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Ketogenic diet a low-carb solution for weight loss

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The ketogenic diet is a trendy diet that promises dramatic weight loss along with other, less obvious, health benefits. The keto diet is defined as a very low-carb, high-fat diet that drastically reduces the amount of carbohydrate intake and replaces it with fats.

There are different kinds of ketogenic diets that range from eating a diet of only 5 percent carbs and 75 percent fat to eating ketogenic foods for five days of the week with two days of high-carb eating. This amount of carbohydrates is a drastic decline when compared to the recommended intake of 45 to 55 percent.

This switch is intended to put your body into a state called ketosis, which uses fat to form ketones. Ketones then, not glucose, serve as your body’s source of fuel.

The ketogenic diet was originally developed to treat epilepsy in children to mimic the metabolic state that fasting gives the body.

Research is ongoing, but there have been recent developments about health benefits from the ketogenic diet. Because of the low intake of carbohydrates, it might help individuals normalize blood sugar levels. In addition, weight loss has been observed in a few studies looking at people for a short period of time.

Some of the promising results may not be from the diet itself, but from the replacement of high-sugar, refined-grain products with healthier fats and more fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, not everyone defines the ketogenic the diet in the same way, so results might not be consistent.

Long-term studies that look at the effects on body weight have not been done. Staying on the diet for a long time could cause a loss of muscle mass as the body breaks down protein for energy; fatigue; and hydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Many health professionals insist that the ketogenic diet should only be used under medical supervision because of the side effects of ketosis, like dizziness, nausea, headaches, low energy, and bad breath. Individuals with diabetes or on medications for diabetes need to be particularly careful.

Rather than eliminating entire food groups, it is encouraged to choose a balanced diet focused on whole grain food items, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.

Source: Janet Mullins, extension specialist for Food and Nutrition; Hannah Ford-Hickey, graduate student.

Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.