Ketogenic Diet Article

Gretchen Dille

Summary

The article "What Is a Ketogenic Diet and Can It Really Boost Brain Health?" posted on Alternet.org (http://www.alternet.org/food/what-ketogenic-diet-and-can-it-really-boost-brain-health) on March 28, 2016 discusses the potential health benefits of a ketogenic diet. The benefits claimed include weight loss, improved diabetes status, and improved brain health. It compares and contrasts low-carb and ketogenic diets and states that the goal of a ketogenic diet is to increase blood levels of ketones, which can supply the brain with energy. In the ketogenic diet, protein is often restricted, and carbs are limited to 50 grams or less per day. (In the most restricted, the classic ketogenic diet, 2-4% of calories come from carbs, 6-10% from protein, and 85-90% from fat.) In the low-carb diet, carbs vary from 25-150 grams per day and protein is usually not restricted. The article states that the liver can produce glucose that it needs through the process called gluconeogenesis from amino acids and glycerol, which comes from triglycerides. The author of the article is a Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator.

Critique

The author is correct that ketogenic diets are beneficial for some conditions. Drug-resistant epilepsy can be helped by ketogenic diets and children can reduce the amount of medication needed by following a ketogenic diet. Many and perhaps all of the conditions mentioned by the author such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, etc. are being studied at universities and hospitals to determine if there are benefits to low-carb or ketogenic diets. The difference between the studies and the author's advice is that the studies are under the supervision of medical professionals and closely monitored. The author mentioned once in a very lengthy article that you may want to speak to your doctor before starting a ketogenic diet.
In the article, the author stated that the liver could produce glucose from glycerol and amino acids through gluconeogenesis. It is only possible for the liver to produce glucose from amino acids and carbohydrates, not glycerol or fatty acids. Since both carbs and protein are restricted on the diet, it is likely that there will be muscle wasting since there will likely be insufficient glucose to fuel the body, and the body will be forced to catabolize protein to make glucose.
If someone read the article and decided to try to follow a classic ketogenic diet where 85 to 90% of the calories come from fat, and didn't bother to consult a dietician or neurologist as indicated in the information about that particular diet, they would most likely be deficient in most minerals, most water soluble vitamins, some lipid soluble vitamins like K, get very little fiber or phytochemicals.
Overall, the author has some good information, but at the end of her article she says "These diets are not for everyone, but can have incredible benefits for a lot of people." It really sounds like she is promoting the ketogenic lifestyle for the majority and that seems irresponsible.