Nutrition for Life - 2018

Nutrition for Life - 2018

Weight Loss and Popular Diets

There are a variety of diets, each claiming to be the best, to help with fast weight loss. But which diet is really the best for you? The reality is that there is no one single diet plan that is best for everyone, and what works for one person may not work for others. Fad diets come and go and achieve popularity. The current favorite is the Ketogenic Diet also known as the Keto Diet.

The Keto Diet: What is it, and how does it work?

Food is our fuel. Our body, and especially our brain, uses glucose as its preferred source of fuel to generate energy. The Keto diet deprives the body of carbohydrates. For some context, the average diet contains 50-55 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat, and 15 percent protein. The Keto diet recommends 80 percent fat, 15 percent protein, and a mere 5 percent of calories come from carbohydrates. The idea is that if you deplete yourself of carbohydrates, your body will start breaking down fat for energy. When the body metabolizes fat, it generates molecules called ketones (also known as ketone bodies). When this occurs, the body goes into a state of ketosis. As you restrict carbohydrate intake and amp up the dietary fat, more fat is metabolized and greater quantities of ketones are created. These ketones enter the metabolic pathway to generate energy. Thus, the ketones work as a backup generator in the absence of glucose.

How long does it take to get into Ketosis?

Anywhere from 2-7 days, depending on your body type, activity levels, and what you’re eating. If you have been consuming a lot sugar, it may take a while for the body to completely burn it off – most likely a month to six weeks for your body to switch over.

Who is this diet most beneficial for?

Ketogenic diets have proven to be very successful for people with neurological disorders such as Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and treatment of certain cancers in conjunction with chemotherapy. Despite their superficial differences, many neurological diseases share one major problem – deficient energy production. During metabolic stress, ketones serve as an alternative energy source to maintain normal brain cell metabolism.

What are the negative aspects of the ketogenic diet?

Ketones are emergency fuel sources and we’re not meant to run on them long-term. We do not have really long-term data yet on the impact of using ketones as our fuel, although we have some research that shows there are a few risk factors.

• Bone loss and increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures
• Constipation
• Dehydration
• Increased risk of kidney stones and gall stones
• Lack of important minerals in the diet
• Loss of muscle mass
• Menstrual irregularity and hormone imbalance

In summary, the keto diet is an extremely restrictive diet. It is not a foolproof way to lose weight, and does not protect against cancer, diabetes, or other chronic diseases.

Here is a list of other diets to be careful about:

• The Alkaline Diet: The recommendations for this diet are good but for all the wrong reasons. There is no research proving that pH affects our weight. Our body is incredibly efficient at keeping our pH levels stabilized.
• The Blood Type Diet: There is no relationship of blood group to diet, and may cause unnecessary restrictions.
• The Five Bite Diet: Eat whatever you want—but only five bites of it. This is a very low-calorie restrictive diet and will cause your body to go into a starvation mode and slow down your metabolism rather than help you lose weight. Plus, it is not sustainable for long term. You can gain back all the weight you lose, once you start eating more than five bites.
• Master Cleanse/ 10 Day Green Smoothie Cleanse/Juice Plans/Liquid Diets: Overly restrictive, impractical and not sustainable. You will gain back all the weight once you eat solid food. An extreme low-calorie diet can cause muscle loss which is not what you want your body to lose.
• One Ingredient Diet, for example, Cabbage Soup Diet or Grapefruit Diet: Same reason as above.
• The HCG Diet: This diet limits you to about 500 calories a day while taking human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a hormone that is marketed as an appetite suppressant. However, there’s no evidence that HCG does more than act as a placebo. The weight loss happens only due to the extreme calorie restriction. Though a health care provider may legally give you HCG injections, they’re typically used to treat fertility issues in women and the FDA has not approved them for weight loss. Keep in mind that over-the-counter products with HCG are illegal!
• Other diet plans that continue to be popular include the Military Diet, The HMR Diet, Bulletproof Diet, Paleo Diet, High Protein Low Carb Diet, No Grains Diet, and detoxes and cleanses.

Life is already complicated enough. Limiting food choices or following rigid meal plans can add extra stress. With any new diet, always ask yourself: “Can I eat this way for the rest of my life?” If the answer is no, the plan is not right. Never do a “weight loss diet”. Instead, think long term. Your diet should address any medical issues you may have and help improve your overall health and quality of life.


Parul Kharod, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist and works as a Clinical Dietitian with Outpatient Nutrition Services at WakeMed Hospital in Cary and Raleigh. She can be reached at

Posted: Monday, December 17, 2018