By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist
The Google search frequency for “ketogenic diet” began steadily increasing in 2013. Between December 2015 and March 2016, the search frequency spiked significantly. Is this another passing dietary fad?
A ketogenic or keto diet is essentially a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. More specifically, it requires eating approximately 75 percent of calories from fat, 20 percent from protein and 5 percent from carbs. To give a sense of how few carbs you eat on this diet, consider this: one large apple has about 25 grams of net carbs – the maximum amount allowed in a day.
Where did this diet originate? Hippocrates, also known as the “Father of Western Medicine,” realized that fasting put the human body into a state of ketosis – not to be confused with the potentially fatal “diabetic ketoacidosis.” Ketones are a by-product of burning fat as fuel. Without a source of glucose, from carbohydrates or protein, the body has to go into fat burning mode.
Hippocrates then began prescribing fasting to epileptic patients after discovering that seizures could be prevented if a patient were in a state of ketosis. Unfortunately, once the fast ended, the seizures returned and one also must eat to stay alive.
In the 1920s, a handful of physicians realized that a high fat, low carb diet induced a ketotic state without starving patients and these physicians prescribed to epilepsy patients what became known as a ketogenic diet. However, the diet was very strict and challenging to adhere to, so when anticonvulsant drugs were made available in the 1940s, many patients preferred a pill to the diet and it fell out of fashion.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, today physicians are prescribing ketogenic diets to treat a variety of neurological diseases. These include epilepsy, headaches, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, sleep disorders, brain cancer, autism, and multiple sclerosis. Research on this diet is gaining momentum as we slowly begin to get out of the high carb diet fog we’ve been in since the 1950s.
If I had a disease like Parkinson’s I would definitely try a keto diet. As part of my treatment, I would follow this diet carefully and request that my physicians monitor the results along with me.
If I wanted to lose 20-200 pounds would I try it? I’m not sure, and here are a few reasons why: being “on a diet” is often hard for people to stick with; it can take weeks to go from burning sugar to fat and in the process dieters often experience the “keto flu,” which leaves them weak and exhausted; and dieting can create an unhealthy and obsessive relationship to food.
Perhaps worst of all, if we go off of a diet and back to our old eating habits, we can “weight cycle” or re-gain the weight we lost – and even more – which could be physically and emotionally worse than never having lost the weight in the first place.
Before jumping on the keto bandwagon, we would be better off reaching and maintaining optimal weight and health by making lifestyle adjustments that are sustainable for the long term.
By replacing refined, factory-produced foods with natural whole foods, sweetened drinks with water and making enjoyable physical activity a regular part of our day, we could turn around the current trends of nutrition-induced diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease and become the radiant energetic humans we are meant to be.
Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org