Keto Diet: Full of Potential or Full of It?
This article comes from a place deep in my heart: my arteries. Arteries which are, at this time, hurting for anyone on the keto diet. It took me six months to put my money where my mouth is and try the diet for myself—so here’s the scoop.
I was first introduced to the ketogenic diet on a foggy spring morning at work. I poured a piping hot cup of coffee for a customer, handed it to her with a complimentary chocolate, said “enjoy,” and turned around to brew another pot.
“Excuse me,” a startlingly confident voice spoke behind me, “do you have any butter?” All she ordered was a coffee, so what did this woman need butter for? To moisturize? As lip balm? To finally remove that tight wedding ring and tell Chad that he never deserved her? I was almost eager to find out.
I nonchalantly passed her a small plastic pot of butter. “Sure, here you go.” I watched and waited.
“Um,” she started, “do you have any more?”
“How many do you need?”
“Like…” she thought, “five?” Obediently, like the minimum-wage coffee slave that I am, I passed her five pots of butter and watched, one by one, as she plopped them into her coffee. They landed with a small splash and melted instantly. She stirred the hellish concoction until a shiny film of fat lined the surface of her drink. She picked up the cup, tilted it back, sipped, and my eyes went wide. “Thanks!” is all she left me with—no explanation, let alone closure, for the horror I had just observed.
It would be another three months of cracking jokes with coworkers about drinking butter before I had a second run-in with the keto diet and its loyal followers. More people, more butter—but still no explanation. Fast-forward another month and some guy is filling half his cup with 35% whipping cream. I had to get to the bottom of this. As it turns out, searching “drink whipping cream” is surprisingly effective in narrowing down one’s motivation to the keto diet.
The keto diet focuses on increasing fat intake and decreasing carb intake. While carbohydrates normally make up about 80% of a person’s caloric intake, it should only make up about 5% for anyone on the keto diet, while fats should account for about 65% percent of caloric intake, leaving the rest for protein. Oh, and no sugar. It takes under a week of eating this way for the body to enter “ketosis”, at which point your body will begin producing ketones and burning fat as a form of energy. The diet is praised for its fast results and even has celebrity endorsement (I’m looking at you, Megan Fox).
In my experience, it is certainly effective in the short term. I lost about seven pounds right off the bat in the first week after entering ketosis, most of which I suspect was water weight, as carbohydrates store water. I continued for another couple weeks, losing about another three pounds weekly, before I stopped. Sure, I missed the spontaneity of eating a larger variety of foods, and the rumored keto flu is no joke, but it was effective enough. So why did I stop? Well, truth be told, I didn’t think it would actually work, and I wasn’t particularly interested in losing weight at the time. But there are more reasons to be wary of the keto diet.
The keto diet, due to its restrictive nature, is not only difficult to maintain long-term, but can also result in numerous vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Kidney stones and decreased bone mineral density are also notable concerns. But above all, there exists a debate surrounding heart health and the dramatic increase in fat intake that the keto diet demands. The risks posed by trans fats and saturated fats can be curbed by the diligent dieter, but the exact numbers can be difficult to track, leading many people to fall by the wayside. So what does this mean for your arteries? With the rising popularity of the keto diet, more and more studies are being published examining the risks of increased saturated fat intake, with some suggesting that the diet is safe, and others warning that it is only safe short-term.
Perhaps only time and science will tell whether the keto diet is the biggest thing since sliced bread (pun totally intended) or just another health-food fad, but one thing is for sure: I will eat my cinnamon buns if it kills me.