Without peer-reviewed clinical trials, many of the benefits remain anecdotal. For instance, Weiss himself has been on a low-carb high-fat (though not strictly ketogenic) diet for more than six months, and claims he does feel much better. But he’s clear about what he knows and what he doesn’t. He’s lost weight and his borderline pre-diabetes is gone.  

Research is continuing. This was just a pilot study,1 Dr. Saslow says, so we could test the effects in a small group in order to see if working with patients online offered an effective way to have people follow a weight loss program. In her next study, she plans to break down the components of a program to determine which elements are responsible for the weight loss and the decrease in blood glucose and HbA1c.


It is possible to combine the results of several small studies to produce evidence that is stronger than that available from each study alone—a statistical method known as meta-analysis. One of four such analyses, conducted in 2006, looked at 19 studies on a total of 1,084 patients.[22] It concluded that a third achieved an excellent reduction in seizure frequency and half the patients achieved a good reduction.[3]
Also worth noting is that low-carbohydrate, low-GI, and Mediterranean diets led to significant improvements in blood lipids with up to a 4–10% increase in HDL (4% in the Mediterranean, 5% in low-GI, and 10% in low-carbohydrate diets), 1–4% reduction in LDL (1% in low-carbohydrate, 3% in low-GI, and 4% in Mediterranean diets), and 9% reduction in triglycerides. [16]

After about two to seven days of following the keto diet, you go into something called ketosis, or the state your body enters when it doesn't have enough carbs for your cells to use for energy. That's when you start making ketones, or organic compounds that your bod then uses in place of those missing carbs. At this point, your body also starts burning fat for more energy, says Beth Warren, R.D., founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living A Real Life With Real Food.


For those who want to follow a ketogenic-type diet, Dr. Reynolds says it is important to first talk to your doctor and to discuss your goals so you can be sure that this approach is suitable for you given your medical and health history. Ongoing monitoring is needed if you do decide to adopt this very carb approach to eating. Seeing your doctor regularly is important to make sure that your blood pressure, lipids, blood sugar, mood, and medications are within normal ranges as you lose weight. Adjustments are likely going to be necessary from time to time.
“A healthy diet should be a sustainable eating plan that provides adequate nutrition to support optimal health,” Taylor says. “For many people with diabetes, a low-carb diet is a temporary tool that can be used to support short-term weight loss and improved blood sugar control. However, I typically don't recommend sticking with a low-carb diet permanently, as many micronutrient deficiencies can result from an unbalanced eating plan. I like to think of low-carb diets as a possible ‘stepping stone,’ not a ‘forever diet.’”
Fat isn’t unlimited either. As with wine, it's possible to get too much of a good thing when it comes to healthy fats. The American Heart Association points out that while the Mediterranean diet meets heart-healthy diet limits for saturated fat, your total fat consumption could be greater than the daily recommended amount if you aren't careful. That’s 65 g per day. (32)
We recently published an article documenting the grim long-term effects of low-carbohydrate diets, in which we explain the evidence-based research showing that low-carbohydrate diets high in fat and protein including meat, dairy products, eggs, fish, and oil actually worsen diabetes health, increase cancer risk, increase cholesterol, increase atherosclerosis, harden blood vessels, and increase all-cause mortality.
Because the ketogenic diet alters the body's metabolism, it is a first-line therapy in children with certain congenital metabolic diseases such as pyruvate dehydrogenase (E1) deficiency and glucose transporter 1 deficiency syndrome,[34] which prevent the body from using carbohydrates as fuel, leading to a dependency on ketone bodies. The ketogenic diet is beneficial in treating the seizures and some other symptoms in these diseases and is an absolute indication.[35] On the other hand, it is absolutely contraindicated in the treatment of other diseases such as pyruvate carboxylase deficiency, porphyria and other rare genetic disorders of fat metabolism.[9] A person with a disorder of fatty acid oxidation is unable to metabolise fatty acids, which replace carbohydrates as the major energy source on the diet. On the ketogenic diet, their body would consume its own protein stores for fuel, leading to ketoacidosis, and eventually coma and death.[36]
The Mediterranean diet is rooted in an abundance of fresh plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes, with olive oil being the primary source of monounsaturated fat. Fish and seafood follow as a primary source of protein with moderate amounts of poultry, dairy, and eggs to follow. Red meat and sugary treats should be consumed relatively rarely and in moderate portions.
The ketogenic diet is calculated by a dietitian for each child. Age, weight, activity levels, culture and food preferences all affect the meal plan. First, the energy requirements are set at 80–90% of the recommended daily amounts (RDA) for the child's age (the high-fat diet requires less energy to process than a typical high-carbohydrate diet). Highly active children or those with muscle spasticity require more calories than this; immobile children require less. The ketogenic ratio of the diet compares the weight of fat to the combined weight of carbohydrate and protein. This is typically 4:1, but children who are younger than 18 months, older than 12 years, or who are obese may be started on a 3:1 ratio. Fat is energy-rich, with 9 kcal/g (38 kJ/g) compared to 4 kcal/g (17 kJ/g) for carbohydrate or protein, so portions on the ketogenic diet are smaller than normal. The quantity of fat in the diet can be calculated from the overall energy requirements and the chosen ketogenic ratio. Next, the protein levels are set to allow for growth and body maintenance, and are around 1 g protein for each kg of body weight. Lastly, the amount of carbohydrate is set according to what allowance is left while maintaining the chosen ratio. Any carbohydrate in medications or supplements must be subtracted from this allowance. The total daily amount of fat, protein and carbohydrate is then evenly divided across the meals.[36]
Don’t think that “Mediterranean diet” means gorging on pasta and pizza, though. People in Mediterranean countries traditionally eat small portions of grains – for example, a side dish of 1/2 to 1 cup of pasta, instead of the full platter of pasta Americans are used to. Fill the rest of your plate with vegetables to fill you up without many calories.
As I wrote in op-eds for the Wall Street Journal61 and Medscape,62 the Lancet Public Health study is based on very thin data. The questionnaire underlying the report left out questions regarding popular foods, such as pizza and energy bars, and did not consider alcohol consumption. Moreover, the “low-carb” diet group in this study included people eating up to 37% of calories as carbohydrates—not low-carb according to the latest science. Ultimately, this is the kind of data that can show association but not establish causation, which means it is the kind of data one can use to generate hypotheses but not prove them. This kind of data would never be considered sufficient to approve a drug, for instance. The same standards should be applied to diet. Quite a few researchers, including myself, had our critiques published in Lancet Public Health.63 The authors replied but did not respond to most of the criticisms.
Over 8–10 mmol/l: It’s normally impossible to get to this level just by eating a keto diet. It means that something is wrong. The most common cause by far is type 1 diabetes, with severe lack of insulin. Symptoms include feeling very sick with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and confusion. The possible end result, ketoacidosis, may be fatal and requires immediate medical care. Learn more
×