blog Sep 17, 2015

It seems that lately there has been a bit of a conversation around ketogenic diets and whether or not they are the way to go for weight loss. Just last week I was asked “my take” on this type of diet and at that point felt it was a topic that needed to be addressed.

For those of you unfamiliar with this form of weight loss, the earliest were first discovered thousands of years ago by ancient Greek physicians who noticed that when patients who fasted from all food and drink found relief from seizures. It was clear that patients could not continue this way for any length of time and the treatment was abandoned. The idea of restricting food for seizure treatment was resurrected and ketogenic diets first appeared on the scene in the 1920's and 1930's.

A ketogenic diet restricts or eliminates carbohydrates altogether, essentially causing the body to fast from that food group. Both the Atkins and the South Beach diets were created using this principle. Participants who follow this type of diet, put their bodies into a state of ketosis causing ketone molecules to build up in the blood stream. The lack of carbohydrates then causes the body's blood sugar levels to drop significantly and rapid weight loss follows. Right about now I'm sure there are several of you out there thinking this might just be the thing you've been looking for, but just stick with me until you get the whole picture before jumping in with both feet.

Personally, and professionally, ketogenic diets go against everything I live, teach and believe in for a healthy lifestyle. In order to present you with a clear picture of why I take this stand, I did a little research to provide you with comments and recommendations from other health professionals based on their expertise, research and experience with patients. Here is a small sampling of what I found.

According to clinical dietician, Lisa Cimperman, R.D.N., at University Hospitals Case Medical Centre in Cleveland, Ohio and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “...most of the dropped weight is water weight....Once your body enters ketosis, you also begin to lose muscle, become extremely fatigued and eventually enter starvation mode. Then it actually becomes even harder to lose weight.” The British Diabetes Association commented that increased levels of ketones in the blood stream “can make the blood acidic, a state known as ketoacidosis, which can lead to serious illness in a relatively short space of time.” Certified clinical nutritionist and public health consultant from Greenwich, Connecticut, Francine Blinen, R.D., has used the keto diets in extreme cases but cautions that they can do more harm than good than good especially for the kidney and liver and should be used only “...under clinical supervision and only for brief periods. It can do more harm than good. It can damage the heart, which is also a muscle”.

So yes, those who choose a ketogenic diet do lose weight. Truthfully, anyone can lose weight on almost any diet, many do every day. The problem is that it's not just fat that's being lost. As you read, the fat that is lost is often found again within the next year or so, definitely not ideal. Muscle mass is also lost, making it more difficult for the body to burn fat once it is finally released to be burned.

In order to maintain a healthy weight, optimally functioning body systems and have enough energy to get through the day, our bodies need complete, balanced nutrition. Complete means that we are fuelling with nourishment from all forms of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) and phytonutrients (antioxidants). Experts agree that depriving the body, especially for an extended period of time, is damaging to the body and detrimental to long term health.

If you, or someone you know is looking for a weight loss program I encourage you to ask yourself these three questions: 1. Is it based on science and the way my body works? 2. Does it make sense? 3. Will I be able to do this for the rest of my life? If you have answered “yes” to all three, you will be successful in losing weight and keeping it off and you will maintain and possibly even improve your overall health. Now that's worth diving in with both feet.

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