KETO diet – killer or savior?
The KETO dilemma
KETO has been a buzzword in the dieting industry for the last few years. Many people are turning towards keto for weight loss, many restaurants have started offering keto options and many influencers are talking about this diet. But recently the KETO diet is making news for something really tragic. An Indian actress Mishti Mukherjee died of kidney failure at the age of 27. According to her family, this was due to kidney failure which happened due to the KETO diet that she was following. This news has put KETO in a terrible light declaring it almost a murderous diet. Is it all that bad? Does it have any benefits? Could this mishap be prevented? Is KETO safe? KETO is really a killer or a savior?
What is KETO?
Let us first understand what is keto diet in nutshell. Our food is comprised of 3 main nutrients Carbohydrates, Proteins & Fats. A typical diet has more carbohydrates like rice, pasta, bread, etc., a medium amount of protein like chicken, eggs, meat, fish, lentils, etc., and less amount of fats like oil, butter, nuts, etc. That’s how the typical food pyramid suggested so far. Carbohydrates break down into glucose. Glucose is used as the main energy source by our cells. Protein also breaks down into glucose by the process of glycogenesis. Fat works as stored fuel for the body. Whatever excess amount of carbohydrates we consume and are absorbed by the body but not utilized, they are stored as fat for later use.
KETO diet gives a good shake to this food pyramid, turning it upside down. In the KETO approach carbohydrates are reduced to the bare minimum, proteins are controlled below a certain level while the fat intake is drastically increased. This eventually pushes the body into a carb deprived state and forces it to turn to fats as the main energy source. When fats are used for energy they breakdown producing Ketones and hence the name KETO diet. KETO diet has many benefits.
Benefits of KETO
- KETO is a therapeutic diet for epilepsy.
- Ketone is cleaner and more efficient fuel as compared to glucose.
- Ketones are also good for brain health.
- Since the KETO diet puts the body in fat-burning mode, it can help in weight loss.
- This diet also can decrease inflammation as a result of reduced direct/indirect sugars from the diet.
- This diet can be therapeutic for diabetes.
KETO is not a layman diet
However, the KETO diet is extremely restrictive and is a huge shift from normal. Apart from switching your body to fat burning, it affects multiple systems. This is not a diet that you can take from a friend or family member and start on your own. It is important that you consult your doctor as a first step to trying this diet. Your doctor might ask you to get some tests done before starting this diet as well as periodically during the diet to make sure it is not having adverse effects on your body. A few parameters you should definitely discuss with your doctor are as mentioned below.
Tests one has to do before and during the KETO diet
- Lipid Profile: High-fat diet can shoot the cholesterol level in a few people. As per recent research, cholesterol is not as bad as we thought of it before. However, a high level of LDL along with high blood glucose levels can increase the risks of heart diseases. It is very important to keep a close watch on your Lopid profile while doing the KETO diet.
- Kidney Function: Excess ketones have to be excreted from the body. This can overload kidneys. Kidney stones are a known side effect of KETO if a person is not drinking enough fluids to wash out the ketones safely out of the body. It is very important to check the health level of kidneys before starting and during the diet.
- Blood Glucose and Insulin: The KETO diet is therapeutic for diabetes. It is used to control blood glucose levels. But in a few people, the KETO diet might affect insulin adversely. This phenomenon is called insulin resistance. In the state of insulin resistance in the body, cells don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy. To make up for it, your pancreas makes more insulin. Over time, your blood sugar levels go up. Your doctor will keep a close watch on blood sugar and insulin levels and suggest modifications if required.
- Thyroid Function: Too little insulin in the body can impact the liver’s ability to make T3 out of T4. While a person with healthy thyroid levels might not even feel the effect of the lowered T3, if you already have a history of Thyroid, then please discuss it with the doctor before starting KETO as it might affect big time.
Deficiencies developed on KETO Diet
When restrictive diets are done for a prolonged time, it increases the risk of developing deficiencies in the body. Folate (B9), biotin (B7), selenium, choline, vitamin A, E, D, chromium, iodine, magnesium, and molybdenum are some of the most common deficiencies that can develop due to Keto.
Duration of KETO Diet
Another important factor in the KETO diet is the duration. The initial weeks of KETO are fantastic due to weight loss, and one might feel motivated to move on for a long time in this diet. Do not extend the diet without discussing it with the doctor, just because you know about the diet. Stick to the timeline given by the experts. Personally, I feel this diet is comparatively safer when done for a very short-term (not more than 4 to 6 weeks). But in some cases, doctors might advise you to continue KETO for the rest of your life making it a lifestyle change.
Keto does change the way your entire body, each cell works, so maybe one can do it for some time and get back to healthy more manageable eating options or stay in that changed state forever. If you are doing KETO long enough to make your body resistant and try to return to come back to normal eating, it might act confused giving rise to a plethora of symptoms.
To conclude, some diets like KETO need specialized medical supervision to make them work for you and not against. Talk to your doctor and get the lab investigations done before starting the diet. Stay healthy and stay safe!