The Keto Diet: Facts and Fallacies

2019 is already revealing itself to be a year of people bettering themselves, which is wonderful! As I watch my college peers decide what they are going to focus on improving about themselves in this new year, I’m blown away by the number of people taken by this “keto” diet.

I had never heard of this diet until the very end of last semester. A friend of mine and I were talking about eating habits and he starting raving about the keto diet and how it’s helped people drop 20 pounds in as little as a few weeks! Naturally, I didn’t believe this for a second. But, as soon as I started investigating, I got to read lots of great success stories of people loosing lots of weight and making it look seamless and easy with this new diet! I was impressed, but skeptical.

My next question was: how does that even happen?

This post is meant to help answer that question, and many others I had after investigating the keto diet. Hopefully, if any of you are looking to go on this new diet in this new year, this post is helpful in letting you know what’s in store for your body!

What We Know

The scientific backing to this diet is surprisingly sound. Basically, ketosis is what your body goes into when you’re starving, or at least when your body perceives that you’re starving. This diet tricks your body into thinking this by lowering the amount of carbs you intake and replacing those lost calories with high-fat foods. The absence of carbs leaves your brain looking for a different energy source, and the only other one available is ketones stored in fat.

This switch in energy sources has actually been found to help soothe lots of chronic illnesses, such as epilepsy and diabetes. It can also provide the brain with more efficient ways of producing energy, by using less oxygen to produce more energy when the source is BHB (one of the major types of ketone bodies!). Ketones can also help our bodies produce more antioxidants, which help keep us from getting sick!

On the other hand, the keto diet has been shown not to be a great long-term lifestyle to keep up. Originally, this diet was created for people with epilepsy to help minimize their seizures. As patients who have tried to use keto as a long-term solution for their epilepsy have shown, things get complicated as keto goes on for too long. Some crazy side effects that have been found include things like kidney stones, hair loss, an inability to concentrate and acid reflux.

This isn’t to say for sure that all of these things will happen if you try a keto diet, but they are reactions your body may have, and therefore things to be aware of going in.

What We Don’t Know (Yet)

The tricky thing about a diet like keto is that there are still a lot of things we don’t totally know. I was surprised to discover that, while there are a lot of great anecdotal benefits to keto, a lot of the stories aren’t backed by science yet.

Additionally, there are lots of claimed health benefits that come from keto diets. These are real benefits, with real studies to back them. The problem is: almost all of them have been done only in mice. While the clinical trials in relation to seizure management have been moved into humans, no other clinical tests related to keto diets have been done to know exactly what happens in humans’ bodies on such a diet.

One of the best articles I found about the keto diet in general was published by UCSF, and the author makes the argument that even the euphoria that people feel on the keto diet can’t be scientifically backed yet. She follows this claim with the comment that, while it could be the way the body is changing functions under ketosis, this extreme happy feeling might just be an outcome of keto dieters getting better sleep, being conscious of what they’re eating, and maybe getting compliments as they start shedding pounds!

Hopefully this post hasn’t deterred anyone too much from trying out the keto diet. While there are lots of questions left unanswered here, and science hasn’t had the opportunity to investigate them all yet, it’s indisputable that the keto diet has brought lots of people happier and healthier lifestyles.