Keto dieters shed pounds, but dietitian questions sustainability

'Keto is not a prison' says Toronto woman who lost 100 pounds within first year

keto meal
One of Kellie Foster's keto meals, which she posted to Instagram. Courtesy Kellie Foster

The low-to-no carbohydrate, high-fat ketogenic diet is now one of the most talked about and most-shared weight loss strategies on social media, but some dietitians question its long-term health effects.  

It’s unknown how many people are on the keto diet, but there are millions of social media posts on the subject. Instagram users have posted more than 11 million keto-related images and videos, including before-and-after weight loss photos and their meals. A Google search on “keto” pulls up 138 million results.

The keto diet entails the consumption of high fat, moderate proteins and a low-to-no-carb and sugar restriction. If the body is starved of carbohydrates, it will begin to burn stored fat for energy. This puts the body into the metabolic state of ‘ketosis.’

There are various versions of the keto diet, but the standard diet involves a daily caloric intake of no more than five per cent carbohydrates, 75 per cent fat and 20 per cent proteins. That means a typical person can eat fewer than 50 grams of carbohydrates each day.

But often dieters who want to lose weight quickly adjust these numbers.

Jeffrey Salalila, a consultant with TD Canada Trust, chose to consume a maximum of 30 grams of daily carbohydrates instead of 50. He lost 22 pounds within four months.

A typical meal for Salalila may include beef, chicken, salmon or eggs, and only certain vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale or asparagus. Foods with high carbohydrates must be avoided, including floured pastries, potatoes, pasta, corn, pumpkin, wheat, rice and beer. Salalila also avoids fruits. 

A week on keto and a keto participant's view on keto.

According to Diet Doctor, one should only consume a small amount of fruits such as berries, peaches, cantaloupes, clementines, plums and kiwis. Other fruits, such as bananas and apples, are high in carbohydrates and are not recommended. An average banana has at least 24 grams of carbs and a medium-sized apple has at least 21 grams of carbs.

Registered dietitian Andy De Santis hesitates to recommend the keto diet to his clients because of the proteins and vitamins they might miss. “If there [are] big groups of foods that they’re avoiding and they’re not making up for, then how are we going to supplement those?”

De Santis said that reducing the consumption of fruits and certain vegetables may limit the intake of vitamins. 

“My main concern is the sustainability for most people,” he added. “With something that has a lot of rules and a lot of restrictions, you know, that’s just problematic.”

Long-term keto user Kellie Foster, an analyst with a nuclear consulting firm based in Toronto, disagrees. “Keto is not a prison. I think that’s a thing that a lot of people get — especially people following the diet, they get so wrapped up in the thought that keto’s a prison and you have to do it the entire time. And that’s not really the case,” she said.

Foster, 27, started the diet in 2015 and is still on it. She lost 100 pounds within the first year of the diet and has not gained it back. Each year she checks in with her doctor and has not had a problem with a lack of nutrition, she said. Foster takes supplements each day to maintain proper daily vitamin intakes.

A 2005 study on treating Type 2 diabetes with the keto diet found that cutting carbohydrates lowers the amount of glucose levels in the body, which improves blood sugar levels. The study was published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism

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Posted: Apr 15 2019 9:51 pm
Filed under: Food Science & Health