College of DuPage Nursing Student Alexandra Neumayer shared with Healthy Lombard that just about everyone can relate to the daily dread of figuring out what is for dinner. For many it becomes appealing to have those decisions made for us. Healthy, simplified eating “rules” can kill two birds with one stone. This is one of the many reasons the ketogenic diet (or keto for short) has become such a popular direction for people trying to lose weight while also simplifying their daily food options.
A major element of the ketogenic diet is maintaining control over macro proportions, macros being fats, carbohydrates, and protein. A normal diet consists of about 25% fats, 50% carbohydrates, and 25% protein. Rachel Kleinman, RDN, LDN from the University of Chicago, explains that the Keto Diet was mainly developed to help children with epilepsy control their seizures and this diet increases the fat consumption to about 75%, cutting out almost all carbs and keeping protein around 20%. Dietician Mary Condon, RN, LDN explains that while Keto may help with initial weight loss and blood sugar reduction it is not sustainable and usually results in the weight being gained back quickly.
There are risks beyond just future weight gain, however. People on medication that causes low blood sugar may have to adjust the medication relatively quickly after beginning Keto. There is also a risk of an increased risk of heart disease because of the large amount of fat intake. Heart-healthy fats (unsaturated fat) may be acceptable in large doses in the diet, but a significant increase in saturated fat consumption can pose a threat.
Finally, there is a risk of kidney damage due to high protein consumption. Low blood pressure and kidney stones may be the first signs of declining kidney function. Condon and Kleinman both report that they may not recommend the keto diet to their clients, and it would depend on individual nutritional needs. Kleinman also recommends meeting with a doctor or a Registered Dietician before making any drastic changes in the diet to confirm they are safe.