It seems that every week there are new recommendations for the best type of diet to follow. First, it is paleo, then it is plant-based; sometimes you hear high fat, other times low fat, and then it is low carbohydrate. And don’t forget about the high protein diet recommendations. But at some point, we need to cut through all of the noise and understand the diet, not based on trend, but based on the scientific support behind it.
It is only when we are presented and understand the facts that we can understand if it is the best diet to help us as an individual. If this is where you are – hunting for the facts and some practical, science-based advice – on your quest for weight loss, lean in as we discuss the evidence and information behind the ketogenic diet. You have likely been privy to the likes of this diet floating around on social media, demarcated by its low carbohydrate content and higher intake of protein and fat.
The premise behind the diet is simple: reduce the intake of carbohydrates in the diet such that the body reverts to using fat as its main energy source and burning fat for fuel. This is a sharp contrast to the body’s default energy system, which is carbohydrate-based, and as such, it takes work and dedication to adopt and remain in a ketogenic state within the body. Researchers believe this diet helps individuals lose weight for several reasons. Firstly, it has been shown to decrease the level of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, and increase the levels of HDL cholesterol.
Higher levels of HDL have been shown to aid in weight loss, while LDL increases interfere with successful weight loss and fat elimination within the body. Another contributing factor that supports weight loss, stemming from the ketogenic diet is that it offers appetite suppressing properties. Research has shown that fat and protein are more filling and offer higher levels of satiety than carbohydrates. The body processes these former macronutrients more slowly than carbohydrates, and hence they offer a longer, more sustainable food source.
In the case of individuals who are on the ketogenic diet and trying to lose weight, feeling fuller for longer, means they eat less, and a lower overall caloric intake is at the root of weight loss. Finally, a study exploring very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets (VLCKD), as compared to low-fat diets (LFD), showed that individuals following the VLCKD achieved a greater weight loss long term than those assigned to the LFD.
Researchers speculate this is due to the body’s natural alteration in resting energy expenditure: the body becomes more efficient at burning fat and extracting energy from fat, and over time, it requires less fat, less protein, and a lower overall energy (caloric) intake to support basal metabolic rate and day-to-day functioning.
While the mechanisms of the ketogenic diet and its ability to support individuals in weight loss may not be conclusively agreed upon, one thing certainly is: when followed properly and consistently, the ketogenic diet is a sustainable lifestyle change which allows individuals to adopt and maintain a healthy diet, seeing weight loss as a result. On that same note though, even scientists don’t know everything, and they certainly don’t know your specific, individual body: only you can choose, based on the facts, if this diet is the best solution to help you reach your goals. From there, armed with the knowledge you need, talk to your doctor about making changes, and then dive straight in!