What to know about the keto diet from experts at KU Medical Center who study it

Approximately 40% of Americans make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. An even higher percentage set their goals on “getting healthier” in the year ahead.

If you’re one of those Americans, you may have come across the ketogenic diet, or “keto” diet. As with any drastic diet change, you’ll want to consult your primary care physician before you begin. But the following list of nine need-to-know facts from the experts at the University of Kansas Medical Center can help you decide if a keto diet might work for you.

1. “Keto” is sometimes used as a blanket term to cover a lot of popular diets, often incorrectly.

A lot of popular diets say they are “keto” but not all are ketogenic. In the early 2000s, diets such as Atkins, South Beach and Paleo attracted people looking for quick weight loss. All have slightly different rules but focus on cutting carbohydrates.

Russell H. Swerdlow, M.D.

“There are a lot of different ways to do the ketogenic diet,” explained Russell H. Swerdlow, M.D., professor of neurology, biochemistry and physiology in the KU School of Medicine and director of the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

The original ketogenic diet derived 70-75% of all calories from fat, 20-25% of calories from protein and 5-10% from carbohydrates. “Now we use a looser definition of a ketogenic diet as any diet that raises the levels of ketone bodies in the blood,” Swerdlow said. For an explanation of how that works, see fact 2.

2. A true keto diet changes the way your body burns energy.

People get the energy to fuel their cells from the foods they eat. In a typical Western diet, a majority of that energy comes from carbohydrates, which causes the body to produce insulin. In keto diets, where carbs are extremely limited, the body instead draws its energy from dietary fat and the body’s fat storage, which produces ketone bodies.

Those ketone bodies then can be measured in the blood to see if ketosis —the act of the body burning up fat instead of carbs —has been achieved. For more on ketosis, see fact 4.

3. A keto diet helps people lose weight in part because they don’t feel as hungry as they usually do…

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