What's the Deal with the Keto Diet?

The Ketogenic, or Keto, diet is a low-calorie, high-fat diet that has risen to recent popularity with the assistance of celebrity endorsements and social media.  This diet, however, may not be a healthy long-term option. The Keto diet emphasizes a low-calorie, low-carb, high-fat diet. The primary objective of the diet is to put your body in ketosis, which is a metabolic process in which we use fat for energy instead of sugar. Our body’s preferred energy source is carbohydrates. The Keto diet, however, forces our body to use fats instead. The diet has been used as medical nutrition therapy for those with neurological conditions but only under strict supervision.

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While the Keto diet often results in initial weight loss, dietitians warn that this initial loss may be due to the loss of water weight. Additionally, there are several potential health concerns related to the diet that include constipation, increase in LDL “bad” cholesterol, increased risk for chronic disease, and the long-term impact on the heart is unknown. There have been several studies in support of the Keto diet for weight loss, however, the diet comes with several downsides and there is not enough research on the long-term effects on our body from eating a high-fat diet. The Keto diet can also be rather difficult to follow and adhere to.

So what kind of diet is recommended? Dietitians suggest cutting back on ultra-processed, high carb foods (e.g., sugary beverages) and refined grains. They recommend that you eat nutritious carbs such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, low-fat dairy, and 100% whole grains. They note that there are effective diets that have strong research and evidence supporting short-term and long-term effects, such as the Mediterranean Diet.

While the Keto diet may lead to initial weight loss, adherence can be difficult and negative long-term health benefits are unknown. The diet may increase your risk of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. Further, more beneficial, evidence-support diets are available (e.g., Mediterranean Diet). The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help by providing healthy lifestyle consultations specific to nutrition and diet. We an assist with providing support for adhering to a healthy diet and supporting long-term health.

By Matt Lewandowski

Sources: Ketogenic Diets are B.S. for Weight Loss – Here’s Why. Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN – Good Housekeeping Institute – July 20, 2018; The 5 Most Common Arguments for the KetoDiet, Debunked. Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN – Good Housekeeping Institute – August 28, 2018;  Beuno, N., de Melo, I., de Oliveira, S., & da Rocha Ataide, T. (2013). Very-low-carb Ketogenicdiet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. British Journal of Nutrition, 110(7), 1178-1187.; Lima, P., de Brito Sampaio, L., & Damasceno, N. (2015). Ketogenicdiet in epileptic children: Impact on lipoproteins and oxidative stress. Nutritional Neuroscience, 18(8), 337-344. Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash. Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

Healthy Diet Linked to Improved Memory, Preventing Mental Illness

Research has found that eating a healthy diet long-term can help reduce hippocampus decline and can improve memory later in life. As we age, our hippocampus, which is the memory portion of the brain, naturally shrinks.  A smaller hippocampus has been found to be associated with cognitive decline.  Researchers found that adults who ate a higher-quality diet had significantly larger hippocampus.  This finding was independent of other factors such as smoking, physical activity, and demographic. A healthy diet is one that is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and legumes, omega-3 fats, and polyunsaturated fatty acids and limits sugar-sweetened drinks, red and processed meat, trans fat, and sodium-rich products.  Furthermore, researchers found that low alcohol intake was a key component in larger hippocampus volume.

This finding is important as a poor diet is the leading cause of early death across middle and high-income countries.  Additionally, mental health disorders have the highest burden of disabilities.  These researchers highlight the important connection between a healthy diet and improved memory.  Adopting a healthy diet can help to improve physical and mental health in addition to improving memory later in life.  The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help provide education on nutrition specific to your health needs and goals.  We can help by providing support for maintaining your diet long-term and therefore improving your physical and mental health.

By Matt Lewandowski


Sources. :  Akbaraly, et al. (2018).  Association of long-term diet quality with hippocampus volume:  Longitudinal cohort study.  The American Journal of Medicine; Healthy Midlife Diet May Preserve Memory, Prevent Mental Illness – Medscape – Sep 12, 2018.

Cardiovascular Disease and the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet includes eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish and limits the consumption of refined grains, oils, and processed meat.  Researchers have found that this diet has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.  Specifically, they found that an adherence to this diet resulted in a 25% reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease.  Furthermore, they found that incorporating this diet could have a similar benefit as statins and other preventative medications.  The reduced risk of CVD events may be attributable to a reduction in inflammation, glucose metabolism and insulin resistance, and a decrease in fat.  For those at a higher genetic risk for cardiovascular disease, the Mediterranean Diet might serve as a healthy diet for lowering their risk.

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The Mediterranean Diet is less of a strict diet and more of a way of life, in terms of dietary intake.  It is recommended that you eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, legumes, fish, and an emphasis on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids such as avocados, walnuts, and extra virgin olive oil.  A Mediterranean Diet involves eating poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation and eating red meat rarely.  It is recommended that you avoid consuming sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meats, and refined grains and oils.

Following the Mediterranean Diet can have multiple health benefits such as a decrease in fat and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.  The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help provide consultations specific to nutrition and education related to the Mediterranean Diet.  We can also provide support for maintaining and adhering to a healthy lifestyle and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease.

By Matt Lewandowski


Sources:  Mediterranean Diet Linked to Drop in CVD Risk, Batya Swift Yasgur.  Medscape– December 10, 2018; Mediterranean Diet 101:  A Meal Plan and Beginner’s Guide, Kris Gunnars.  Healthline– July 24, 2018; Ahmad, S., Moorthy, V., & Demler, D. (2018).  Assessment of risk factors and biomarkers associated with risk of cardiovascular disease among women consuming a Mediterranean diet.  JAMA, 1(8), e185708. Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash