A slew of articles in recent months have referred to the ketogenic diet as a “fad” or “trend.” It’s “dangerous,” claimed one article, and an anonymous post by the Harvard Public School of Public Health said the diet “comes with serious risks.”1 Yet strangely, these critics seldom cite scientists or doctors who work with the diet, and many—including the Harvard article—cite no medical literature to substantiate their allegations. Without substantiation, many simply rehash long-contradicted, outdated claims.
In the 1960s, it was discovered that medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) produce more ketone bodies per unit of energy than normal dietary fats (which are mostly long-chain triglycerides). MCTs are more efficiently absorbed and are rapidly transported to the liver via the hepatic portal system rather than the lymphatic system. The severe carbohydrate restrictions of the classic ketogenic diet made it difficult for parents to produce palatable meals that their children would tolerate. In 1971, Peter Huttenlocher devised a ketogenic diet where about 60% of the calories came from the MCT oil, and this allowed more protein and up to three times as much carbohydrate as the classic ketogenic diet. The oil was mixed with at least twice its volume of skimmed milk, chilled, and sipped during the meal or incorporated into food. He tested it on twelve children and adolescents with intractable seizures. Most children improved in both seizure control and alertness, results that were similar to the classic ketogenic diet. Gastrointestinal upset was a problem, which led one patient to abandon the diet, but meals were easier to prepare and better accepted by the children. The MCT diet replaced the classic ketogenic diet in many hospitals, though some devised diets that were a combination of the two.
Grains and beans are some of the most carbohydrate-dense foods out there, so breads, rice, and beans will spike your blood sugar causing crashes and cravings later on. There’s more to the issue with grains and beans, though. They contain some proteins and compounds that humans just don’t handle well. Here’s a breakdown of some of the issues with grains and beans.
“I think the caution with a low-carbohydrate diet is the idea that it’s very restrictive,” Zeratsky says. “When you start getting into the very low carbohydrates, when you’re talking about 20 grams, which for some people would be a cup of [starchy] vegetables. … If there is someone who is interested in it, it’s very important they understand what a low carbohydrate diet means in a practical sense.”
The basal metabolic rate per gram of body weight is seven times greater in mice than in humans. Organisms with large mass-specific metabolic rates typically show relatively large deviations from "normal" values because of a weak capacity to maintain homeostasis. Mice, which have a higher mass-specific metabolic rate, have a weak capacity to maintain cellular homeostasis; humans have a lower mass-specific metabolic rate, and a strong capacity to maintain cellular homeostasis. Mice are not small people, and "everyone else did it" is not a sound experimental design rationale.
Roussell recommends closely tracking your progress, so you don’t lose motivation. "If you track progress in a detailed way, you'll notice change happening. Measure data points like your chest, waist, arm size, and body-fat percentage with a tape measure—it’s possible that you can stay the same weight, but lose inches off your waist and other areas as your body tones and tightens,” he explains. “Don’t expect to lose two pounds per week every single week until you reach your goal."
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.
Also, reducing sodium doesn’t restrict you to boring, bland food, nor does it mean you have to toss out the salt shaker. Yes, reducing the amount of salt you use and choosing lower-sodium products are key, but opting for fresh foods or whole foods instead of boxed, canned, and ready-to-heat items makes a big enough impact. Experiment with spices and herbs, and use a little salt to enhance flavor. Salt should never be the sole flavoring or seasoning in any in dish.
When you’re eating the foods that get you there (more on that in a minute), your body can enter a state of ketosis in one to three days, she adds. During the diet, the majority of calories you consume come from fat, with a little protein and very little carbohydrates. Ketosis also happens if you eat a very low-calorie diet — think doctor-supervised, only when medically recommended diets of 600 to 800 total calories.