A ketogenic diet has advantages and disadvantages. It is said to help with weight loss and epilepsy, but the high-fat diet can also have negative effects.
What is a ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet is a low-carb but high-fat diet. It mainly includes fatty foods such as FischCheese, nuts or Avocados. Low-carbohydrate vegetables such as zucchini or cucumbers are also on the menu. Fruit is rarely found on the menu because it has a very high fructose, i.e. fruit sugar, content.
In the classic ketogenic diet, around 80 to 85 percent fat, 10 to 15 percent protein and around 5 percent carbohydrates are allowed. For comparison: The nutrition association “Die Deutsche Gesellschaft” recommends 55 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat and around 15 percent protein for a balanced diet.
What is happening in the body
Normally, the human body gets most of its energy from carbohydrates. It breaks down glucose, converts it and stores the glycogen obtained. The problem with this: If there is too much glucose, the sugar is converted into fat and deposited – fat pads develop. With a ketogenic diet and thus the extensive renunciation of carbohydrates, the body adapts. First, it taps into its stores in the liver and muscles. If these stores are empty, the body switches to the so-called ketosis metabolism after several days. This means that it forms ketone bodies from fatty acids. These breakdown products of fat metabolism now provide the necessary energy. The body burns fat and the fat pads are broken down.
What speaks against a ketogenic diet?
While the ketogenic diet can help with weight loss, there are also health risks. “On the one hand, we eat a lot of fat, which means less fruit and fewer vegetables. There can be nutrient deficiencies. There are water changes. You can, so to speak, dehydrate, but of course you don’t have to. There are electrolyte changes and that can cause kidney stones to form. Blood sugar levels drop. That doesn’t happen to everyone who does something like this. But it’s a possibility that can occur,” explains nutritionist Jann Arends from the University Hospital in Freiburg. In addition, when fat burning is switched up, acetone is produced in the body for one to two weeks. Since some of this is also exhaled, you can even smell it.
Ketogenic diet and epilepsy
Again and again Arends meets patients who not only want to lose weight through ketogenic nutrition, but also hope, for example, for a cure for cancer. “We know that cancer cells burn more sugar than healthy cells. And then it is perhaps obvious, it makes sense to reduce sugar in the diet – carbohydrates in the diet – to largely avoid it. But we know that even if we completely avoid it carbohydrates, sugar is still present in the blood. So we can never achieve complete sugar depletion. And on the other hand, there are probably no reliable studies on this basis that show that cancer can actually be influenced with it,” explains the nutritionist.
So there are no reliable scientific studies for the improvement of diseases through the ketogenic diet. But: With some diseases there are observations that suggest a positive effect of the ketogenic diet. This applies, for example, to congenital metabolic diseases or Epilepsy in children too. According to Arends, a ketogenic diet has the effect, especially in children who have a lot of cramps and whose medication cannot be controlled well, that the cramp tendency is either completely eliminated or significantly reduced in half to three quarters.
Beware of certain pre-existing conditions
However, there are also previous illnesses for which Arends advises against a fatty diet. For example, people with diabetes or chronic kidney disease should be careful. The same applies to people who are affected by diseases that lead to…