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Clearing the misconceptions about Ketogenic and Atkins Lifestyles


Many people like to jump on the latest diet trend for weight loss but unfortunately, such people are unsuccessful at these diets because they remain in ‘diet’ mode. The truth of the matter is that until you commit to a lifestyle change, you wont be able to get results that can last long term. Having said that, low carb diets such as Atkins diet and Ketogenic diets are gaining popularity because of its efficacy and how quickly weight loss goals are achieved. In fact, when done right, a person on the Keto diet can start noticing weight loss, especially changes in abdominal fat, in as little as seven to ten days.

What is a Ketogenic diet? Ketogenic diet is a nutrition plan that is very low in carbohydrates, has moderate protein intake, then high in fat. Since carbohydrate restriction reduces insulin levels and fat accumulation, in this diet, intake is restricted to 20-50 grams a day. On a Ketogenic diet, your body system switches its fuel supply to run entirely on fat since there is little to no carbohydrates. Low carbohydrate levels cause blood sugar levels to drop and the body begins breaking down the body fat for energy which results in rapid weight loss. Ketosis occurs when the body starts producing ketones by the liver as an alternative energy source to the body. It is different from diabetic ketoacidosis, a life threatening condition that is usually seen in diabetics.

Proponents of the Ketogenic diet state that it is a very simple concept diet that produces quick results and this encourages those who are quickly discouraged with weight loss plans. Critics of the Ketogenic diet say that it is an unhealthy way to lose weight due to the high intake of fatty foods and saturated fat and that such a diet might increase the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Although some may not agree with all the elements of this diet, extensive research has been done on Low Carb – High Fat diets such as the Ketogenic Diet and Atkins diet and the benefits are undeniable.

From my personal experience, I can confidently say that sugar is the real enemy, not fat! First of all, as a society, the amount of sugar in our diets is at an all time high. For example, a typical Nigerian, for breakfast, might have “Agege” bread with butter, and you might decide to wash it down with a soft drink or sugar-loaded hot chocolate drink. Then lunch time, who doesn’t love Nigerian jollof rice with fried plantain…right? Then of course, you have to wash it down with a pack of fruit juice. By the time dinner time rolls around, you might just have some whole wheat spaghetti or perhaps, yam porridge. This is the typical diet here in Nigeria; loaded with starchy carbohydrates for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and people are getting fatter and their waist lines are expanding.

Carbohydrates are sugars, and the more we eat, the more we crave them; and so we eat them even more and more. Also, it’s worth mentioning that it is carbohydrates, not fats, that cause high cholesterol. An excessive intake of carbohydrates will be converted to cholesterol with the help of insulin. Also, excess carbs, especially fructose, is the main culprit for increased triglycerides. Whereas, a Ketogenic diet lowers the insulin levels and therefore blocks the production of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and helps increase HDL cholesterol(the good cholesterol).

Another proven health benefit of the Ketogenic lifestyle, besides the obvious weight loss and prevention of heart disease, is Seizure Control. Ketogenic diets have been used as far back as the 1920s to treat children with epilepsy. The exact mechanism of action is unknown, but even till date, it is one of the most effective treatment of seizures. Bette Klein, a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital has used the keto diet for years to help ease the symptoms of children with epilepsy, especially those with refractory epilepsy who don’t respond well to drug treatment.

Again, the Ketogenic lifestyle has been linked to improvement of symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Research shows that people with Alzheimer’s, when put on the Ketogenic lifestyle showed marked improvement in their memory and showed increased cognition. It has also been shown to improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and shrink cancerous tumors.

For women who are struggling to conceive, or have conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), extensive studies have been done to show that low carb diets can improve fertility and also reduce the symptoms associated with PCOS. Gluten, a substance in wheat and whole grain carbohydrates disrupts the hormonal and endocrine system and causes inflammation. Gluten sensitivity is seen in people with PCOS, and when switched to a lower carb diet, most PCOS symptoms and hormonal imbalances are resolved and fertility is improved. The benefits of low carb diets such as Atkins and Ketogenic diets are backed by validated research studies that are published in medical journals.

That being said, I must emphasize that even the best diets can be badly executed. There are some people who are advised not to go full on ‘keto’ unsupervised because it is easy to follow an unhealthy version of the Ketogenic diet by choosing unhealthy fats, processed meats and oils. I advice anyone looking to follow any Low Carb, High Fat diet or even a modified Ketogenic lifestyle to do so under the clinical supervision of a doctor, or talk to a certified nutritionist.

Disclaimer: The medical information provided on here by Dr. Nini Iyizoba is provided as an information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.

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  • Lillian Paul

    Thank you for the clarifications on the Ketogenic diet.