You’ve no doubt heard of it, and maybe you’ve seen the before-and-after Instagram posts. Perhaps you know someone who has lost weight on it. Or, perhaps you’ve even tried it yourself.
It’s safe to say the keto diet is the latest craze sweeping the U.S. But unlike the Atkins or South Beach diets, which have come and gone in recent decades — and both of which are modified keto diets — the keto diet has been around for nearly a century. Both scientific and anecdotal evidence support its medical applications and efficacy. Why has it become so popular recently in the news and popular media?
What Is the Keto Diet?
The keto diet — short for the ketogenic diet — is a high-fat, low-carb diet. This method of dieting is effective because depriving the body of carbs will cause a shift in its metabolic process, which consequently causes a shift in the kind of fat it burns. Instead of fueling itself off of carbohydrates, the body will instead burn ketones during the process of ketosis. Hence, the “ketogenic” name.
When the body reaches ketosis and begins using ketones as fuel, it burns the fat that it holds in reserve — i.e., all that extra weight stored in the thighs, hips, belly and butt. Ketones are also a great source of energy for the brain, which is why the keto diet is known to improve brain health, too.
Here are three reasons the keto diet is so dang popular right now.
1. It’s Fairly Easy
No diet is easy, per se, but the keto diet offers food options that are high in fat and thus fill you up. Not feeling full is why many dieters struggle with low-fat dieting options.
The keto diet lets dieters eat all the good stuff — whole milk, cheese, avocados, meat and poultry, eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, coconut oil, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds, berries and low-carb vegetables like broccoli, kale, and squash. Snacking between meals is fine, too — as long as the snack foods follow the low-carb, high-fat formula.
However, going on a low-carb, high-fat diet means the body likely has to adjust to its new conditions. Consequently, dieters will probably go through a transition period where they feel fatigued and foggy-headed for the first few weeks.
2. It Can Work
Many people have seen results on the keto diet. When it comes to dieting, keto can definitely work, and a wealth of research supports this.
Of course, with all diets, many personal factors come into play when it comes to the diet’s success, including the dieter’s genetics, unique body chemistry and adherence to the diet.
Other factors include a person’s current diet. If they’re already achieving ketosis on what they eat regularly, jumping into the keto diet will probably not have much of an effect. Also, if the person is already close to a healthy weight, or if their body considers their weight close to optimal, it will be difficult to get to a lower weight.
3. It Has Helped People with Certain Diseases Find Relief
A wealth of scientific research exists to back up more than just the weight loss claims behind the keto diet. This form of diet has been shown to help people treat a range of medical conditions, including:
- Seizure disorders: Interestingly, the keto diet was first developed as a way to treat children with seizures back in the 1920s. It lost popularity with the advent of anti-epileptic medications, but patients still find relief from epilepsy on the keto diet.
- Autism spectrum disorder: Putting children with autism spectrum disorder the on a gluten-free keto diet improved certain behavioral issues for these children, including easing their agitation and social fears.
- Alzheimer’s disease: The keto diet has been shown to improve cognitive function in people with Alzheimer’s disease since the fats in the keto diet stimulate brain function through the process of ketosis.
- Cancer: Human research is still lacking on this topic, but studies on mice have shown that a keto diet supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids and MCT oil slowed tumor growth and decreased the blood supply to tumors.
- Diabetes: This is a bit of a mixed bag since the keto diet might increase complications in patients with uncontrolled diabetes. But if you have your diabetes under control, one study found that diabetics on the keto diet had decreased cholesterol and weight, and their waistlines also shrunk.
The Keto Craze Continues
Whether dieters decide to jump on the bandwagon or not, it’s clear that the keto craze is here to stay — at least for now. Of course, people should always consult with a doctor before going on a new diet, especially if they have existing medical conditions.