Also known as “keto”, the ketogenic diet, is a diet with a high fat and low sugar content which has been popular in recent years with Hollywood stars, leading athletes and certain dieticians and nutritionists. But is it really good for your health? What results can you really expect to see? And how? We take 5 stereotypes and separate fact from fiction.
1/ It’s a hard diet to follow
TRUE AND FALSE. It all depends on your tastes and eating habits. This diet will be easier to follow for someone who prefers savoury foods than for someone who tends to snack on sweet food throughout the day. On the other hand, because you have to strictly follow the diet to see the first results, you should make sure you have an iron will before you start.
2/ It has side effects
TRUE. The body has to go through a keto adaptation period – i.e. to understand that it now needs to get used to a new source of energy, ketones, rather than glucose. During this initial period, which often only lasts a few days, slight discomfort may be experienced, for example headaches, nausea or unusual tiredness. But don’t worry, this is actually a good sign, proof that the diet is working. At this stage, it’s about not giving up until blood tests improve and hunger pangs disappear. Generally, after around ten days, you feel a lot better!
3/ You can’t have dessert
FALSE. If you follow the keto diet to the letter, you completely eliminate carbs, which means saying bye-bye to sugar and other treats! But who said desserts have to contain sugar? Rather than your traditional strawberry tart, opt for “keto-compatible” treats like dried fruit (grilled almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts etc.), pastries made using nut flour, chocolate bars with coconut, cakes made from honey and/or pecan nuts or ice lollies when the weather is better. The strictest followers will choose to buy, from specialised shops (or online), all the “fashionable” ingredients like collagen powder, the natural artificial sweeteners from monk fruit (the new sweetener that has gone viral), energising Maca powder (also known as Peruvian ginseng), coconut butter or clarified butter, one of the foundations of Indian ayurvedic cuisine.
4/ It can be dangerous
TRUE. While a severe restriction in carbohydrates forces the body to dig into its stores and therefore makes it easier to lose weight, it can also create havoc with the carbs, fats and protein the body needs to work properly. Like any diet which is not balanced, there are risks of adopting it, particularly long-term. It is best to adopt it as an intense treatment, for a maximum of three months. And if you have any doubts, feel unusually tired or have digestive problems, immediately contact your doctor or nutritionist. In fact, originally, this diet was only prescribed by doctors.
5/ It has health benefits
TRUE. People aren’t always aware, but this diet has been used for more than a century to treat various neurological diseases, in particular epilepsy. By reducing blood glucose levels, a ketogenic diet pushes the body to adapt to deprivations and dig into the body’s stores to produce energy. Rather than finding this energy in carbs, the body finds it in fat. The liver produces acetone and acetoacetate before turning them into ketonic bodies (or ketones), responsible for providing the neurones with energy. That is why certain specialists think that this extremely restrictive diet slows down Alzheimer’s but can also stop the progression of certain cancers, for example, by changing the way in which sick cells find energy.
Interviewed by Éléonore A. Bénit, journalist and influencer