The Pros and Cons of Keto Diet
There are often debates as to whether we should invest our time and resources into keto diet. In this article, I attempt to lay out the pros and cons of keto diet, showing you whether keto diet is right for you.
Advantages of Keto Diet
1. Weight Loss
The main reason why many people take up a Keto diet is for weight loss. Above 30 high quality studies show that Keto diets result in more effective weight loss compared to other diets. This is because cutting down on carbohydrate intake is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to lose weight. By avoiding food and drinks that are full of starch and sugar, your calorie intake will significantly drop which almost automatically guarantees some weight loss.
2. Promotes the state of Ketosis
Not just that, low carbohydrate intake allows the body to enter the state of ketosis. When your body is in ketosis, your insulin levels and blood sugar levels drop. This enables your fat cells to release water that they have been retaining, which causes a big drop in weight due to water loss. The fat cells are then small enough to enter your bloodstream and be transported to the liver where they are converted into ketones and burned to be used as energy. Rapid weight loss is usually observed in the first two weeks. People on low-carb diets can even lose more weight than those on low-fat diets, and faster too!
3. Keto diet helps control your appetite
Keto diet also helps to control your appetite. This means a reduction in hunger pangs and sudden cravings. By cutting down on carbohydrates, you will gain a steadier supply of energy because your body will not need to keep adjusting to high and low levels of sugar.
Those who have been on a Keto diet will testify that this steady energy reduces their tendencies to snack once their body has adjusted to the diet. This is because you will not be hungry as often anymore, allowing you to refrain from snacking on junk food. This will even allow you to do intermittent fasting – where you only eat during a specific period of the day – without going hungry. This is a key advantage of the Keto diet because people usually go hungry when on other diets and end up breaking their diets to snack, undoing all their efforts.
Even if they do not break their diets, many will give in to all their cravings once the diet ends, gaining back all their lost weight. Since Keto diet helps your hunger levels to go down, this will not be an issue and you will be able to sustain your diet. Not only will you be able to sustain your weight after you have lost some, since you snack less or not at all, this can further help in weight loss.
4. Getting health benefits
Furthermore, there are health benefits to the Keto diet. Firstly, Keto diet is effective at reducing harmful abdominal fat. Visceral fat is the harmful fat accumulated in the abdominal cavity, typically for most overweight men. By going on a Keto diet, this can be reduced, leading to a reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be fought because Keto diets help keep insulin to healthy levels. In a study conducted, 7 out of 21 participants with type 2 diabetes were able to stop using their diabetes medications!
Besides, Keto diet can increase our good cholesterol levels. High-density Lipoprotein (HDL) is known by many as good cholesterol while Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL) is known as bad cholesterol. A higher level of HDL compared to LDL will give a lower risk of heart disease. Keto diet increases HDL levels because a way to increase HDL is by consuming fats, and Keto diet includes many fatty foods.
Keto diet can also help to lower the risk of many other common diseases such as kidney failure and stroke. This is because a lower carbohydrate intake can significantly lower our blood pressure, avoiding diseases that are caused by elevated levels of blood pressure.
5. Increase your energy levels
Keto diets are also implemented to increase energy levels. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules in our bodies function to store and transport chemical energy within our cells. When following a Keto diet, there is more ATP for each molecule of ketone compared to glucose molecules.
Since ketones are used for energy instead of glucose through ketosis, this enables you to feel more energetic daily. Stable blood sugar levels that you will experience can also help to produce energy effectively.
Another reason why you will feel more energetic is because when your cells are stimulated to burn fat, the old and weak mitochondria in your body die off. The role of mitochondria is basically to produce energy in cells.
Although this may sound bad, it is actually good news because growth of newer and stronger mitochondria will be stimulated, resulting in heightened energy production.
6. Help you improve your mental focus
Furthermore, ketosis gives off steady flow of ketones to the brain which helps improve your mental focus. Your mind will feel sharper and more alert. Besides, your body has plenty of fat to work with and can store even more fat, so your body will have an energy source that will not run out in ketosis.
Hence, you will find yourself with greater levels of energy throughout the day which can result in better mental concentration to carry out daily tasks.
7. Lowers the risk of inflammation
Another profound benefit of the Keto diet is that it lowers the risk of inflammation. This is because the body utilizes fat instead of sugar for energy. Excess sugar can raise inflammation markers and produce free radicals.
Free radicals are molecules that are harmful to cells, proteins and even DNA. They trigger the body’s immune response. Burning ketones instead of glucose for energy reduces the amount of free radical production which allows for a healthier functioning body. Besides, when we enter the state of ketosis, an important ketone that is released is beta-hydroxybutyrate.
According to researches, this ketone can block an immune system receptor associated with inflammation known as the NLRP3 inflammasome. The NLRP3 has quick reactions to threats in the body like infections and toxins.
Although it is helpful, it can be irritating and if activated too much. Through ketosis in the Keto diet, the amount of NLRP3 released can be reduced which lowers inflammation. While the standard American diet is an inflammatory diet because of food additives, refined grains and added sugars, the Keto diet encourages anti-inflammatory foods.
Some recommended keto-friendly foods that have anti-inflammatory properties are turmeric, salmon and leafy greens. Healthy fats like MCT oil and coconut oil are also anti-inflammatory.
Besides, the root cause of skin conditions like acne and eczema is often inflammation. Acne is associated with the sebaceous gland inflammation while eczema is generally the inflammation of skin cells.
By following the Keto diet which reduces inflammation, this indirectly results in clearer skin. Besides, a second reason why a Keto dieter may enjoy clear skin is because researches have suggested that carbohydrates are the main dietary reason for acne due to the negative effects on the regulation of hormones. Since Keto diet is low in carbohydrates, this is avoided.
Another potential reason for the lower chance of acne is due to the reduction in insulin levels on a Keto diet. This is because high levels of insulin can stimulate the increased production of sebum, androgens and skin cells which can contribute to acne break out.
Keto diet also decreases levels of insulin-like growth factor 1(IGF-1) which was found to be a factor in acne eruptions. For example, elevated levels of IGF-1 during puberty contributes to the break out of acne.
Though there may not be a solid conclusion that Keto diet is the best diet for treating or avoiding acne, many people have experienced this for themselves and researchers advise to restrict carbs for acne treatment.
Disadvantages of Keto Diet
1. Suffering from keto flu
Most people who just begin the Keto diet may experience symptoms of what is known as “keto flu” or “carb flu”. This is a collection of symptoms that some people experience when they try the diet out for the first time.
Some of these symptoms are headaches, muscle fatigue and light nausea. This occurs because the body is adjusting to a new diet with little carbohydrates. The body’s metabolism needs time to adapt to switching from burning glucose to fat and ketones.
2. Loss of excess fluid resulting in increased urination
Besides, starting a low-carb diet will cause loss of excess fluid resulting in increased urination. This can cause dehydration and loss of salt in the body, being the reason for the keto flu. The good news is that the effects are short-lived for most people and usually disappear within a week.
You can reduce these side effects by gradually reducing your carbohydrate intake over time rather than reducing it significantly at one go. You may not feel the results as significantly, but it will be better for your well-being. Another way for reducing these symptoms are by making sure you get enough water and salt intake. You could also supplement your diet with minerals like sodium, magnesium and potassium.
3. Lose Muscles
Muscle loss can also be a potential side effect for some who practice the Keto diet. This is because your muscle mass can be eaten away when there is insufficient supply of fat to burn.
Though in the short term there may not be much noticeable effects to daily activities, loss of muscle mass can have serious consequences when people age.
Muscle loss can reduce functional strength of the body and increase the risks of falls, especially for older people. Fortunately, the risk of losing muscle mass is low.
As long as your body has stored fat, your muscles will not be burned away. Therefore, you should always make sure that your diet consists enough ratio of fat to be transformed into energy.
4. Formation of Kidney Stone
Kidney stone formation is also another possible side effect of the Keto diet to take note of. It was noted in a study in the Journal of Child Neurology that about 6.7% of children who followed Keto diet as a health treatment to epilepsy developed kidney stones.
Therefore, Keto diet may be dangerous for those with kidney problems and they will need to follow the specific diet prescribed by their doctor.
The good news for those without kidney problems is that kidney stones are rare if the Keto diet is formulated well. It is hypothesized that those who developed kidney stones on the diet were probably consuming more meat or fish than normal. This could have increased calcium and uric acid levels which acidified their urine, contributing to a higher chance of forming kidney stones.
Hence, make sure to formulate your Keto diet well so that your nutrient levels are balanced. You can also take supplements to ensure that these levels are maintained well in your body. Researchers have theorized that potassium citrate daily can reduce the risk of kidney stones because it alkalinizes the acidic urine which makes it calcium soluble.
5. Experiencing constipation
Besides, some people who follow the Keto diet experience bowel issues like constipation. This could be due to a poor planned out diet that leads to nutrient deficiency or indigestion.
Consuming less carbohydrates in their diet may cause people to end up skipping the insoluble fibre in foods such as whole-grain food and fresh fruits. This fibre that they miss out on play an important role in helping the digestive tract run smoothly.
Therefore, you should make sure to consume enough fibre through the fresh produce that you are allowed to take.
Taking fibre supplements also help such as psyllium husk and methylcellulose. Apart from that, you should stay hydrated to aid your digestion process. Magnesium supplements can also help to relax your bowel and draw water into your intestines, reducing the chances for constipation.
However, you should also note that too much consumption of fibre could potentially lead to constipation, but this should not be a problem since Keto dieters consume not enough fibre more often than consume too much.
6. Getting diarrhoea
In addition to constipation, however, some people face the problem of diarrhoea as a side effect of the diet. This is because of difficulty digesting great amounts of dietary fat. This may be experienced in the first few weeks of the diet.
Although it is not a common reaction to the diet, it is possible. This could be due to sugar free products that contain sugar alcohols to add a sweet flavour without adding table sugar to the food. These sugar alcohols are known to cause gastrointestinal distress which can cause gas or diarrhoea. Hence, you may want to reduce eating products as such.
About The Author
Losing weight has always been a hard thing for me. I would stick to a strict diet, eating as little as I possibly could to only lose a few pounds. Sadly, after a sweet buffet dinner, I would gain all the “lost” weight back. Keto Diet allows me to consistently lose and maintain my weight while enjoying the most fattening food I can possibly imagine. Let me show you how.