What is it? Well in a nutshell, it’s a high-fat, low- to moderate-protein, low-carb eating plan. On a ketogenic diet, roughly 75% to 90% of daily calories come from fat; 6% to 20% come from protein; and 2% to 5% come from carbohydrates.
It was originally devised as a tool for controlling epileptic seizures (though doctors aren’t exactly sure how it works) before there were drugs to treat seizures. In the past few decades, it has reemerged as patients and parents seek alternatives to pharmaceuticals.
Many people on the ketogenic diet are likely trying to lose weight, but because of the diet’s oppressive menu restrictions, it can be hard to stick to. This can lead to dangerous eating habits such as yo-yo dieting or even abandoning the diet completely.
As with any health trend, especially one that can seem restrictive, there have been some specific concerns raised by the medical community that the keto diet might not be a safe or realistic long-term eating plan.
Dr. Amnon Beniaminovitz, a board-certified cardiologist from Manhattan Cardiology in New York City, told HuffPost that some people can feel unwell when they first start the keto diet, a phenomenon known as the “keto flu.”
“It is common for people starting the diet to experience symptoms such as headaches and fatigue, dizziness, light nausea, difficulty focusing (brain fog), lack of motivation and irritability,” Beniaminovitz said.
These are the same sort of symptoms people experience when they wean themselves off caffeine or soda, leading some to suggest the diet is a period of detox.
Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietician and Lose It! nutrition expert from Denver, has tried the keto plan herself, so that she knows firsthand what some of her clients are experiencing. She told HuffPost the “keto flu” is real, but you need to stick with the diet to see results.
“The beginning of the keto plan can be overwhelming,” Kirkpatrick said. “Hangry doesn’t even begin to describe it. But once your body gets used to a low glucose supply, there’s almost a sense of euphoria.”