The ketogenic diet is usually initiated in combination with the patient's existing anticonvulsant regimen, though patients may be weaned off anticonvulsants if the diet is successful. There is some evidence of synergistic benefits when the diet is combined with the vagus nerve stimulator or with the drug zonisamide, and that the diet may be less successful in children receiving phenobarbital.
Another study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2008, assigned 322 moderately obese adults to one of three diets: calorie-restricted low-fat; calorie-restricted Mediterranean; and non-calorie-restricted low-carb. After two years, the Mediterranean group had lost an average of 9 7/10 pounds; the low-fat group, 6 4/10 pounds; and the low-carb group, 10 3/10 pounds. Although weight loss didn't differ greatly between the low-carb and Mediterranean groups, both lost appreciably more than the low-fat group did.
Meat products make up a big part of the keto diet, but experts stress the importance of choosing quality. "Since the keto diet is based a lot on animal proteins, it's important to buy organic poultry and grass-fed, organic beef," says Aimee Aristotelous, RD. "Not only do organic selections help with limiting environmental toxins, but grass-fed options of red meats even change the composition of fats." The result, she explains, is that your body is able to better absorb those healthy fats.
A study published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism discouraged the Atkins diet for anyone with diabetes because the plan doesn’t limit fat, but noted the approach may be a safe way for people without the disease to lose weight effectively. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Atkins helped women lose weight better than other low-carb diets, such as the Zone diet, the Ornish diet, and the LEARN diet after 12 months.
Although you'll be cutting way back on carbohydrates and sugar, some fruits are still okay to eat on the keto diet (though you'll still want to be mindful about quantity in order to remain in ketosis). The fruits that make the cut contain far fewer carbs than their off-limits cousins such as apples, pears, bananas, pineapples, papayas, grapes, and fruit juices in general.
As CDE’s, we individualize our recommendations for each of our patients. One person’s diet may not be appropriate for another person. For example, a six foot 6 inch tall man weighing 220 lbs of mainly muscle, who exercises 2 hours per day at the gym cannot have the same number of carbs per meal as a petite 5 foot 1 inch 75 year old lady who does not exercise.
Grandl and his colleagues compared a high-fat diet with a ketogenic diet in mice, feeding the animals specific foods and then conducting tests to understand how their bodies reacted to the diets. The study showed that compared with the mice on the high-fat diet, those on the low-carb, high-fat keto diet appeared healthier while on the keto diet but also began to quickly develop insulin resistance — meaning that their livers were less able to respond to insulin and regulate sugar levels in the blood.
Fish and seafood come next, eaten about twice a week. Poultry, eggs and dairy in the form of cheese and yogurt are eaten in moderate portions on a daily or weekly basis. For example, one review of research on Mediterranean eating suggests about four eggs a week. At the very top of the pyramid -- meaning you eat them only sparingly -- are red meat and sweets. Preferred beverages include water, as well as red wine, in moderation.
Choose Liquid Calories Wisely. Sweetened drinks pile on the calories, but don't reduce hunger like solid foods do. Satisfy your thirst with water, sparkling water with citrus, skim or low-fat milk, or small portions of 100% fruit juice. Try a glass of nutritious and low-calorie vegetable juice to hold you over if you get hungry between meals. Be careful of alcohol calories, which add up quickly. If you tend to drink a glass or two of wine or a cocktail on most days, limiting alcohol to the weekends can be a huge calorie saver.
The keto diet has been shown to help people lose weight in the short term; however, the long-term benefits of the diet aren't as clear, according to the Mayo Clinic. The diet is named for ketosis, which is the condition the body goes into when following the plan. In ketosis, the body uses ketone bodies, or water-soluble molecules produced by the liver and the breakdown of fatty tissue for cellular energy as opposed to sugars from ingested carbohydrates. And in some people, this results in weight-loss.
The types of foods listed are not comprehensive. For example, avocados are not included so it is not clear if they would be categorized as a fruit or a fat serving. Certain foods are placed into questionable categories: pretzels are placed in the grain group even though they have fairly low nutrient content and no fiber; frozen yogurt is placed in the dairy group even though most brands contain little calcium and vitamin D and are high in added sugar. The general term “cereals” are placed in the grain group but different types of cereals can be highly variable in nutrient and sugar content.
“For any individual considering a ketogenic diet, there are laboratory values that a knowledgeable physician should check prior to starting and throughout the course of the diet,” she says. “The best approach is to work with a registered dietitian that is knowledgeable in ketogenic diet therapies and can educate you on ways to make healthier choices on this plan than what dieters would randomly select on their own, along with appropriate supplements that are absolutely necessary on this type of diet.”
The Keto diet versus Plate Method study triggered some challenges and a bit of criticism. In an editorial, Andrew Reynolds, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Otago, New Zealand, suggests that the much better results in those on the ketogenic diet may be due not to the diet itself but to the lifestyle changes and ongoing support that keto diet group received.5
That's certainly the case with the ketogenic diet—a very low-carb meal plan—based on the findings of two recently published studies.1,2 Dr. Saslow and her team report that the individuals with type 2 diabetes who followed the keto diet lost significantly more weight than those on the low-fat diet espoused by the American Diabetic Association.1 These dieters also were able to get their hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) below 6.5%, suggesting that some may have reversed their type 2 diabetes.1
Because people with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, there’s a specific concern that the saturated fat in the diet may drive up LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels, and further increase the odds of heart problems. If you have type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor before attempting a ketogenic diet. They may recommend a different weight-loss diet for you, like a reduced-calorie diet, to manage diabetes. Those with epilepsy should also consult their doctor before using this as part of their treatment plan.