Many will make resolutions in the new year to lose weight, kicking off new diets on January 1 so each Tuesday in December, Amanda Peterson will take a closer look at different diets in our Daybreak segment, Healthy Living.

A popular diet right now, we’re starting with the Ketogenic Diet.

The Ketogenic Diet – what is it?

The Ketogenic Diet or Keto Diet is a very low carb, high fat diet.

Julie Stefanski, a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says when on the Ketogenic Diet, a person’s carbohydrate intake is low enough that it changes the way the body metabolizes food.

Being on a strict Keto Diet puts the body in ketosis, a metabolic state that allows the body to burn fat.

“When you learn to burn ketones, that’s your own stored fuel. When you burn fat, it becomes ketones. So it actually has a side effect of weight loss,” says Dr. Chris Turnpaugh.

“Typically when you think of most Americans, we are getting about 250g of carbohydrates a day or higher. This diet lowers it down to less than 50g of carbohydrates per day,” says Stefanski.

For Americans without diabetes or other metabolic issues, the recommendation is a daily intake of:
50-60% carbohydrates
30-40% fat
10-20% protein

On Keto, the calories a person eats are:
5-10% carbohydrate
70-80% fat
the rest protein

What are the risks of being on the Ketogenic Diet?

According to Stefanski, there isn’t research to show what happens to the body when it is in a ketogenic state for an extended period of time but she says there are some known risks associated with Keto.

Stefanski says being in such a low carbohydrate restriction requires exclusion of a lot of fruits and vegetables, which can cause deficiencies of critical vitamins and micro-nutrients, like calcium.

“A Ketogenic Diet does not provide enough calcium for our bones and so that’s something that needs to be looked at for supplementation,” says Stefanksi.

The types of fats a person is eating to hit the goal of 70-80% intake, also can impact your health.

“Not all fat sources are the same,” says Stefanski. “If someone’s basing their Ketogenic Diet on a lot of processed meat like cured meats and then different snack foods that might be commercially available, that are geared toward this type of diet, there really would be missing out on the whole foods that are actually beneficial to health and to fighting cancer,” she explains.

On the Keto Diet, a person could quickly feel lethargic.

“We store fuel in our liver and in our muscles called glycogen and that fuels any type of activity,” says Stefanski. “On a Ketogenic Diet you do not have that stored fuel in your liver or muscles,” she explains.

The Keto Diet may also impact your digestive system. Many people complain of nausea, constipation and vomiting if they are unable to metabolize all of the fat in their diet.

“Having ketones in your blood can make you nauseous and that’s one of the reasons why it can help with weight loss, because people don’t feel like eating and that’s not necessarily a good thing,” says Stefanski.

It can impact your cholesterol.

“Some people have improvements or slight bumps but other people, the way they break down fat, they can have enormous jumps in cholesterol and if you’re not checking that you’re not going to know that that’s happening. It’s not something you can feel,” says Stefanksi.

It can also be dangerous.

“The Keto Diet is one of the most dangerous diets to eat if you’re going to cheat,” says Dr. Chris Turnpaugh. “If you’re going to to Keto five days per week and cheat two days per week, now you’re putting a lot of combustibles together.”

Dr. Turnpaugh says eating a high fat, low carb diet and then cheating with sugar could fry the system.

“Keto comes with some risk if you’re not disciplined to do it,” says Dr. Turnpaugh. “If done incorrectly, the Keto Diet could carry some risk of cardiovascular risk and Alzheimer’s risk,” he says.

What are the benefits?

“We definitely see benefits for people that have metabolic disorders. Someone that has pre-diabetes or diabetes, they’re not breaking down carbs the right way. Those are the people that a very low carbohydrate diet may help them to feel more full, to not raise their blood sugar as high,” says Stefanski.

“Other groups we have seen use a Ketogenic Diet since the 1920’s are people with epilepsy,” says Stefanski. “That’s where we see this long term data on health and how a very high fat diet effects people. There are people that, with certain genetic disorders, use throughout their life.”

We spoke to one man who has improved his health by adhering to the Ketogenic Diet. For his story, watch the video above.

So why has the Ketogenic Diet become popular?

“When you look at the testimonies of people on social media, people get fast results but when we look at the data out a year from starting the weight loss, it’s exactly the same,” says Stefanski. “Sometimes a Ketogenic Diet may be effective for a couple weeks but its often not sustainable and people re-gain the weight they’ve lost and also feel guilty for that happening.”

“Many Americans found it much easier to eat fat all day long than to go on any other type of diet, like Mediterranean diet or a Paleo Diet,” says Dr. Turnpaugh.

Consult your doctor before trying the Ketogenic Diet.

Certain genetic sub types don’t process fats the same way, so Keto could be the wrong diet for you, explains Dr. Turnpaugh.

“I don’t want to encourage every patient to go through a huge battery of tests before they start a diet but there’s some validity to: Before you start a workout program, you ought to have an EKG. Before you start a diet, you gotta know what’s the healthiest for you,” says Dr. Turnpaugh. “So be a little bit more mindful than just picking up a weight loss shake or following a weight loss program without knowing who you are and what’s going on.”

“A professional should assess what you’re eating so they can tell you what you’re missing and what is at risk,” says Stefanski. “Many people are more successful when they start looking at how their relationship with food impacts their weight and their exercise that they’re doing and looking at that may be a lot more successful than picking the fad diet that is popular on Instagram right now.”