As a health and wellness expert I have an interesting perch from which I can spot hot trends forming in the weight loss industry. As an industry consultant and expert, my work takes me across the country and into some of the most forward thinking companies in weight management. Additionally, I regularly attend conferences and summits on the future of health and wellness, keeping my ear to the ground for the trends that are gaining momentum in the community. The trend that has caught my eyemost recently is an interesting upswing of activity around what are commonly referred to a Ketogenic or Very Low Carbohydrate diets. An influx of newly released research that supports the principles around this type of dieting and the changes that were recently announced to the US Dietary Guidelines for 2015 are moving this trend forward fast.
A Ketogenic Diet is commonly defined as a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carbohydrate program. In many cases it is recommended that intake of carbohydrate be below 50 grams per day and in some cases even lower. (To put that in perspective, there are approximately 80 grams of carbohydrate in just one cup of macaroni pasta.) That leaves anywhere from 65-80% or more of one’s daily diet to be made up of the intake of fat and additionally a moderate intake of protein.
When one begins to ingest a very low amount of carbohydrate it begins a process in the body known as ketosis. This is a natural metabolic process, very simply put, in which your body switches from running on glucose to running on fat. It can occur in everyday existence on any type of diet after even a moderate fasting period like a long-nights sleep and skipped breakfast. The argument for this being a superior metabolic state stands on the premise that we have nearly endless stores of fat and tapping into them is a longer,superior energy source.
From my perspective, this trend has cycled around for some time. It has rolled in and out of fashion, but was demonized in it’s last cycle by widespread misunderstanding of the metabolic process, confusing the natural state of ketosis with the very dangerous state of “ketoacidosis”. These two mainly unrelated processes were interchanged and confused, scaring the general public away from the trend in the 2000’s. With the rise of some truly passionate doctors and some very strong research in support of the diet, the tide is turning once again. Interestingly this trend was called out in an article on Fitness Republic earlier this year as a hot trend for 2015 (link to article https://fitnessrepublic.com/nutrition/healthy_eating/2015s-trendiest-diets.html)
I had the real honor of getting the chance to communicate with one of the premier experts and a pioneer in the field of ketogenic diets, Dr. Stephen Phinney. I was interested in his perspective on this emerging trend. His response was clear “in my 40 years of involvement with this research, I have seen multiple cycles of low carb fads come and go.” He believes that in the past both poorly formulated versions of the diet and a defensive environment built on a pervasive high-carb belief system derailed those cycles.
Today things are changing rapidly. From Dr. Phinney’s perspective “Ten years ago, I could count on two hands the number of physicians openly using ketogenic diets in their practices. Now there are hundreds, especially in Scandinavia, Australia, and South Africa. A major driver for this in the US has been the recent spate of scientific papers linking beta-hydroxybutyrate and nutritional ketosis to reduced oxidative stress and inflammation, and recently to increased longevity in animal studies.”
The “keto” lifestyle is running a pretty awesome underground that is growing rapidly. The rise of the internet has allowed people from every walk of life, around the world to connect about the diet in support and commaraderie. The rise of mobile apps have made the diet more accessible for the everyday person, with an ease of everything at your fingertips that formerly required hours of research and journaling. The community is an interesting one full of remarkably supportive threads helping people to find their way throughthe difficulties of starting a ketogenic lifestyle.
Dr Phinney also states,
“the internet has been a huge factor in the dissemination of low carb diet information. Of course, lots of this fluff or downright wrong, but critical readers seem to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. As an example from my own experience, 3 years ago Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt cajoled me to sit down in front of his camera and say a bit about low carb. He posted that 27-minute segment on YouTube, and it has been viewed over 175,000 times.“
As this trend grows it is important to note that getting started on any new diet should be something that is considered carefully and discussed with your physician. I have personally spent time living the “keto” lifestyle and recommend a good deal of research and consideration before getting started. You will need to examine some details that are not as prevalent on other diets, like electrolyte balance.
Dr. Phinney’s Top 3 Tips for Getting Started
Tip 1: Pick the right time to start, because the first 3 weeks of adaptation are critical to your long-term success. Don’t start when facing vacation, travel, work stress or holidays.
Tip 2: Read our ‘Low Carb Living’ book to understand how the diet works, and how to translate the early weight loss into a sustainable life-style.
Tip 3: A modest amount of salt daily as broth or bouillon is important to avoid side-effects (such as weakness, fatigue, headache, constipation), with the exception to being someone with high blood pressure.
I agree that anyone getting started on this journey really do their homework. My top three resources would be the following:
1. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living
Jeff Volek, PhD, RD & Stephen Phinney, MD, PhD
2. Keto Clarity
3. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance
Jeff Volek, PhD, RD & Stephen Phinney, MD, PhD