Another common effect of the ketogenic diet is “keto flu”: fatigue, lightheadedness, and dizziness people feel when they greatly reduce their carb intake. This effect should go away after the body adjusts to the diet, but staying on keto for a long time could lead to kidney stones, high cholesterol, constipation, slowed growth (in young people), and bone fractures. We actually don’t know whether keto is safe in the long term.
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Advocates for the diet recommend that it be seriously considered after two medications have failed, as the chance of other drugs succeeding is only 10%. The diet can be considered earlier for some epilepsy and genetic syndromes where it has shown particular usefulness. These include Dravet syndrome, infantile spasms, myoclonic-astatic epilepsy, and tuberous sclerosis complex.
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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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Since the ideal protein intake is fixed based on your lean mass and activity level and your net carbs intake is specified by you, the only macronutrient that needs adjusting is the fat intake. Your fat intake is used to adjust the calorie intake. The more fat, the more calories. Typically, you adjust fat so that you reach but not exceed your target calories.
In ketogenesis, our livers start to break down fat into a usable energy source called ketone bodies, or ketones for short. “Organs like the brain that normally rely primarily on glucose for fuel can begin to use a substantial amount of ketones,” said Kevin Hall, a National Institutes of Health senior investigator who has studied the ketogenic diet. So ketones can stand in for glucose as fuel for the body when there’s a glucose shortage. “It’s an amazing physiological adaption to starvation that allows tissues like the brain to survive,” Hall added.
The ketogenic diet is calculated by a dietitian for each child. Age, weight, activity levels, culture, and food preferences all affect the meal plan. First, the energy requirements are set at 80–90% of the recommended daily amounts (RDA) for the child's age (the high-fat diet requires less energy to process than a typical high-carbohydrate diet). Highly active children or those with muscle spasticity require more food energy than this; immobile children require less. The ketogenic ratio of the diet compares the weight of fat to the combined weight of carbohydrate and protein. This is typically 4:1, but children who are younger than 18 months, older than 12 years, or who are obese may be started on a 3:1 ratio. Fat is energy-rich, with 9 kcal/g (38 kJ/g) compared to 4 kcal/g (17 kJ/g) for carbohydrate or protein, so portions on the ketogenic diet are smaller than normal. The quantity of fat in the diet can be calculated from the overall energy requirements and the chosen ketogenic ratio. Next, the protein levels are set to allow for growth and body maintenance, and are around 1 g protein for each kg of body weight. Lastly, the amount of carbohydrate is set according to what allowance is left while maintaining the chosen ratio. Any carbohydrate in medications or supplements must be subtracted from this allowance. The total daily amount of fat, protein, and carbohydrate is then evenly divided across the meals.
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Another way to get into ketosis is by eating less than 20 grams of carbs — or a slice of bread — per day. So people on a ketogenic diet get about 5 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 15 percent from protein, and 80 percent from fat. Note that that’s a much lower ratio of protein and a lot more fat than you’d get on other low-carb diets, but it’s this ratio that will force the body to derive much of its energy from ketones. If you eat too much protein, or too many carbs, your body will be thrown out of ketosis.
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Total carbs is not a precise indicator of the carb content of a food. When you see “total carbs” on a food label, the number beside it represents the cumulative total of grams of dietary fiber, sugar, and sugar alcohol that are in that food item or beverage. Net carb content, on the other hand, relates to the carb content of the food that is digested at four calories per gram and impacts your ketones levels.
The ketogenic diet reduces seizure frequency by more than 50% in half of the patients who try it and by more than 90% in a third of patients. Three-quarters of children who respond do so within two weeks, though experts recommend a trial of at least three months before assuming it has been ineffective. Children with refractory epilepsy are more likely to benefit from the ketogenic diet than from trying another anticonvulsant drug. Some evidence indicates that adolescents and adults may also benefit from the diet.