A ketogenic (or ‘keto’) diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. Although it has benefits as a medical treatment for certain groups of people, there is little evidence to recommend it as a long-term weight loss technique for healthy people.
People on a ketogenic diet eat a very small amount of carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein and a high amount of fat per day. This means that the body burns fat as its main source of fuel and breaks it down into ‘ketone bodies’ (or ‘ketones’) in a process called ketosis.
People on a ketogenic diet usually eat only 20g to 50g of carbohydrates per day or less. As an example, 50g of carbohydrate is equivalent to 2 slices of bread and a banana. Because carbohydrates make up about one tenth of daily kilojoule intake in a ketogenic diet (a kilojoule is a measure of how much energy we get from food), the person’s body stays in a constant state of ketosis.
Evidence shows that the diet may be suitable for some people with certain medical conditions, but there is very limited evidence that healthy people should use it as a long-term diet.
The ketogenic diet is often promoted for weight loss in healthy people. It is often suggested for people with obesity
There have been only limited and small studies on the ketogenic diet for weight loss. These studies have shown that the diet has short-term benefits in some people including weight loss and improvements in total cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure, but at one year these effects are about the same as those of conventional weight loss diets.
While a ketogenic diet can be fast and effective in the short term, it can be hard to maintain because it is very limiting. This means a large number of people tend to drop out of the diet, contributing to unhealthy, ‘yo-yo’ dieting behavior. The key to maintaining a healthy weight in the long-term is an eating pattern that you can sustain over time.
It is important to remember that people have different needs, and that no single weight-loss diet suits everyone. A ketogenic diet may be an option for some people who have had difficulty losing weight with other methods, but if you choose to go on a ketogenic diet, it is best to be under the supervision of a doctor and an accredited practicing dietitian.
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