What is the Ketogenic Diet? A Comprehensive Guide

The ketogenic diet is a conventional dietary therapy high in fat, adequate protein and low in carbohydrates that in medicine is mainly used to treat hard-to-control epilepsy in children. Diet forces the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates. Wikipedia Ketogenic diets may even have benefits against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease (2, 3, 4). This type of diet is low-carb, high-fat and it lowers blood sugar and insulin levels and moves the body's metabolism away from carbohydrates to fats and ketones.

A ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose weight and reduce disease risk factors (1, 2, 3, 4). In fact, research shows that the ketogenic diet can be as effective in losing weight as a low-fat diet (13, 14, 1). A review of 13 studies found that after a very low-carb diet, the ketogenic diet was slightly more effective for long-term weight loss than a low-fat diet). People who followed the ketogenic diet lost an average of 2 pounds (0.9 kg) more than the group that followed a low-fat diet (1).

Another study in 34 older adults found that those who followed a ketogenic diet for 8 weeks lost nearly five times more total body fat than those who followed a low-fat diet (1). The ketogenic diet can help you lose excess fat, which is closely related to type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and metabolic syndrome (21, 22, 23, 2). Another study of 349 people with type 2 diabetes found that people on a ketogenic diet lost an average of 26.2 pounds (11.9 kg) over a 2-year period. This is an important benefit when considering the relationship between weight and type 2 diabetes (24, 2).

There is some anecdotal evidence of these effects, often referred to as ketogenic flu (3). According to reports from some about the meal plan, it usually disappears within a few days. However, it is important to significantly reduce carbohydrate intake initially. After the first 2 to 3 months, you can eat carbohydrates on special occasions, just return to the diet immediately after.

Protein should be moderate, since a very high intake can increase insulin levels and lower ketones. About 35% of total calorie intake is probably the upper limit. This common side effect usually goes away after 3 to 4 weeks. If it persists, try to eat more vegetables that are high in fiber (55, 5). The ketogenic diet is a diet that is high in fat, moderate in protein and very low in carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy, but on a strict ketogenic diet, less than 5 percent of energy intake comes from carbohydrates (learn more in our beginner's guide to the ketogenic diet). Reducing carbohydrates puts the body in a metabolic state called ketosis. Ketosis occurs when the body begins to break down stored fat into molecules called ketone bodies to use as energy, in the absence of circulating blood sugar from food. Once the body reaches ketosis, most cells use ketone bodies to generate energy until you start eating carbohydrates again. If you are sedentary, we suggest between 0.6 g and 0.8 g of protein.

If you are active, we suggest between 0.8 g and 1.0 g of protein. Although hair loss is very rare on the ketogenic diet, you can minimize it by making sure you don't restrict calories too much and make sure you sleep 8 hours a night. A ketogenic diet is an eating plan that focuses on foods that provide lots of healthy fats, adequate amounts of protein, and too few carbohydrates. The goal is to get more calories from fat than from carbohydrates. The ketogenic diet is not a commercial meal plan, so there are no costs or membership fees associated with starting this diet. For endurance athletes, transitioning to a ketogenic diet may reduce recovery time after training but for those who exercise occasionally, the transition to the ketogenic diet can make sticking with your fitness routine a challenge at first. The 21-day smoothie diet is a weight loss plan that is touted as an easy and effective alternative to fad diets.

For this group of people, the ketogenic diet can be frustrating and can affect their motivation to make healthy dietary changes. However, they also cautioned that the studies were too diverse to recommend a ketogenic diet as a general treatment for PCOS. A ketogenic diet has been shown to improve triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels most associated with arterial buildup. A long-lasting buzzword that reaches the world of dieting seems to be “keto” which refers to the high-fat low-carb ketogenic diet. However when it comes to the ketogenic diet as a tool for weight loss and other health benefits the jury is still out. In turn this causes weight gain and health problems that are associated with diets high in fat and carbohydrates (NOT a ketogenic diet). And in fact the ketogenic diet is associated with an increase in bad LDL cholesterol which is also linked to heart disease. Because of the health risks involved experts advise some people such as those with heart disease or people who are at increased risk of it not to try the ketogenic diet.

Studies even show that the ketogenic diet is a more effective way to control and prevent diabetes compared to low-calorie diets. Simple coffee and tea contain zero grams of carbohydrates fats or proteins so they're fine on the ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet has been used to help manage epilepsy a disorder characterized by seizures for more than 100 years.

Bruce Chen
Bruce Chen

Medical & health reporter. Award-winning internet evangelist. Embraced the low-carb keto diet and lost 9 pounds.