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What Is the Ketogenic Diet? Learn the Potential Benefits and Risks

Apr 27 2018

From the South Beach Diet to the Atkins Diet, you’ve probably heard of low-carb diets in one form or another over the years. These days, the ketogenic diet has become one of the most prominent low-carb nutrition plans around. Before you start eating this way, though, it’s important to learn more about what’s involved.

How the ketogenic diet works

So, what is the ketogenic diet? It’s a way of eating that restricts how many grams of carbohydrates you have each day. In place of carbs, you increase the amount of fat and protein in your diet. Most of your meals will be made with meats, eggs, cheeses, nuts and low-carb veggies like broccoli and spinach.

People on a ketogenic diet get about 70% of their daily calories from fat, about 25% from protein and about 5% from carbohydrates. Fat is great at helping you feel full for longer periods of time. Many people turn to a keto diet to lose weight because the feeling of fullness keeps them from overeating.

Switching to this type of diet puts your body into a state called ketosis. Normally, your body prefers using carbohydrates for energy because it can process them easily. When you restrict the amount of carbs you eat, you go into ketosis — a state where your metabolism starts burning fat to get energy instead of using carbs.

Risks of the ketogenic diet

Scientists are still researching the ketogenic diet to learn more about how it can affect people. As a result, we still don’t fully know if it’s a sustainable, healthy way of eating for long-term periods. Research shows there may be some risks and downsides to eating this restricted diet.

Low-carb diets may strain your kidneys and raise your cholesterol levels. Eating red meat and other high-fat proteins might increase the “bad” cholesterol in your body, which puts you at risk for developing heart disease. In addition, the higher amounts of protein in this diet can stress your kidneys — it’s important to drink more water on this diet than you usually do.

A keto diet really restricts what you can and can’t eat. Pastas, starchy vegetables, most fruits and sugary desserts are all off the table. Because all these nutrient sources are removed from your diet, low-carb eating may make it so you don’t get enough of some vitamins and minerals. Sodium, magnesium and potassium levels in your body all tend to drop on this diet. You may need to supplement with sugarless electrolyte drinks.

Benefits of the ketogenic diet

Following a ketogenic diet may be highly beneficial, especially if you have excess weight to lose or have Type 2 diabetes. Carbohydrates cause insulin spikes that can then raise blood sugar levels. When you eat fewer carbs on a keto diet, it keeps your blood sugar and insulin levels even. You’ll feel more energetic and your moods will likely be happier, too.

Various studies suggest that eating a ketogenic diet may do everything from lowering your risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease to helping your brain heal faster after an injury. In addition, losing weight on a low-carb diet can improve your overall risk of heart disease by lowering your body fat, blood sugar and blood pressure.

It’s vital to check with your doctor before you make any large changes to your diet. Whether you have Type 2 diabetes or are looking for a promising way to lose weight, the ketogenic diet may help. Visit to find a provider near you today.

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Mercy Health

Hi Melanie, thanks for your feedback. The purpose of this article was not to promote the ketogenic diet as the best option for everyone, but to present both the benefits and risk factors since keto is currently a hot topic. We always recommend consulting with a physician before making any changes to your diet, which is mentioned in the last sentence of this article.
April 30th, 2018 | 8:33am

Laela K Williams

Eating this diet for 3 months, I have lost 40 lbs, feel great and I plan to eat this way the rest of my life. Any other alternative has risks also, and it's definitely better than the 'normal' American unhealthy diet.
September 18th, 2018 | 3:53pm

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