Initially an anti-epilepsy food therapy for kids, the keto diet has reappeared as a diet for adults. Here’s a glimpse at its 100 years of history and character.
A young Bollywood actress died recently. Kidney failure killed Mishti Mukherjee, 27, her parents said on October 4. In a statement, they revealed that the deceased was following a ketogenic diet, attributing that mix of food to her expiry. Kolkata-born Mishti, whose real name was Indrani Chakraborty and had been working with Hindi and Bengali movies since 2012, breathed her last at a Bengaluru hospital on the night of October 2.
The tragedy revived an on-and-off debate on the efficacy of the keto as a diet high on fat, low on carbohydrates and moderate on proteins. Such a diet, which forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates, is largely prescribed for children suffering from refractory epilepsy that is drug-resistant and can damage the brain or even lead to unexpected death, according to experts.
Principle and Practice
In its classic version, the keto diet goes by a weight ratio of 4:1—that is, having fat content four times more than the protein-carbohydrate combination. It excludes high-carbohydrate foods such as sugar, grains, bread, pasta and fruits as well as vegetables that are starchy. It’s high on high-fat foods such as butter, cream and nuts.
The basic idea of the keto diet is to keep the human body in a “fasted state” or ketosis, by limiting the intake of carbohydrates and, instead, consuming fats. This is done to check the burning of glucose and, in its place, burn more of the carbon-containing ketones — all for better health.
For this, the meal plan must have fat forming 60-75 per cent, protein 15-30 per cent and carbohydrates 5-10 per cent. The restricted carbohydrate intake will make the body feel that it is starving, prompting the generation of a secondary energy source: fat. That will continue to send glucose to the brain. Limited carbohydrate supply will lead the body to break down fat into compounds called ketones. They will function as an alternative fuel source, even though ketosis makes one’s protein balance become all the more crucial. Too much protein can stop ketosis, but too little will make you lose lean muscle mass.
Foods and variants
Simply put, the general ketogenic diet comprises the following:
- Non-starchy vegetables: leafy greens, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers and onions
- Full-fat dairy: yoghurt, milk, and cheese products
- Protein-rich non-veg: beef, pork, fish, poultry, soybeans, eggs and shellfish
- Nuts and seeds: walnuts, pistachios, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and almonds
- Fat-rich contents: From both animal and plant-based foods
- Fruits (in moderation): berries, avocado, rhubarb and coconut
The keto diet is not uniform. It has its variants:
Standard: Low in carbohydrates (5%), moderate in proteins (20%) and high on fat (75%)
Cyclical: In phases. For instance, 5 ketogenic days, followed by 2 high-carbohydrate days.
Targeted: Permits additional carbohydrates around workouts.
High-protein: Much like the standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. Ratio: fat 60%, protein 35% and carbohydrates 5%
While fasting and allied food restriction have a history tracking to 500 BC when it was chiefly employed to treat epilepsy, the ketogenic diet is merely a century old.
Modern physicians introduced it in the 1920s to counter seizures. American endocrinologist Rollin Woodyatt noted in 1921 that starvation led the liver to produce three water-soluble compounds—and the case was similar if the body followed a diet rich in fat and low in carbohydrates. Russell M Wilder (1885-1959) from the Mayo Clinic in the US called this the ketogenic diet and used it as a treatment for epilepsy, also in 1921. It was employed widely as therapy till the early 1940s (when allopathy came out with an antiepileptic drug).
Into the 1990s, keto diet did remain in use—for epileptic children. Then, into the 21st century, it entered the mainstream healthcare domain—this time for its benefits in metabolism.
Pros and Cons
The keto diet is learned to have both its set of advantages as well as disadvantages:
Reduced appetite: Hunger is a side effect of dieting, making many feel miserable. The low intake of carbohydrates naturally leads to a slash in appetite.
Weight loss: Low carbohydrate leads to quick loss of weight. Such diets seek to rid excess water from the body, lowering insulin levels.
Reduce diabetes: Low-carbohydrate diets cut down harmful abdominal fat, drastically reducing the risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
Triglycerides drop: The fat molecules that circulate in your bloodstream, working as a strong heart disease risk factor, slump dramatically following a cut on the intake of carbohydrates. All the same, low-fat diets may trigger the triglycerides count.
Better HDL: High-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as the good cholesterol, increases as you eat more fat and are low on carbohydrates.
Less blood-sugar: In some type-2 diabetics, results show 95% of them could reduce or eliminate their glucose-lowering medication within six months, courtesy keto diet.
Lower hypertension: The diet effectively brings down blood pressure, lessening the risk of related diseases.
Cancer prevention: Given, a possible link between very low carbohydrates and cancer prevention, the keto diet can help check the spread of the malignant disease
Less energy: The Keto diet could result in less energy and endurance in athletes, impeding their performance.
Feel low: Low carbohydrates may check the entry of glucose into the bloodstream, making one disoriented and unable to focus.
Organ failure: Keto diet for a longer period of time can cause organ failure, according to certain experts.
Heart problems: Given the high dose of saturated fats and meats, the diet can increase cholesterol, often leading to heart disease.
- Before going on such a diet, the user should try to grasp the mechanism behind metabolism, while the dietician should be in full knowledge of immunological benefits or any potential harm to individuals who are overweight and pre-diabetic.
- If you find the keto too hard and want to go for alterations, ask a dietician to tailor a diet to your needs.
- The diet is not recommended for those suffering from any disease of the pancreas, liver, thyroid, kidney or gallbladder, besides those with a history of kidney stones or eating disorders or removed gallbladder.