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Email How do low-carb keto diets work, and what do ketosis and ketones mean? BBC Good Food and nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens take a closer look at ketogenic diets — what are they, what are the health claims behind the headlines, and are they healthy? How does the ketogenic diet work? This umbrella term can include diets such as the Atkins diet , Dukan diet and LCHF low carb, high fat diets such as the banting diet, although the ratios of fat, protein and carbs and other specific features of each diet e.

What is ketosis? Under normal circumstances our body uses glucose from carbohydrate foods for energy. In the absence of glucose a process called ketosis occurs. This is a state in which the body burns fats instead of carbohydrates as its main fuel source.

How are ketogenic diets used in a medical setting? It should be noted that using the diet in this context should not be attempted without the supervision of a specialised doctor. From these medical origins, the diet was picked up by the mainstream media and marketed as a weight loss regime — it is in this context that we will be discussing the diet for the purpose of this article.

What foods are allowed on a ketogenic diet? Foods that are generally allowed include high-fat meats, fish, oils, nuts, high-fat dairy such as cheese, and low-carb vegetables. Unsurprisingly, reducing carb levels means cutting out bread, pasta, rice, and most conventional baked goods. However, achieving such low levels of carbs also means skipping legumes, root vegetables, most fruits and starchy veggies, such as potatoes.

We asked nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens for her view Is it safe? Today, this natural physiological mechanism has been exploited by a number of low-carb diet regimes. An intake of high fat foods is likely to increase your saturated fat intake which current UK government guidelines recommend that we limit to 30g for men and 20g for women.

High levels of dietary protein are thought to be an issue if you have an underlying kidney condition. However, most ketogenic diets supply moderate rather than high levels of protein. Is it effective for weight loss, and is it sustainable? Ketogenic diets usually do cause weight loss and may improve insulin sensitivity in patients with diabetes. In fact when compared to a low-fat diet a ketogenic diet appears to achieve greater long term reductions in body weight.

However, the success long term is dependent on your ability to adapt your dietary habits once you start to introduce a more balanced and healthy approach to eating. How do the various versions of ketogenic diets differ? The Standard Ketogenic Diet SKD appears to be the most researched particularly with regard to its ability to help people lose weight and control blood sugar.

When following a ketogenic diet be sure to include plenty of non-starchy vegetables, like kale and spinach which are very low in carbohydrate. What should I do before starting a ketogenic diet? If you are interested in adopting this sort of diet you should consult your GP to confirm it is appropriate and safe for you to do so.

Before you start the diet, focus on liver-supportive foods like garlic and onions and try to reduce your intake of sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Who should be more careful about following a ketogenic diet? Diabetics, especially, type 1 diabetics are at risk of complications if they attempt to follow a ketogenic diet.

For this reason diabetics and anyone with a blood sugar management issue should discuss the potential implications with their GP and healthcare team before embarking on such a regime. Similarly anyone with kidney disease or a family history of such should consult their GP. The symptoms associated with ketosis are often temporary and may relate to dehydration. These may include headache, dry mouth, bad breath, fatigue and nausea.

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