Veto the Keto: popular diets lead to dangerous losses

By Abby Allen
Managing Editor

Just as skinny jeans and crop tops are an ever-growing popular trend, so is trying to lose weight to fit into them. Many teen girls and boys struggle with skewed body images, so they try a spectrum of methods to shave off what weight they feel they need to lose. Body image issues can be prominent in high school students and many students can turn to dieting, exercise and other methods, which aren’t all healthy.

Dieting, according to dictionary.com, is the act of “restricting oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.” Within that one method of dieting, there is a whole other spectrum of methods people across the globe use to try to accomplish their goals, one being the ketogenic or “keto” diet which can cause a plethora of health issues and harm more than help.

According to everydayhealth.com, this diet has been around since the 1920s and was originally used as a treatment for epilepsy, but is now used for treatment of Type 2 diabetes and other ailments. The Keto Diet is most commonly used for quick weight loss. According to a review published in August 2013 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “The ketogenic diet typically reduces carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams per day — and calls for increased protein and fat intake. Roughly speaking, on keto you’ll get 70 to 80 percent of your calories from fat, about 20 percent from protein, and as little as five percent from carbs.” This is a gross imbalance of the nutrients a person needs to take in to stay healthy.

What many participants of any diet don’t see is the danger of limiting certain food intakes such as carbohydrates because “the brain’s favorite fuel is glucose, which is most easily created from carbohydrates. In very-low-carb diets, the brain has to adjust to using ketones from digested fats for energy. To add to this discomfort, your kidneys release more electrolytes as insulin levels fall,” everydayhealth.com states. Total body water levels decrease due to lack of intake and without water, the body cannot function. The lack of water causes the body to go into panic mode and function as if food isn’t available. “The result? What’s known as the keto flu, which could cause constipation, nausea, headache, fatigue, irritability, cramps, and other symptoms,” everydayhealth.com reports.

Carbohydrates not only feed the brain and its functions but also the digestive system and how it functions. Lincoln, Neb.–based sports dietitian Angie Asche, RD explains how “when carbohydrate intake is low, fiber consumption tends to be low, too. This doesn’t come as a surprise when you consider fruits, whole grains, and starchy vegetables are decreased in your diet.” Carbs provide a large amount of the fiber needed for the stomach and intestines to digest and process food as they should, and a lack of fiber intake can cause the digestive system to have to work overtime. “As a result, ketogenic eaters miss out on the benefits of fiber-rich diet such as regular laxation and microbiome support. The microbiome has been implicated in everything from immune function to mental health,” everydayhealth.com said. So even a person’s mental state can be affected with the lack of this among other nutrients. According to study in the Journal of Pediatrics in April 2015, constipation was noted as a very common side effect in children receiving ketogenic diets for epilepsy treatment because the fiber was not there to break down and process the food in the system. The keto diet can also cause a nutrient deficiency in potassium, a mineral important for blood pressure control along with electrolyte balance, according to MedlinePlus.com.

The weight loss this diet causes harms more than it benefits, omitting tons of foods that the body needs to healthily function, especially the carbs that regulate sugar numbers and insulin levels. The lack of food causes the body to overcompensate for it, burning good fat for fuel, and it can harm the way the body functions forever because it gets used to burning fat, and those nutrients can’t help anymore. Some dieting methods are safer like eating more green vegetables and hitting the gym instead of watching a movie. Meanwhile, other diets such as the Keto diet can prove very dangerous to the body and if not handled very carefully, can lead to losses of more than just weight.

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