The ketogenic diet has emerged as one of the trendiest weight-loss strategies around. The diet, which restricts your carbohydrate and protein intakes in favour of fattier foods like eggs and fish, is crafted to induce ketosis, a metabolic process when, in lieu of available glucose, your body burns stored fats. The thought is that by focusing your diet on those stored fats instead of glucose-heavy foods, your body will burn the fat, and you’ll reap a number of benefits, including enhanced immunities, better mental and physical performance, lower insulin, and a more controllable appetite.
However, because of its significant restrictions on what you can and can’t eat, a number of concerns have been raised about a ketogenic diet’s feasibility and safety. Some have even labeled them as completely useless.
“Extreme diets such as the ketogenic diet have no therapeutic or practical use for people without neurodegenerative disorders such as epilepsy,” Alan Aragon, M.S., a Men’s Health nutrition advisor, told us in August.
“I do love and advocate healthy fats but don’t think a true keto diet is sustainable—or fun—for many people,” Libby Babbet, a personal trainer on Australia’s The Biggest Loser, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Helen Truby, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics & Food at Monash University, was just as cautious in her assessment of the trend diet.
“Should people start ketogenic diets? Answer: not unless there is a medical indication to do so and under the guidance of an accredited practicing dietitian who can ensure nutritional adequacy,” she told the Herald.
Mice studies have reportedly arrived at results that do little in helping to settle this debate. In one recent study, which was published in Cell Metabolism, mice were given a “control diet,” a ketogenic diet, or a low-carb diet. The mice fed the ketogenic diet lived longer and showed greater improvement on memory tests they were subjected to than the other mice. However, as the Herald points out, a 2012 study on high-fat diets published in Nutrition & Metabolism saw mice become obese as a result their high-fat nutritional regimen.
But, while the jury may still be out on this discussion, there are still lessons from the ketogenic craze that can be applied in balance with your regular diet. Namely, cut the empty carbs you’re eating, don’t fear healthy fat, and be sure to pack in the leafy greens that so many keto fans swear by.
By Gus Turner and additional reporting by Chris Mohr, Ph.D.