Is the Keto Diet more efficient for people with Metabolic Syndrome than a standard American diet with regular exercise?
Researchers at Bethel University in Minnesota think so.
But dietitians say it may not be that simple.
The researchers undertook to find out if a sustained and controlled ketogenic diet would reduce the impact of the metabolic syndrome as well as the weight, body mass index (BMI) and body fat mass of the study participants.
They brought together a group of 30 adults who had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, a set of conditions that occur at the same time.
Conditions may include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat in size and abnormal cholesterol levels.
People with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
The researchers randomly divided the participants into three groups.
One group followed a sustained ketogenic diet without physical exercise.
Another followed a standard American diet without physical exercise.
The third followed a standard American diet with 30 minutes of exercise for three to five days a week.
At the end of the 10-week period, the ketogenic group had the best results in reducing weight, body fat percentage and BMI.
“All variables in the ketogenic group outperformed those in the exercise and non-exercise groups, and five of the seven variables demonstrated statistical significance,” the authors wrote.
Theoretical background to the keto regime
The ketogenic diet (sometimes called “keto”) is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that consists of significantly reducing the number of carbohydrates you consume and replacing them with fat.
The body reacts to this reduction by passing into a state called ketosis.
“Carbohydrates are the main fuel that our body has been designed to use and the only fuel that the brain and heart muscles use. When we don’t eat enough carbohydrates, the body looks for other forms of energy to fulfill this role. Without carbohydrates, our insulin levels decrease and fats are released by our cells. The liver turns fat into ketones, our body’s second choice for energy,” said Lauri Wright, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Public Health at the University of South Florida, Healthline.
The keto diet has been used in medicine in conjunction with other therapies to help children with epilepsy. This is done under supervised conditions with a health professional.
The question is whether the diet can be used safely for weight loss.
“The ketogenic diet seems safe in the short term (like this 10-week study). However, we don’t have much evidence that it is safe in the long term or sustainable,” said Jennifer McDaniel, Registered Dietitian, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at Healthline.
Mr. Wright noted that there is a concern that a long-term keto regime could be detrimental.
“Since the excretion of ketones can increase pressure in the kidneys, there is concern about the effects on kidney function. There is also concern about the loss of muscle mass resulting from dependence on ketones for fuel,” she says.