If you, dear reader, think that trends are limited to the fashion world only, think again. We live in an age when trends are invading everything, even the ways we eat or weight loss diets. So you simply find seven hundred thousand participants or more in the largest group that includes those interested in the keto diet on Facebook in the Arab world alone, a diet that has shined in recent years as one of the “Fad diets” that appear on us from time to time And another, to stir up a storm of interest and controversy before it calms down again.
Contrary to what many may think, the keto diet is not a completely new fad, as it was invented a hundred years ago, specifically in the US state of Minnesota in 1921, by Russell Wilder (1), a doctor at the famous “Mayo Clinic”, who suggested a special type of The diet, which has a fasting-like effect on the body, produces “ketone bodies” and thus can be used to treat epilepsy patients. He based his remarks on the work of his predecessors in using fasting and starvation as a treatment that proved effective in treating epilepsy patients since the beginning of the twentieth century.
This experiment was repeated again in 1970 by the doctor Robert Atkins, but it took a different path. Instead of treating epilepsy, he focused on losing weight, and his name turned to a brand that promotes his famous diet, “Atkins diet”, which is very similar to the current keto diet, but allows More carbohydrates in their advanced stages.
The keto diet in its current form requires that you get a small amount of your daily calories from carbohydrates, and rely primarily on fats as a source of energy. The ideal keto diet (2) should contain only about 20-50 grams of starch per day, which is equivalent to one and a half of a medium-sized potato, or two large bananas, for example. In contrast, it should contain 75 grams of protein, 165 grams of fat, and the last number equals more than 70% of your daily calories.
This name sounds like it comes from the worlds of Superman and the planet Krypton, but ketones are completely earthly compounds and occur naturally within our bodies in many cases, but what are ketones and how can they be an important weapon for your body? To understand more, we must consider how your cells obtain energy under normal conditions.
Glucose is your cell’s favorite meal (3), and your body gets it from eating bread, rice, pasta and oats, as well as from fruits, some starchy vegetables and legumes. After the food is digested and absorbed in your small intestine, the process of breaking down glucose into smaller elements begins, and eventually, through complex processes inside the cell, is converted into water and carbon dioxide, producing the units of energy that the body needs to function as it should.
When cells are deprived of glucose for an extended period, as happens in fasting or on a keto diet, the body begins to break down stored fats into smaller units, fatty acids, which the liver breaks down in a process that produces ketone bodies, which serve as a substitute for the absent glucose component It provides the body’s organs with the energy they need to continue performing their functions. This process takes several days, up to a week from the start of the diet (4), according to the age, the rate of physical activity and the extent of adherence to the diet, and then we begin to notice the positive results of this controversial diet.
Perhaps the most characteristic of the keto diet is its amazing results in terms of losing weight in a short time, which is what many seek in the age of speed, where there is no time for patience, waiting and waiting for long-term results. But what if you knew that every gram of glycogen (a carbohydrate stored in the liver and muscle that the body uses to replace lack of glucose from food) is associated with three grams of water? (5)
Breaking down glycogen to produce energy causes a lot of water to be lost, which leaves the body with urine or sweat, which makes a noticeable difference in weight in the first week of the diet, and the more you weigh, the more water you lose in this process, and the results look more amazing. So, don’t expect to lose a lot of fat at the beginning of the diet, but once your body is in ketosis, the weight loss will be slower but more effective, and you may even get additional benefits.
Have you ever heard of the term “insulin resistance”? It is one of the most important problems that type 2 diabetics suffer from, which is primarily caused by obesity and excessive carbohydrate intake. In short, it means that your body does not respond well to the hormone insulin, which results in an increase in blood glucose and the subsequent complications, But perhaps the keto diet can do something about it.
In several studies conducted on patients with type 2 diabetes (6) (7), blood sugar and insulin resistance were measured before and after following a low-carb keto diet for several weeks, and a rapid and clear improvement in blood sugar stability and decreased insulin resistance was noted, in addition to the advantage of Weight loss is an important and essential part of the treatment plan for a type 2 diabetic, given the close link between obesity and insulin resistance. These results may sound great and promising, but they may not be so remarkable.
In a study that extended for three months (8), researchers found that the low-carbohydrate diet gave better results than the low-fat diet in terms of cumulative blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes, but another study (9) found that after two years there was no significant difference between the results The two diets, as both led to a decrease in cumulative sugar, fasting sugar and a decrease in weight by the same percentage.
These results were repeated in another study called “DIETFITS” conducted on two groups without diabetes (10), one of them followed a low-carbohydrate diet and the other a low-fat diet, and continued for a whole year, to reach the same conclusion in the end, the rate of weight loss in The two groups did not differ much. So perhaps the keto diet is not very different from other diets in the end.
On the other hand, since the keto diet includes a high percentage of fats, which are not all necessarily healthy fats, such as saturated fats, it was necessary to study their effect on the liver, which is the organ responsible for fat metabolism and storage or breakdown as needed.
What really attracts attention, and perhaps concern, in this context is the case study issued last year (13), which described an obese 57-year-old patient who decided to follow the keto diet four months before she came to the hospital, with a handful of health problems at Headed by the fatty liver and the high percentage of liver enzymes, which indicate the deterioration of the functions of this vital organ, as well as the high percentage of harmful fats in the blood. After just two weeks of stopping the diet, the readings for liver enzymes and harmful fats fell somewhat, but it took a year for the readings to return to normal.
This is not an individual case, only what was published in the Nutrients Journal in January 2021 (14), a study was conducted on twenty-four healthy young women of normal weight, who followed the keto diet for 4 weeks, and the results were similar, A significant increase in the percentage of harmful fats (LDL) was observed, in a way that does not correspond to the age and condition of these women’s health.
In experiments on mice, devastating effects were observed on the liver as well (15). Scientists use mice for their availability and ease of care, even if their internal organs are not entirely similar to our organs as humans, but these tests may give us some indication about the effect of this disease or that drug on the human body later.
But on the other side of all this, some studies in humans gave different results than mice (16), especially in the short term, where a decrease in liver insulin resistance, and even an unexpected improvement in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver – non-alcoholic fatty liver. Alcohol – Despite all this, there are not yet long-term studies to measure the effect of the keto diet on the liver if it is followed for long periods.
These contrasting results among many studies on the controversial keto diet should make you wait a little before deciding to follow such a strict diet, it does not confirm or deny anything yet, but it means that the keto diet is not in any case the magic solution as it claims Social media groups, and there is no magic bullet. You must first consult a doctor to find out if this diet is suitable for you or not, especially if you have diabetes, stress or a cardiovascular disease. Second, it is necessary to strictly adhere to the diet instructions, and not to exaggerate them, in order to get the results you want safely.
Finally, you must realize that this diet, like other diets, may not suit everyone, and may give different results with different people, so you should not despair if you find that someone is getting positive results from one of the diets and you do not find them, you can still choose between Different types of diets, and you will find what is most suitable for your body and condition.