What is Keto Diet? Is It Safe?

Over the years, people have been overwhelmed with books and infomercials about diets that helps lower your weight, improve blood profiles and numerous of other promises that cannot be guaranteed from food and food alone. In 2018, the most ‘Googled’ food-related topic in the world was the word “Keto” and this Keto trend has continued gaining its popularity until now.

What “keto” means

Keto is short for ketogenic. A “keto” or ketogenic” diet is so named because it causes your body to produce small fuel molecules called ketone bodies.

How keto diet works?

Glucose is the most important substrate of cell metabolism. Several parts of the body like the nervous system or blood cells are completely dependent on glucose as the supplier of energy. But when you fast or when you ate truly little carbohydrate, your body will pull stored glucose from the liver and temporarily breaks down muscle to release glucose. If this continues for 3-4 days and your glucose storage is completely drained, your body begins to use fat as its primary fuel. The liver undergoes ketogenesis and produces ketone bodies from fat. Ketone bodies can be used as an alternative energy source in the absence of glucose.

The goal of the keto diet is to enter a state of ketosis and force our body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates for fuel. Ketosis is a metabolic state when there is an elevated levels of ketone bodies in the blood or urine. Healthy individuals naturally experience mild ketosis during periods of fasting and very vigorous exercises.


Is keto diet for weight loss?

On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat, burning fat all day long. It takes more calories to change fat into energy than it does to change carbohydrates into energy, that is why you lose some weight when you are on keto diet. According to experts including researchers, dietitians, and nutritionist around the world, keto diet may accelerate weight loss and lower blood sugar profile in short term, but the results are not sustainable. Moreover, the long-term safety issue remains questionable. 

A true keto diet calls for a high-fat (as much as 90% of your daily calories) and extremely low carbohydrate intake (limited to 20-50 grams per day). Originally developed back in the 1920s, keto diet was a medicinal nutrition therapy mainly used to treat hard-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children. It is not the type of diet to try as an experiment.

Is it safe?

Cutting your carbohydrates to the bone can bring on a cluster of uncomfortable symptoms (collectively known as keto-flu) and most people experienced it within 3 to 7 days during keto diet:

  • Headaches and foggy brain
  • Fuzzy thinking and mood swing
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Sleep issues
  • Constipated

Besides that, due to its restriction of carbohydrates meanwhile with so much fat you eat and metabolise every day, you may be at risk for:

  • Nutrient deficiency e.g. calcium, selenium, magnesium and other micronutrients
  • Liver problem
  • Kidney problem
  • Atherosclerosis or heart problem (keto diet is associated with elevated LDL cholesterol due to high intake of saturated fat)

A keto diet could be an interesting alternative to treat certain conditions and may accelerate weight loss. However, be sure to speak with your dietitian or nutritionist before engaging into any popular diet. You wouldn’t want a diet to do more harm than bringing good to your body.

Remember: Having a strong gut alongside with a balanced and diversified diet (vegetables, fruits, whole grain, healthy fat and proteins as well as lots of water) is the best evidence for a long, healthier and vibrant life. Click here to find out how to build a stronger gut. 


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  • Gibson AA, Seimon RV, Lee CM, Ayre J, Franklin J, Markovic TP, Caterson ID, Sainsbury A. Do ketogenic diets really suppress appetite? A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Obes Rev. 2015 Jan 1;16(1):64-76.
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  • Hu T, Mills KT, Yao L, Demanelis K, Eloustaz M, Yancy Jr WS, Kelly TN, He J, Bazzano LA. Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Oct 1;176(suppl_7):S44-54.
  • Paoli A, Rubini A, Volek JS, Grimaldi KA. Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Aug;67(8):789.
  • Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G. Comparison of effects of long-term low-fat vs high-fat diets on blood lipid levels in overweight or obese patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Dec 1;113(12):1640-61.

Jacie Chiew

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