What you need to know about the diet’s rise in popularity and the effect it has on the body. 

Originally a way to treat epilepsy, the keto diet has since turned into a diet trend for weight loss. As an abundance of store products were being distributed on market shelves and restaurants started adding keto options to their menu at a rapid rate, there was no denying this diet was a fad. But is it more than that? 

The word “keto” is an abbreviation of “ketogenic.” The diet entails, “a high-fat, low-carb plan that restricts your carb intake to only 5-10% of your daily calories,” said Leah Groth of Health.com. 

The diet is popular, yet many are still skeptical. Some list the diet as a “lose weight fast” diet, while others say that there are not enough long-term studies to diagnose the diet as either good or bad.  Either way, one thing is clear: people are buzzing about going keto. 

Though many love it, critics say keto is just another fad diet. A fad diet is designed to be marketed as fast weight loss. These kinds of diets are typically associated with eliminating whole food groups from your diet, something critics deem as unsafe or unhealthy. With keto, the primary focus is on limited carbohydrate intake, which many fear could affect the body in a negative manner. 

Over the years, the diet has slowly shifted from being seen as a temporary plan to shed pounds to something many claims to be a permanent lifestyle choice. The idea is to balance fat, protein and carbohydrates so your body enters a state of ketosis. 

In ketosis, the body switches from burning carbs for fuel to burning fat for fuel. For this to happen, the normal intake of carbs on keto is 20 – 50 grams per day. The diet usually includes lots of meats, nuts, cheese, fish, butter, oils, seeds and fibrous vegetables. For an extensive look at the science behind ketosis visit Harvard’s breakdown of the diet. 

The diet has been criticized for not being a lifestyle you can maintain.  People have similar complaints about Whole 30, Paleo and the Mediterranean diet. There are  varying stances on the keto diet’s call to follow a specific food regime in order to lose weight fast. 

“You technically need to be consuming less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day, which is extremely low. It’s not really sustainable because our bodies require glycogen glucose. It is our primary preferred source of energy,” said Guillermo Escalante, associate professor of kinesiology at Cal State San Bernadino. 

It is not ideal for sports performance. It is not ideal for brain functioning because your brain alone requires 130 grams of glucose per day for it to function properly,” continued Escalante.

Professor Escalante gave an analogy to understand the harms that may come when eliminating food groups from the diet. 

He states, “If you were a sports car and you need 99 octane fuel. Could you work that sports car with 87 octane fuel? Sure it will work. But will [it] work as efficiently and as effectively as it would if you gave it the fuel it needed.”  

Despite people’s misgivings about  keto, the lifestyle is predicted to grow to a 17.8 billion dollar market by 2026. This growth is thought to be linked to the increasing concern of obesity in North America, which has caused many citizens to look for options to live a healthier life. The CDC reports that the adult obesity prevalence was at 42.4 %  as of 2008, and as of 2008, America spends about $147 billion on obesity medical aid annually.  

As the diet continuously skyrockets in popularity, keto options are popping up at restaurants and food chains all across the country. Fast-food chains like Chipotle and El Pollo Loco offer keto options on their menu.  Beverage chains are also in on the craze, with places like Dutch Bros Coffee providing customers with a ketogenic coffee option. 

In terms of your in-store keto options, Nestle, Danone, BPI Health and Love Good Fats (The Good Fat Co. Ltd.) are some of the companies that are pioneering the keto movement. From keto bread, yogurt, cookies and snacks, many companies have produced numerous products that are on grocery stores shelves.

Social media has also played a role in the diet’s rise as many lifestyle bloggers have joined the keto movement. Matt and Megha started the brand Keto Connect which acts as a guide for those wanting to stay on a ketogenic diet. Their Youtube channel has gained over a million subscribers and has an Instagram following of 400,000. 

Despite lifestyle bloggers helping people try to sustain this diet, Harvard health says this could be dangerous. “We also do not know much about its long-term effects, probably because [the diet] is so hard to stick with that people can’t eat this way for a long time,” says Harvard health.

If you are going to try keto, it is important to research whether or not the diet will fit into your lifestyle and if it’s sustainable for you. Things like diet planning, working out or giving up certain food groups are all things to consider when starting any diet.