What is a ketogenic diet?
Ketogenic Diet is a very low carbohydrate, high fat, “adequate protein” diet. Ketogenic diets have proven helpful to people with uncontrolled epilepsy and may be of benefit to epileptics in general, to victims of stroke and other forms of brain injury and possibly cancer. It has become somewhat popular among CrossFit-ters and followers of the paleo diet.
They come with other effects that may not be worth the discomfort or unintended risks to healthy people. This includes kidney stones and, in women and girls, amenorrhea. Amenorrhea is associated with bone loss, increasing risk of osteoporosis, and indicates problems in hormone balance. Supplementation with calcium may help with this, but then again, it might not. Physiology can be quite complex, and consumption does not necessarily indicate absorption is occurring. It is quite possible that something that causes hormonal imbalance in women may also cause hormonal imbalance in men. Playing with one’s physiology, when we don’t know the unintended outcomes of such play, may be inadvisable, especially long-term.
What is the optimal diet? Is the Paleo Diet a ketogenic diet?
It is very hard to say what is the optimal diet. Vegetarians, as described in some current diet books, are weak and “skinny-fat”. However, one can be a vegetarian and have excellent bone density, low blood pressure, low resting heart rate, low fasting blood sugar, excellent blood lipid profile and great strength to body weight ratio .I will leave it at this: The “optimal diet” for one person may not be the “optimal diet” for another, nor the optimal diet for all conditions. Humans are omnivores and physiologically polymorphic and adaptable. This has given us tremendous flexibility and enabled us to survive in wildly different climes and environments. It has made us resilient. It is also quite possible, that our individual resilience allows our bodies to adjust to dietary and environmental change. Gut microbiota populations, after all, change as diet changes. That said, the paleo diet is not necessarily ketogenic. But you follow a paleo diet and choose to make it ketogenic if you wanted to.
The current state of research indicates no harm though, from short-term ketogenic diets. There has been little, if any, research on the risks and benefits of long-term ketogenic diets in healthy adults.
Brinkworth GD, Buckley JD, Noakes M, Clifton PM, & Wilson CJ (2009). Long-term effects of a very low-carbohydrate diet and a low-fat diet on mood and cognitive function. Archives of internal medicine, 169 (20), 1873-80 PMID: 19901139
Kossoff, E., Zupec-Kania, B., & Rho, J. (2009). Ketogenic Diets: An Update for Child NeurologistsJournal of Child Neurology, 24 (8), 979-988 DOI: 10.1177/0883073809337162
Bergqvist AG, Chee CM, Lutchka L, Rychik J, & Stallings VA (2003). Selenium deficiency associated with cardiomyopathy: a complication of the ketogenic diet. Epilepsia, 44 (4), 618-20 PMID: 12681013