The idea behind the diet is that when your body doesn't get enough carbohydrates to use for energy, it quickly turns to stored fat and protein to supplement what you're eating. This process, called ketosis, gives the diet its name.
Although the keto diet has become very popular in the past few years as a weight loss diet, its history goes back to the 1920s, when it was introduced as a treatment for epilepsy.
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Potential benefits of a keto diet
The ketogenic diet can be an effective way to lose weight. It can help you lose more weight in the first few months than some other types of diets, according to WebMD. This may be because you feel more satisfied when you're following this type of diet, and end up eating less overall, or it could be due to the fact that it takes more calories to convert fat into energy than it does carbohydrates.
In addition, the keto diet may yield the following health benefits:
- Lowering your body's demand for insulin
- Improving blood pressure
- Improving levels of unhealthy cholesterol
- Lowering your risk of obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease
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Potential health risks of a keto diet
A weight loss diet is ideally a plan that you can follow for the long-term – even for a lifetime of healthy eating – but the keto diet can be hard to maintain over time, as you may start to crave carbs. And although it's thought to cause weight loss in the short term, the long-term effects of following this type of diet aren't completely understood.
A keto diet can also cause the following side effects:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Difficulty sleeping
- Brain fog
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
The process of ketosis can go too far, causing your blood to become acidic. This condition, called ketoacidosis, can cause bad breath, headaches, dizziness and muscle cramps. In extreme instances, it can even lead to coma or death.
As with any diet, you should check with your doctor before starting the keto diet, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition.