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Aurelia Corbaz Nutritioniste

Aurelia Corbaz


Date: 2023-03-30

Topics: Nutrition

Low-carb diet and ketogenic (keto) diet

The topic of low GI, low carbohydrate or even ketogenic diets has become trendy because they are weight loss strategies.

Although all low-carbohydrate approaches reduce overall carbohydrate intake, there is no clear consensus on what defines a low-carbohydrate diet. And before deciding whether such a diet is appropriate, it is important to consider the pros and cons of these dietary modifications.

What are low-carb diets?

A low-carb diet involves consuming less than 30% of carbohydrates per day, whereas government recommendations for healthy eating recommend consuming 50% of total energy intake daily. While the ketogenic diet has as its central objective to exclude all carbohydrates by focusing primarily on the consumption of fats and proteins in order to optimise the process of ketosis in the body. Thus resulting in rapid weight loss.

The ketogenic diet

What is ketosis?

Ketosis is a metabolic state that occurs when carbohydrate consumption comprises only up to 15% of total energy intake per day. Instead of breaking down or “burning” carbohydrates, as the body’s main source of energy, cells are forced to break down fats instead. When this happens, ketone bodies are formed, commonly referred to as a state of ketosis. This diet can be used to prepare for a state of fasting. The ketogenic diet was originally developed for children with treatment-resistant epilepsy as a short-term measure to control their seizures. However, today this diet has become popular with the simple purpose of promoting rapid weight loss!

Is the ketogenic diet preventive for certain diseases and cancer?

 Some studies have shown that the ketogenic diet can be helpful for people with type 2 diabetes, including weight loss, lowering average blood sugar levels, improving kidney function and improving heart health. However, some studies also show that this type of diet may increase the risk of hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood sugar levels) in some people taking medication for type 2 diabetes. According to Diabetes UK, there is insufficient long-term evidence that a low-carbohydrate diet can act on type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It also appears that a ketogenic diet may be useful in treating brain cancer. However, there is some evidence that ketones can promote the growth of cancer cells. In addition, following an extremely restrictive diet such as this could amplify patients’ malnutrition. The ketogenic diet is generally very high in saturated fat and low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which is associated with a higher risk of constipation, bowel cancer, heart disease and premature death. The lack of carbohydrates to fuel the body may cause it to burn muscle for energy, creating fatigue during physical activity. At the same time, high levels of ketones can weaken bones, cause kidney problems and physical stress. Finally, the restrictive ketogenic diet can easily lead to eating disorders with an obsessive and unhealthy relationship with food.

The right balance of the ketogenic or keto diet

The advantage of the ketogenic diet is that eliminating all types of carbohydrates, sugary foods, refined cereals and industrial products, which are often over-consumed today, is considerably reduced. This is a good way to prevent certain metabolic and cardiac diseases, which are often linked to increased consumption of this type of food. The choice and quality of carbohydrates are, therefore, very important.

 The low-carb diet

 A low-carb diet is a diet that limits carbohydrate consumption to less than 30% of total daily energy intake. It mainly limits the poor-quality carbohydrates in sugary, refined and industrial foods. It is a diet that favours good sources of carbohydrates: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, which are rich in fibre and protein.

Meals consist of plenty of vegetables, whole grains/legumes, and satiating proteins of high biological value. The “low carb” relies heavily on nutrient quality and is inappropriate to banish all carbohydrates. The recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables and legumes alone provide the energy needed for the body. 

The “low carb” effect on health and weight

 Studies have shown that a low-carbohydrate diet can lead to lasting weight loss and improved health markers. This includes the treatment of diabetes, pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity. It could, in fact, significantly improve compensation for both types of diabetes, leading to weight loss, medication reduction and, in some cases of type 2 diabetes, remission. This diet has been commonly used for decades and recommended by many doctors. Some meta-analyses have identified that the low carbohydrate diet has a greater impact on weight loss than other dietary methods. The reasons suggested are based on a loss of fluid through breaking down glycogen stores and a reduction in calories due to the satiating effect of increased protein intake.

The “Low carbs” diet in practice

Here are the basic aspects of implementing a low-carb diet:
Eat the right sources of carbohydrates (whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables)
Limit the amount of carbohydrates on your plates by using a measuring cup for cooking cereals: about 100g of cooked carbohydrates per meal.
Limit sugary and industrial foods (refined cereals, bread, sodas, fruit juices, sweets, pastries, desserts…) that are depleted of fibre and thus rapidly raise blood sugar.
Stop drinking
Start slowly by gradually decreasing the carbohydrate portion to 25-30% of total energy intake.

Studies defined low carbohydrates as a percentage of total daily energy intake.

Very low carb: less than 10% carbohydrate or 20 to 50g/day
Low carbohydrate: less than 26% to 30% carbohydrate or less than 130 g/day
Moderate carbohydrates: 30% to 44%.
High carbohydrate: 45% to 50% or more

 Although both diets Low Carbs and Keto guarantee significant weight loss, the ketogenic diet is more restrictive, unbalanced, and dangerous to your health. In most cases, the weight lost is quickly regained as soon as carbohydrates are consumed. Less drastic and just as effective, the “low carb” diet focuses on the balance and nutritional quality of food and is, therefore, a good alternative for health, but also for healthy and lasting weight loss.

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