Actor's Death Revives Debate On Safety Of Keto Diet

Keto diets involve consuming foods with low carbohydrate levels and higher fat levels

Twenty-seven-year-old actress Mishti Mukherjee passed away in Bangalore after suffering a renal failure. Several media reports cited a statement put forth by her family which blamed her ketogenic diet for her kidney failing resulting in her death.

Ketogenic diets, that have emerged as the ultimate weight-loss fad, involves following a diet rich in fats and deficient in carbohydrates. BOOM spoke to dietitian Geeta Shenoy, who runs her own nutrition and wellness clinic in Chembur, Mumbai to understand the pros and cons of this diet which has been adopted by several celebrities to reduce weight.

Initially recommended as a medical nutritional therapy, this diet has become people's go-to for seeing quick results in their weight loss journey. "In medical nutrition, ketogenic diets are recommended and applied for epilepsy and Alzheimer's where the levels of neurotransmitters are affected," says Shenoy.

The diet assists in reducing weight and is followed more for the weight-loss purpose over its health benefits in medical therapy. It, is only a short-term respite and its long term benefits still have to be studied, reported a dietitian from Harvard University.

What Is The Keto Diet

The ketogenic diet is derived from the word ketosis which is an energy and metabolism pathway adopted by the body. It requires cutting down the intake of carbohydrates such as grains, and legumes and glucose (sugar), the main energy source of the body and undergo either gluconeogenesis or ketosis. As the body is starved of carbohydrates which produce glucose, the body searches for other molecules to meet the energy deprivation.

In gluconeogenesis, the body resorts to non-carbohydrates to produce glucose. However, in ketogenic diets, the levels of glucose fall. The body, thus, depends on the fatty acid reserves which get broken down into ketones in the liver and provide energy to the body. This process, assists in rapid weight loss as the consumed fatty food is constantly being broken down to provide energy to the body. Foods such as healthy oils, nuts and seeds, avocadoes, fish are rich in fatty acids.

The body is deprived of most other essential elements while following this diet. People are asked to be disciplined to sustain this diet as it is rigorous and could take a toll if not followed properly.

"The fundamental foundation for following this diet is that food consumption has to be accurate with no scope for deviation. One cannot have cheat diets. Also, people following this diet have to consume supplements such as multivitamins and fibrous foods to balance out their diets," explains Shenoy.

Steps To Take Into Consideration Before Adopting The Keto Diet

Shenoy emphasises that keto diets should be undertaken only after a thorough body check and blood work is carried out to ensure that the diet will not have any side-effects.

"Clients are scrutinised at every step. People with uric acid, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 1 diabetes, pregnant and lactating women are always excluded," says Shenoy.

While this diet does affect people with existing co-morbidities, it also helps in improving hormonal balance. "People with type 2 diabetes, PCOD see good results with the diet," adds Shenoy.

Studies point out that low-carb and ketogenic diets are linked to lower mortality rates and have also helped people to stop seeking medication for diabetes. However, these have been debated as the most popular of them, The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology conducted across 18 countries propagating low-carb diets was only an observational study.

Discussing the specific case of Mukherjee, Shenoy refused to comment without knowing the specifics of the case and states that without underlying problems such adverse reactions are highly unlikely.

"People mistake this high-fat diet for high-protein diet and consume a lot of protein which could affect the kidneys," Shenoy adds. Along with high-intake of eggs, paneer, meat, the focus should shift to consuming fat-rich food such as olive, avocado, and almond oils, and nuts.

Fastest Way To Weight Loss Riddled With Challenges

As the body is suddenly deprived of carbohydrates, it tends to affect people's mental health in the beginning. "Food is supposed to give comfort. The Feel- good factor lost while following this diet. Like we know that sugar and sugary drinks provide an immediate surge of energy. In the beginning, there could be dizziness, confusion, lack of concentration, but this is transient and one gets used to it"

Furthermore, a keto diet can only be followed for a short period. Returning to a normal balanced diet with the intake of carbohydrates requires guidance and a structured schedule. If not followed, the person tends to regain all the weight that they have lost while following the diet. "Weaning off from the diet needs to be gradual and supervised, as there is a good chance that the weight bounces back if not supervised", narrates Shenoy.

The absence of fibrous food and other nutrient-rich food also makes people rely on supplements rather than consuming nourishing food.

Shenoy concludes by providing us with alternative diets for losing weight that do not deprive one's body of all the essential nutrients that are a part of a balanced diet. "Traditional ways of portion and calorie control are the best alternatives for weight loss. In Indian context, we should consume fibre-rich foods and decrease our carbohydrate consumption but not give it up completely."

BOOM had earlier discussed ketogenic diets with Zarna Shah, dietitian and nutritionist.

Updated On: 2020-10-11T12:11:19+05:30
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