and former assistant editor of Health & Lifestyle, Zen Health, and DiabetEASE magazines by FAME Publishing, Inc., a company owned by cardiologist Dr. Rafael Castillo who has given her the much-needed break and opportunity in the health industry and medical field.  Her previous job as Media Consultant at the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and Writer-Researcher at the Headquarters Philippine Army ignited her passions for charity, volunteering, selfless service, and love of country. As a young girl, she loved reading her mom's collection of Mills & Boons pocketbooks, which started her passion to write romance stories.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Sto. Tomas in España, Manila. She is now working towards earning her master's degree hopefully this year. She loves traveling, long-distance running, reading romance and non-fiction books, watching Korean Drama series, feel-good rom coms, military movies, and documentaries during her spare time. Someday, she wants to meet Prince William and Pope Francis, settle down with the love of her life and have a family and kids of her own; and become a bestselling romance author.

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