By John Linderman
Elm Staff Writer
America can’t get enough of diets, and it’s an issue. The newest diet to break through in recent years has been the Ketogenic diet, or Keto for short. Although the diet started in the early 1900s as a treatment for epilepsy, its unique food layout has been both widely acclaimed and criticized according to Vox. How has keto become so popular, though? And how does it reflect on America’s larger standing issues with diet culture?
Low-carb diets have been publicized in the United States since the 1950s, with the Atkins diet notoriously championing a high-protein, low-carb, low-fat layout. The gluten-free movement also exploded a decade ago, although this adheres largely to people with gluten intolerances rather than those looking to lose weight.
Keto’s unique position is that your caloric intake should be 85% fat, with the remaining being 10% protein and 5% carbohydrates. Think bacon, eggs, butter, cheese, oils, and fish. Most, if not all, carbs are not tolerated. Not even fruits or legumes are spared.
Ketogenic comes from ketogenesis, which is when your liver produces ketones to provide energy for your body in substitute for the lack of glycogen. Once ketones become your body’s main source of energy, you effectively enter a “state of ketosis” where body fat is used as fuel for ketones.
“Carbs are like fuel. If you’re looking for strictly weight loss, then sure, but elsewise carbs should be your friend. They’re a main source of energy,” said sophomore Jake Trela, who frequents the Johnson Fitness Center.
Indeed, carbohydrates like glucose and fructose provide glycogen to the body, which act as primary source of energy. Body fat is a secondary source, which is why drastically reducing carbs initially burns off body fat quickly. However, the full picture is much more complicated.
It’s been repeatedly concluded that most diets fail in the long run. A 2007 study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association compared the results of multiple diets like Keto and Atkins, and while it showed initial loss in weight gain, there were uniform concurrent returns to the original weight. Some even gained more weight than what they started with. In this study, Keto was no different than the others.
In some ways, Keto is unsustainable for most people. The demanding cut of carbs can take a great deal of daily caloric value.
There are some proven benefits, though. Reducing sugar consumption helps greatly with high blood sugar levels, which affects everything from mood to focus. As mentioned earlier, Keto diets greatly aid those struggling with epilepsy, though this is only for medical purposes, not fat loss. Harvard Health Publishing notes that those on Keto should be aware of how much saturated and processed fat they consume, as this can lead to heart and kidney problems. Low-carb diets are also no reason to cut out leafy vegetables from your caloric intake.
Does Keto stand out from the rest of America’s love-hate diets, though? Hardly. Before starting any diet, and in Keto’s case, investing dozens of dollars in MCT oil and ketone strips, look at the big picture: how does dieting affect your body image? Are you looking to lose fat, muscle, or both? Have you consulted your doctor? How do specific foods affect your body personally? It’s far better to know and learn about yourself than all the fatty and extrapolated science of Keto for weight loss.