The keto diet has soared in popularity among celebs (hello Kimmy K, Halle Berry and Adriana Lima) and Insta-worthy gym bunnies. Why? Because it’s supposed to be one of the most effective ways of shedding body fat – fast.
If you eat meat and dairy, it’s also incredibly simple fans of the diet proclaim; cut your carbs and stock up on steak, chicken and eggs. It works by retraining the body to burn its own fat supply for energy, rather than adding more easily usable sugars into the mix in the form of carbs.
But is keto really the miracle weight loss solution it’s cracked up to be? We asked the experts:
In keto’s defense… it’s not supposed to be a veg-free plan
Nutritionist Sarah Flower told The Sun Online that a proper keto plan should be more like a Mediterranean diet than an Atkins rip-off. And therefore it could, and should, be a healthy plan helping dieters stabilise insulin levels and shed fat.
“Full of real food, vegetables, nuts, seeds, good healthy fats, oily fish, meat, dairy — it’s nothing more than a real food diet cutting out grains, sugars and all processed foods,” she said.
She added there’s also “some amazing research now showing how the ketogenic diet can actually help reduce tumours”.
The key to reaping the benefits of keto and other low-carb plans is to swerve any kind of processed food full stop.
But is keto is just another ‘fad’?
Any keto fan will insist that ditching carbs can help any excess fat melt off.
But according to the experts, there’s little evidence to support that claim.
Nutritional scientist Dr Layne Norton recently shared a post to his Instagram illustrating the results of a weight loss study.
Five obese men were put on a mixed diet, a ketogenic plan and a starvation diet for 50 days.
The conclusion was that although the men on the keto diet lost the most weight, it was simply down to excreting excess water.
“Rates of fat loss were not significantly affected by the composition of the diet.”
Dr Layne said: “This just in: Ketogenic diet is not superior to calorie/protein equated, non-ketogenic diets.
“Actually this is the latest in a long (30+) line of studies that equate calories and protein but vary the number of carbohydrates and fats.
“Now we have multiple studies comparing ketogenic to non-ketogenic in tightly controlled settings and see no difference in fat loss.”
He said that although low-carb diets can work, they’re not superior and that any diet you choose has to be sustainable or it will fail.
PT James Davis, co-founder of 38’N fitness retreats and online body transformation training agreed, warning he doesn’t believe the hype around keto either.
“Just like other ‘fads’, Keto is yet another restrictive approach that limits your food choices – which emotionally is never a good thing,” he told The Sun Online.
“In fact, keto is so restrictive in carbohydrates that it’s incredibly hard not only to follow, but maintain.”
James said one problem with the diet is that our bodies are actually designed to run on carb energy.
“It’s the most readily available form of energy for our bodies,” he said. “Our brains and nervous systems also run on carbohydrate energy. So it’s rather important!
“In fact, even the keto ‘gurus’ out there now advocate carbs around training in order to generate enough energy for workouts and to add meaningful lean muscle.
“Labelled ‘strategic keto’ and ‘tactical keto’ – they’re still adding carbs to what is meant to be a carb-free diet for performance and results. So what does that tell you?”
And he agreed with Dr Norton that there’s little scientific evidence to show that keto is any more effective than any other calorie controlled diet in the long run.
“In fact, a study by The Lancet into carbohydrate intake and mortality risk showed that low carb diets have as high a mortality risk as high carb,” he said.
“And although some claim keto has helped reduce lipids and bad cholesterol in the short term, other studies on healthy adults have shown in the medium to longer term, lipids and bad cholesterol in fact increase.
“Our question is – why punish yourself with such a restrictive, hard to follow regime, when you can get the same results with a more flexible approach?
“Plus have a healthier relationship with food?”
How to lose weight without resorting to extremes
James said burning body fat is simple.
He told The Sun: “The best way to lose body fat is to create a slight daily calorie deficit, move more and eliminate as many sugars from your diet as possible – instead of seeing food as something that needs to be controlled.
“This is the least challenging approach and will have you feeling more physically and mentally balanced – for the long term.”
If cutting carbs works for you or makes controlling calories easier, by all means, go keto.
Keto is also supposed to be great for some women who have PCOS
Up to 80 per cent of PCOS-ers are insulin resistant, which means that they struggle with blood sugar spikes. Many women with the metabolic condition struggle with weight gain as a result of that insulin imbalance.
Claire Goodwin, AKA The PCOS Nutritionist advises women on how to reverse their symptoms via their diets and lifestyles and while she stresses that there’s no one way of treating PCOS (because there’s more than one type of it), keto can be effective for weight loss.”
A small pilot study on overweight women with PCOS found that a ketogenic helped to reduce body weight by 12 per cent. The keto diet also helped to lower testosterone too,” she writes on her blog.
“70-80 per cent of women with PCOS have insulin resistance. High levels of insulin increase testosterone which cause the facial hair growth, acne, hair loss, and missing periods. Therefore, any diet which helps to improve insulin resistance and stabilise your blood sugar is worth looking into.”
One study found that a keto diet helped to reverse type 2 diabetes in 10 weeks. These results were maintained for up to a year with an average weight loss of 30lbs.”
But remember it’s not the only way to reverse insulin resistance. Studies have shown there are many other dietary strategies that can have a similar outcome.”
And even she says that long-term keto can result in gut issues and loss of periods (the very thing many women with PCOS are trying to treat!).
This article originally appeared on The Sun and is republished here with permission.