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UNDERSTANDING THE KETOGENIC DIET

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

While the Ketogenic Diet was originally developed to treat patients with epilepsy, people are starting to get interested in its health benefits. Rhea Dhanbhoora helps you stay informed

Before we tell you any more, be warned —– the ketogenic diet is not something you should try on your own. Don’t see it as a DIY diet that you can jump onto in your search for the perfect weight loss technique. Like any other diet, it has its pros and cons and has nutritionists and health experts conflicted about whether it’s good or not. Recently, people have been talking about how it can be good for your health when followed under the supervision of a doctor. It’s also been said to decrease stiffness, joint pain and even help with sleep apnea.

American science writer and co-founder of the Nutrition Science Initiative spoke about the science of the diet in his book titled Good Calories, Bad Calories, as well as in Why We Get Fat. While you’ll have to contact your doctor to find out whether it would be a good option for you, here are a few things you should know about the ketogenic diet:

IT WORKS BY RESTRICTING CARBOHYDRATES
Rakhee Todankar, senior nutritionist at Gold’s Gym India, tells us, “The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate protein, low-carbohydrate diet that mimics aspects of starvation by forcing the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates.” Usually, carbohydrates in your food are converted into glucose that fuels brain function. The ketone that gets transported instead, replaces glucose as an energy source.

IT PUTS YOUR BODY IN A STATE OF KETOSIS
To understand the ketogenic diet, it’s important to understand what the state of ketosis is. Your body relies on glucose for fuel and carbohydrates are broken down to glucose and converted to energy. When this is restricted, your liver produces ketones, which make your body utilise fat. It’s a mode of metabolism that’s called ketosis. Some ketosis is bad and induced by starvation or diabetes. The acidic chemicals (ketones) can lead to problems if unchecked, but under the guidance of a doctor or nutritionist it can be used to treat health conditions and lose weight.

IT STARTED AS PART OF A MEDICAL TREATMENT
Epilepsy is what gave rise to the diet as the ketones that are used as energy can actually reduce the number and severity of seizures. They can also have positive effects on your behaviour.

IT DOES HAVE AN UGLY SIDE
Rakhee is quick to point out that with all the benefits, the ketogenic diet does have side-effects. If it’s followed without supervision, it can lead to dehydration, constipation, hypoglycemia and in rare cases, kidney stone or gall stone.

WHAT YOU SHOULD AVOID & WHAT YOU SHOULD EAT
Ketogenic diets mean saying goodbye to refined carbohydrates (pasta, cereals) and refined sugars (including anything containing them such as a fruit juice) and including protein and healthy fats such as avocado and olive oil. This drops your pressure and cholesterol. Since the excess glucose is eliminated, it means that your cholesterol levels reduce. But, your HDL cholesterol (that is good for your heart) can increase. It also helps lower blood pressure, which can be good or bad depending on your pressure levels.

WEIGHT LOSS IS POSSIBLE
The reason this diet is getting popular is because it’s being used to normalise weight. It’s common knowledge that if you decrease your carbohydrate intake, you have a better chance of losing weight. Depending on your insulin levels though, you may need to do some training and exercise along with it. So, it is by no means a shortcut to weight loss.

IT HELPS DIGESTION
If it’s followed with care, the ketone can reduce your appetite. So, people with food addiction will stop craving fats. It’s also been said to decrease stomach pain, bloating and gas because you’re cutting out grains and sugar.

NUTRITIONIST SPEAK
“This is a specialised diet and should only be followed under the care, supervision and guidance of a dietician, as the balance of the diet needs to be carefully worked out. In specific medical cases this diet is highly recommended, but it should not be made into a practice by normal people to lose weight as it has side-effects.”
— Rakhee Todankar, senior nutritionist at Gold’s Gym India

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