Keto Diet Overview: What You Need To Know

The ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet for short, is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet that has recently received much attention as a way to lose weight. But is it effective? Here’s an overview of what to anticipate as a newbie on the keto diet if you’re considering trying it.

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Although it may seem trendy, the keto diet has existed for a while. In the 1920s, it first became public. Doctors initially prescribed it to treat diseases like epilepsy and diabetes. However, some people now adopt the keto diet to reduce their weight.

Many Americans consume more than 50% of their daily calories from carbohydrates, including bread, pasta, and potatoes. Your body uses the glucose (sugars) in carbohydrates to provide energy.

The ketogenic diet aims to replace the calories from glucose with calories from fat. The main focus of a ketogenic diet is fatty foods. They will account for between 60% and 80% of your daily caloric intake. 15% to 20% is made up of proteins. Fifty grams is the maximum allowed amount of carbohydrates. It is, therefore, a very restrictive diet.

According to studies, people who follow the low-carb keto diet are likelier than those who follow a more balanced diet to lose weight during the first three to six months. 

However, because the keto diet necessitates significant dietary adjustments, it is best to consult a physician or nutritionist to determine whether it is appropriate for you before beginning.

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History and Origin

The ketogenic diet was initially utilized to treat epilepsy by Russell Wilder in 1921. Additionally, he created the term “ketogenic diet.” The ketogenic diet experienced widespread usage as a therapeutic diet for treating childhood epilepsy for almost ten years until the development of antiepileptic drugs ended its appeal. The ketogenic diet is making a comeback as a quick weight-loss strategy, and this relatively new idea has proven to be highly successful—at least in the short term.

Physiology and Biochemistry

In essence, most of the energy used by bodily tissues is produced by carbs. The body enters a catabolic condition, and insulin secretion is dramatically lowered when the body is depleted of carbs by eating fewer than 50g per day. Various metabolic adjustments are compelled as the body’s glycogen reserves are depleted. When the body’s tissues are deficient in carbohydrates, two metabolic processes—gluconeogenesis and ketogenesis—occur.

The endogenous synthesis of glucose by the body, principally in the liver, from lactic acid, glycerol, and the amino acids alanine and glutamine, is known as gluconeogenesis. The body starts to use ketogenesis to produce ketone bodies as an alternative energy source when glucose availability falls even lower and the endogenous generation of glucose cannot meet the body’s demands. As the primary energy source, ketone bodies take the role of glucose. The stimulus for insulin secretion is similarly low during ketogenesis due to common blood glucose feedback, significantly diminishing the impulse to store fat and glucose. Other hormonal changes may influence the accelerated breakdown of lipids into fatty acids. Acetoacetate, produced during the metabolism of fatty acids, is then changed into acetone and beta-hydroxybutyrate. These are the fundamental ketone bodies that develop in the body throughout a ketogenic diet. Nutritional ketosis is the name given to this metabolic condition. The body’s metabolism remains in a state known as ketosis for as long as it is denied carbohydrates. Since ketone bodies are created in minute concentrations without causing significant changes to blood pH, the nutritional ketosis state is considered relatively safe. It differs significantly from ketoacidosis, a condition that can be fatal and in which the production of ketone bodies occurs in excessively high concentrations, changing the pH of the blood to an acidotic state.

The heart, muscles, and kidneys can all readily use ketone bodies that are generated in the body to provide energy. Ketone bodies can also pass the blood-brain barrier, giving the brain a different energy source. Due to a lack of mitochondria and the enzyme diaphorase, RBCs and the liver cannot use ketones. The generation of ketones is influenced by several variables, including body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, and basal metabolic rate (BMR) at rest. Compared to glucose, ketone bodies produce more adenosine triphosphate, also known as “super fuel.” One hundred grams of acetoacetate creates 9400 grams of ATP, and 100 grams of beta-hydroxybutyrate has 10,500 grams of ATP but only 8,700 grams of ATP from 100 grams of glucose. This enables the body to continue producing fuel effectively despite a caloric deficit. Additionally, ketone bodies lessen the harm of free radicals and increase antioxidant capability.

How Does the Diet Work?

Following the ketogenic diet, you don’t consume enough carbohydrates to meet your body’s energy requirements. Your body then starts to burn your body’s fat reserves to provide you with energy.

The body creates ketones, chemicals produced in the liver when it burns body fat for energy. Your body goes into a metabolic state known as “ketosis.”

If you strictly adhere to the keto diet, your body will enter ketosis in four days. You may lose several pounds in the first week.

Who Uses It?

The most common reason people follow a ketogenic diet is to lose weight, but it can also be used to treat other medical issues, such as epilepsy. There needs to be more research in those areas, but it may also benefit those who suffer from heart disease, some brain ailments, and even acne. If you have type 1 diabetes, check with your doctor to see if you should try a ketogenic diet.

Weight Loss

In the first three to six months, a ketogenic diet may help you lose more weight than conventional diets. This might be the case because burning fat for energy requires more calories than burning carbohydrates. It’s also likely, though not yet proven, that a high-fat, high-protein diet makes you feel fuller longer, causing you to eat fewer calories.

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Some Biological Disorders


Insulin hormone allows your body to utilize or store sugar as fuel. You don’t need to keep this fuel because ketogenic diets cause you to burn through it quickly. This indicates that your body produces and needs less insulin. These lower levels could aid in preventing some cancers or possibly hinder the formation of cancerous cells. However, further study is required in this area.

Heart Disease

Ketogenic diets have been related to raising “good” cholesterol and lowering “bad” cholesterol, which appears counterintuitive for a diet requiring more fat. It might be because these diets result in lower insulin levels, which prevent your body from producing more cholesterol. As a result, you have a lower risk of developing cardiac diseases such as heart failure, high blood pressure, and hardened arteries. However, it’s not clear how long these impacts will remain.


Reducing your intake of carbohydrates may be beneficial because they have been related to this skin problem. Additionally, the reduction in insulin that a ketogenic diet may cause may aid in reducing acne outbreaks. (Your body may produce additional hormones that lead to epidemics due to insulin.) Further research is still required to assess how much, if any, the diet actually affects acne.


Compared to other diets, low-carb diets help keep your blood sugar levels lower and more stable. However, your body produces substances known as ketones when it consumes fat for energy. You can become ill if your blood contains too many ketones if you have diabetes, especially type 1. Therefore, you must consult your doctor before making any dietary modifications.


Since the 1920s, ketogenic diets have assisted in managing the seizures brought on by this illness. But once more, seeing your doctor is crucial to determine what is best for you or your child.

Other Nervous System Disorders

These impact the nerves that connect your spine, brain, and both. A ketogenic diet may also be beneficial for other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, sleep difficulties, and epilepsy. Although researchers are unsure of the exact cause, it’s possible that the ketones your body produces as it burns fat for energy can shield your brain cells from harm.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

This occurs when a woman’s ovaries enlarge beyond what is expected, and tiny sacs packed with fluid surround the eggs. It may result from high insulin levels. Other lifestyle modifications like exercise and weight loss, such as the ketogenic diet, which reduces both the amount of insulin you produce and the amount you need, may help treat it.


A ketogenic diet may be beneficial when endurance athletes work out, like cyclists and runners. Over time, it improves your body’s ability to use oxygen when working hard and lowers your muscle-to-fat ratio. Although it might be helpful in training, it might not be as effective as other diets for achieving peak performance.

Issues of Concern

Adverse Effects

The ketogenic diet’s short-term effects (up to two years) have been extensively studied and documented. Due to a lack of research, the long-term health effects are not fully understood.
The most frequent and generally minor short-term adverse effects of the ketogenic diet are a slew of symptoms frequently referred to as the “keto flu”: nausea, vomiting, headaches, lethargy, dizziness, and sleeplessness. Within a few days to a few weeks, these symptoms go away. Ensuring you have enough fluids and electrolytes can help reduce some of these symptoms. Hepatic steatosis, hypoproteinemia, kidney stones, and vitamin and mineral shortages are some long-term adverse effects.

The more frequent ones are typically not dangerous: You may be experiencing indigestion, slightly low blood sugar, or constipation. Kidney stones and increased body acidity (acidosis) are much less common side effects of low-carbohydrate diets. The “keto flu,” which can cause headaches, weakness, irritability; bad breath; and exhaustion, are among the adverse effects that may occur.

Cautions and Contraindications

When starting this diet, people with diabetes who are receiving insulin or oral hypoglycemic medicines risk developing severe hypoglycemia if their medications are not correctly adjusted. Patients with pancreatitis, liver disease, problems with fat metabolism, primary carnitine deficit, carnitine palmitoyltransferase deficiency, carnitine translocase deficiency, porphyrias, or pyruvate kinase deficiency should not follow the ketogenic diet. Rarely can a ketogenic diet cause a false positive breath test for alcohol. Hepatic alcohol dehydrogenase can occasionally convert acetone in the body to isopropanol due to ketonemia, which can result in a false positive alcohol breath test result.

Diet With Care

Your kidneys may suffer due to your body burning its fat reserves. A ketogenic diet can be challenging to start, and returning to a regular diet afterward if you have additional health conditions like diabetes, a heart ailment, or high blood pressure that make you more likely to become obese. If you suffer from these conditions, adjust your diet gradually and only under your doctor’s supervision.

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