Here’s what we do know: The keto diet may be useful in treating symptoms of epilepsy, a seizure disorder. “The use of keto in treating epilepsy has the most evidence,” Angelone says. One study conducted by Johns Hopkins Medicine, for example, followed epileptic patients on the keto diet and found that 36 percent of them had a 50 percent reduction in seizures after three months on the diet, and 16 percent were seizure-free. However, experts aren't entirely sure why the keto diet has this affect, she adds.
But what’s lost in the many trend articles and books about “going keto” for weight loss today is that this diet is the same one the now-late Dr. Robert Atkins and other low-carb evangelists have been selling since the 1960s. (Diet peddlers have an incredible knack for rebranding old ideas over and over, and in our eternal confusion about what to eat, we keep falling for it all.) 

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When I recently asked Hall what his research tells us about weight loss with the ketogenic diet, he said simply: “The idea is that low-carb, ketogenic diets cause your body to burn way more calories, resulting in a lot of weight loss, even if you eat more than you were eating before. But our studies, as well as many others, demonstrate nothing of the sort.”

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With Type 2 diabetes, the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or becomes insulin-resistant, so it can’t move glucose from the blood into the cells for energy. Eating carbs results in an increase in blood glucose — so if you vastly cut down your carbs, your blood glucose levels won’t go up as much, and you won’t need as much insulin to manage blood sugars. It’s not surprising that researchers have been finding that people who follow a ketogenic diet can better manage their blood sugar by cutting down their carbs.
Another difference between older and newer studies is that the type of patients treated with the ketogenic diet has changed over time. When first developed and used, the ketogenic diet was not a treatment of last resort; in contrast, the children in modern studies have already tried and failed a number of anticonvulsant drugs, so may be assumed to have more difficult-to-treat epilepsy. Early and modern studies also differ because the treatment protocol has changed. In older protocols, the diet was initiated with a prolonged fast, designed to lose 5–10% body weight, and heavily restricted the calorie intake. Concerns over child health and growth led to a relaxation of the diet's restrictions.[19] Fluid restriction was once a feature of the diet, but this led to increased risk of constipation and kidney stones, and is no longer considered beneficial.[18]
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used primarily to treat difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Normally, the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is particularly important in fueling brain function. However, if little carbohydrate remains in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood, a state known as ketosis, leads to a reduction in the frequency of epileptic seizures.[1] Around half of children and young people with epilepsy who have tried some form of this diet saw the number of seizures drop by at least half, and the effect persists even after discontinuing the diet.[2] Some evidence indicates that adults with epilepsy may benefit from the diet, and that a less strict regimen, such as a modified Atkins diet, is similarly effective.[1] Potential side effects may include constipation, high cholesterol, growth slowing, acidosis, and kidney stones.[3]

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A dirty keto diet also follows the standard keto diet but with disregard to the nutrient value or quality of the food consuming. For example, you could go to a fast food restaurant and order a bunless cheeseburger chased down with a diet soda and still be keto. This works if you’re traveling and really have no better options, but is not recommended in the long run because of a host of negative effects, such as the inflammation, cravings, increased blood pressure due to the high sodium, and bloating. 

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This seminal randomized trial, published in JAMA in 2007, involved 300 women and measured their weight loss on the Atkins diet compared to the Zone, Learn, and Ornish diets. The researchers found that while women on Atkins shed a few more pounds, the weight loss on low-carb diets was “likely to be at least as large as for any other dietary pattern” and “the magnitude of weight loss [on Atkins] was modest, with a mean 12-month weight loss of only 4.7 kg.” In other words, long-term weight loss on Atkins wasn’t meaningfully different from the other diets.
According to history, the ketogenic diet was originally designed in the 1920s to treat pediatric epilepsy. The idea has been abandoned due to the rise of a number of epilepsy and seizure medications. Seeing that it has a lot of health benefits, medical doctors modified the diet for different purposes (e.g, weight loss). It’s actually very similar to Atkin’s Diet and somewhat related to South Beach and Paleo diets.
One of the latest trends in weight-loss diets, the ketogenic or “keto” diet is so effective for some of its devotees that it may be here to stay. So, what exactly is this diet that you’ve heard so much — or so little — about? Simply put, a keto diet drastically reduces the amount of carbs you eat and increases the amount of healthy fats you consume. A percentage of protein is allowed. This is supposed to put your body in the metabolic state of “ketosis” where it burns fat instead of carbs. Sounds simple enough until you try to eat that way 24/7!

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Those issues can be part of what's known as the “keto flu,” Warren says. Other side effects of the keto diet, all of which are tied to carb withdrawal, can include lightheadedness, nausea, mental fog, cramps, and headaches, in addition to tiredness. Luckily, the keto flu doesn't usually last more than a week—which is coincidentally about when people start to see the number on the scale go down, says Warren. 

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Make things yourself. While it’s extremely convenient to buy most things pre-made or pre-cooked, it always adds to the price per pound on items. Try prepping veggies ahead of time instead of buying pre-cut ones. Try making your stew meat from a chuck roast. Or, simply try to make your mayo and salad dressings at home. The simplest of things can work to cut down on your overall grocery shopping.
DEXA scans are proven to be the most accurate measurement of body fat. They’re commonly available at gyms and some doctor offices when requested. If you don’t have access to this, you can always go the old-fashioned route and use a good quality caliper. The last resort is using a guide to visually estimate – this can sometimes be a little bit inaccurate, so try to over estimate your body fat percentage.

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Probably, and there are a few reasons why the keto diet usually equals weight-loss gold, says Keatley. For starters, people usually reduce their daily caloric intake to about 1,500 calories a day because healthy fats and lean proteins make you feel fuller sooner—and for a longer period of time. And then there’s the fact that it takes more energy to process and burn fat and protein than carbs, so you're burning slightly more calories than you did before. Over time, this can lead to weight loss.

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The first modern study of fasting as a treatment for epilepsy was in France in 1911.[12] Twenty epilepsy patients of all ages were "detoxified" by consuming a low-calorie vegetarian diet, combined with periods of fasting and purging. Two benefited enormously, but most failed to maintain compliance with the imposed restrictions. The diet improved the patients' mental capabilities, in contrast to their medication, potassium bromide, which dulled the mind.[13]

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Skinfold Calipers: Skin calipers are affordable and easy to get on Amazon. Your local gym most likely has them too. A skinfold caliper works by pinching one area of your skin that folds easily (like your belly and back), in three to ten different areas of your body to measure your subcutaneous fat. That measurement is then used in a formula to calculate your body fat percentage. If you’ve never done this before, let a physician or coach do it first and teach you how to read the measurements accurately so you can do it at home next times.


Thank you, Maya! That helps a lot. I’ve had a difficult time with some tracking apps, because it goes by what others put in and finding an exact match is tough. I like your idea of just tracking for the day. I thought about getting a notebook and doing it that way. I’ll ponder that. Thank you for adding the nutritional info on each recipe. That helps so much!

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Children who discontinue the diet after achieving seizure freedom have about a 20% risk of seizures returning. The length of time until recurrence is highly variable, but averages two years. This risk of recurrence compares with 10% for resective surgery (where part of the brain is removed) and 30–50% for anticonvulsant therapy. Of those who have a recurrence, just over half can regain freedom from seizures either with anticonvulsants or by returning to the ketogenic diet. Recurrence is more likely if, despite seizure freedom, an electroencephalogram shows epileptiform spikes, which indicate epileptic activity in the brain but are below the level that will cause a seizure. Recurrence is also likely if an MRI scan shows focal abnormalities (for example, as in children with tuberous sclerosis). Such children may remain on the diet longer than average, and children with tuberous sclerosis who achieve seizure freedom could remain on the ketogenic diet indefinitely.[46]

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Children who discontinue the diet after achieving seizure freedom have about a 20% risk of seizures returning. The length of time until recurrence is highly variable, but averages two years. This risk of recurrence compares with 10% for resective surgery (where part of the brain is removed) and 30–50% for anticonvulsant therapy. Of those who have a recurrence, just over half can regain freedom from seizures either with anticonvulsants or by returning to the ketogenic diet. Recurrence is more likely if, despite seizure freedom, an electroencephalogram shows epileptiform spikes, which indicate epileptic activity in the brain but are below the level that will cause a seizure. Recurrence is also likely if an MRI scan shows focal abnormalities (for example, as in children with tuberous sclerosis). Such children may remain on the diet longer than average, and children with tuberous sclerosis who achieve seizure freedom could remain on the ketogenic diet indefinitely.[46]

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Compared to the baseline diet, the low-carb diet did not cause subjects to experience an increase in fat loss. To be more specific, it took the full 28 days on the low-carb diet for the subjects to lose the same amount of fat as they did in the last 15 days on the baseline (higher-carb) diet that wasn’t even designed to get them to lose weight. The researchers did not find evidence of big benefits regarding energy expenditure or fat loss after switching to a low-carb diet.

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Hi Michelle, You don’t necessarily have to “hit” macros to get into ketosis. Ketosis is achieved by restricting carbohydrates, that’s it. Fat is needed for satiety and protein is needed to prevent muscle loss. So make protein a goal and carbs a limit, then eat enough fat to stay satisfied and don’t go over your macros. You can get more individual help in our support group.

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While the evidence behind ketogenic diets for diabetes is still preliminary and the evidence for weight loss isn’t all that convincing (more on that next), the evidence of using the diet to treat epilepsy is extremely robust. The idea for treating people with epilepsy with the keto diet came about in the 1920s, when researchers observed that people who fasted experienced fewer seizures. (Researchers still aren’t sure why the diet can work for epilepsy, but a few mechanisms have been proposed, including making neurons more resilient during seizures.)

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Let’s face it: a ketogenic diet is not the easiest diet to follow — or understand! This is why we love books that simplify the process, like Keto Made Easy: 100+ Easy Keto Dishes Made Fast to Fit Your Life. You don’t have to miss out on your favorite foods with these easy-to-follow, easy-to-make recipes from this popular food blogger duo. It also has five meal plans for different kinds of keto diets, including vegetarian. A Bible for many keto dieters, Leanne Vogel’s The Keto Diet Book: The Complete Guide to a High-Fat Diet not only boasts 125 recipes but also is a great resource chock full of information to answer your every question about this sometimes perplexing diet. We love that it has five 28-day meal plans, taking the stress out of planning every meal for weeks or even months on end.

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But beyond that, experts aren't convinced that the keto diet has any other scientifically-proven health benefits. In fact, it may have some distinct downsides. If you follow the keto diet incorrectly, for example (like by eating lots of saturated fats, versus healthy unsaturated fats), you're at risk of raising your cholesterol levels. “The best strategy to keep your heart healthy is to get as much fat as possible from unsaturated sources such as olive, avocado and canola oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives," says Ansel.

With Type 2 diabetes, the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or becomes insulin-resistant, so it can’t move glucose from the blood into the cells for energy. Eating carbs results in an increase in blood glucose — so if you vastly cut down your carbs, your blood glucose levels won’t go up as much, and you won’t need as much insulin to manage blood sugars. It’s not surprising that researchers have been finding that people who follow a ketogenic diet can better manage their blood sugar by cutting down their carbs.


A keto diet has shown to improve triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels most associated with arterial buildup. More specifically low-carb, high-fat diets show a dramatic increase in HDL and decrease in LDL particle concentration compared to low-fat diets.3A study in the long-term effects of a ketogenic diet shows a significant reduction in cholesterol levels, body weight, and blood glucose. Read more on keto and cholesterol >

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Hi Mellisa, I still recommend eating a variety of vegetables on a keto diet! You can include low carb berries as well. That being said, a multivitamin usually can’t hurt anything, so you definitely can if you feel like you are missing something. As always, I’m not a doctor and recommend consulting with your doctor for ultimate recommendations on these types of questions.
Those issues can be part of what's known as the “keto flu,” Warren says. Other side effects of the keto diet, all of which are tied to carb withdrawal, can include lightheadedness, nausea, mental fog, cramps, and headaches, in addition to tiredness. Luckily, the keto flu doesn't usually last more than a week—which is coincidentally about when people start to see the number on the scale go down, says Warren.

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Long-term use of the ketogenic diet in children increases the risk of slowed or stunted growth, bone fractures, and kidney stones.[18] The diet reduces levels of insulin-like growth factor 1, which is important for childhood growth. Like many anticonvulsant drugs, the ketogenic diet has an adverse effect on bone health. Many factors may be involved such as acidosis and suppressed growth hormone.[38] About one in 20 children on the ketogenic diet develop kidney stones (compared with one in several thousand for the general population). A class of anticonvulsants known as carbonic anhydrase inhibitors (topiramate, zonisamide) are known to increase the risk of kidney stones, but the combination of these anticonvulsants and the ketogenic diet does not appear to elevate the risk above that of the diet alone.[39] The stones are treatable and do not justify discontinuation of the diet.[39] Johns Hopkins Hospital now gives oral potassium citrate supplements to all ketogenic diet patients, resulting in one-seventh of the incidence of kidney stones.[40] However, this empiric usage has not been tested in a prospective controlled trial.[9] Kidney stone formation (nephrolithiasis) is associated with the diet for four reasons:[39]
When you approach your normal body weight, the weight loss will slow. Just remember, a “normal” body weight differs from person to person depending on our genetics and environmental exposures and may not fit what we see in the popular media. The weight loss won’t go on forever. As long as you follow the advice to eat when you are hungry, you will eventually stabilize your weight.

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After increasing water intake and replacing electrolytes, it should relieve most all symptoms of Keto Flu. For an average person that is starting a ketogenic diet, eating 20-30g of net carbs a day, the entire adaptation process will take about 4-5 days. My advice is to cut your carbs to fewer than 15g to ensure that you are well on your way into ketosis within one week. If you are experiencing any more keto flu symptoms, double check your electrolyte intake and adjust.

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This is a delicious collection of recipes for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, sweet and savory snacks, drinks, and extra-fatty sauces. The recipes are packed with handy extras that make them even easier to use and adapt, from portion sizes to comprehensive nutrition information to substitutions for those with dietary restrictions, such as vegetarians and people with food allergies.

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