The Pitfalls of the Keto Diet: How Risky Is It?

Nutritional Therapist
Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor

The ketogenic diet (or keto for short) is one of the hottest global dietary trends today. It’s a low-carb, high-fat diet that is believed to have an astounding impact on human health by an ever-growing group of advocates.

How does ketogenic dieting work?

Due to the low carbohydrate intake (and low to moderate protein), the body doesn’t have enough glucose to feed the brain and muscles, so it switches to metabolising fats. The fat is turned into ketones by the liver, which becomes the energy supply for the brain and muscles.

The diet was originally created for use in the treatment of epileptic seizures in children, where it appears to show a beneficial effect. However, these days keto is being promoted predominantly for weight loss (though many advocates also swear that it can have many more benefits). Proponents suggest that it reduces appetite and suppresses hunger levels, thereby achieving rapid weight loss results.

It’s important to remember that ketosis is not the usual body’s metabolic state, as the body tends to prefer carbohydrates as a source of energy (especially the brain), and ketosis is reserved as a response to starvation or other extreme circumstances. Therefore, there is some concern that the diet may have some long-term adverse effects.

Moreover, this diet does not focus on high protein intake (like many other low-carb diets), but rather suggests that fats provide up to 80% of daily energy (calories) to the body! This may restrict a person’s diet to the point where nutrient deficiencies become likely.

When Does It Become Unhealthy?

Keto may seem like an attractive prospect for losing weight quickly and easily, but what’s the price we’re willing to pay, and how long will the weight loss results last?

Keep in mind that when your body enters ketosis, it essentially enters “starvation mode”. Although a carefully followed keto diet should preserve muscle, it may hamper efforts to gain muscle. A poorly followed keto diet could lead to muscle wastage, due to not obtaining enough amino acids. This, in turn, could actually make keeping weight off in the future more difficult. Lean mass (from muscle) is important for keeping the metabolism working quickly. Being in “starvation mode” may also cause the body to attempt to hold onto its fat stores. This means that rebound weight gain may be more likely, and it can take a lot of effort to restore any lost muscle mass!

You should be aware that prolonged ketosis may lead to:

1. A slowing down of fat loss.

2. An increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes – As suggested by some studies.

3. Dehydration – Much of the initial rapid weight loss is due to a loss of significant quantities of water.

4. Gastrointestinal discomfort – Constipation, diarrhoea (more dehydration!), flatulence, bloating.

5. Possible increased risk of developing hypothyroidism or thyroid malfunction.

6. Serious side effects – Such as metabolic acidosis, hypoglycaemia, fainting, and hypercholesterolemia (usually from taking the diet to an extreme).

7. Increased arterial stiffness – May increase risk of cardiovascular disease.

8. Other harmful side effects in individuals carrying specific errors in the CPT2 gene, compromising liver function from an inability to metabolise ketone bodies.

In a Nutshell

It may certainly be possible to lose weight by going keto, but it could also have detrimental effects on our body, and any weight loss achieved may not be sustainable. Following a restrictive diet such as keto for the long term is usually not advisable!

Whilst extreme diets may seem tempting as quick-fix weight loss solutions, the weight may soon begin to creep back on, and the body may have suffered some serious side-effects in the process (muscle loss and dehydration, to name but a few). In addition, yo-yo diets which lead to weight loss fluctuation can have detrimental effects on health and are associated with increased mortality (risk of death).

It is always recommended to make slow and sustainable lifestyle changes which will help you lose weight and keep it off, as well as build towards your long-term health goals (and always include physical activity). If you are undertaking the keto diet, it's important to also seek medical supervision, to ensure you aren’t suffering from any adverse side-effects, or putting yourself at risk of nutrient deficiencies.

Nutritional Therapist
Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor

What If You Don’t Go To University

It’s August, which means it’s that time of the year again: A Level Results Day.

And whether it’s your friends or your grandma, there’s one question on everyone’s lips…

Are you going to university?

You might be heading back from college to the tune of ‘Did you get the grades?’

Or maybe you never wanted to go to uni in the first place.

Whichever boat you’re in; what happens when your friends are prepping for freshers’ week, but you’re not?

No fear – we’re here to help! The first thing you need to consider is:

Are you sure about your decision?

It’s difficult to aim for your goals if you don’t know what they are, or how to reach them. This means that if you have a particular career in mind, you might want to see a careers advisor or thoroughly research alternative routes into the field you’re passionate about before making a final decision.

But then what? Well, first, it’s important to know…

There are a ton of careers that don’t require a university degree

It’s true! You may have considered some of these options: hairdressing, beauty, personal training.

But those aren’t the only choices – many careers have a variety of pathways into them, from accountancy, to journalism, to nutritional therapy.

Read on to see what you can do instead of going to university:

Take a Gap Year

Fondly known as the ‘gap yah’ among millennials, many teens take a year out to decide what they want to do before continuing their education. This often takes the form of travelling, learning a language, and gaining lots of experience of different cultures – but it can also involve volunteering in a mix of industries to help you make a more informed decision about your future. While this kind of break provides a temporary solution, it’s common for people to head back to school once they complete their gap year, but many teens also open doors to careers they never knew existed!

(Pssst… Looking for the latest work experience opportunities? GoThinkBig is a good place to start).

Find an Apprenticeship

Becoming an apprentice is a great way to get straight into work AND gain a qualification while you earn. From farming, to hospitality, to law, you can choose your apprenticeship from a huge selection of fields and levels, from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) right through to Level 6/7 (degree equivalent). Depending on the level, an apprenticeship can take between 1 and 5 years to complete, but you’ll be learning loads of job-specific skills along the way.

If you’re in the UK, you can click here to find an apprenticeship.

Get an Entry-Level Job

While a large number of entry-level jobs will attract applications from students and recent graduates, many employers offer roles aimed at school-leavers – including training schemes. The obvious benefit of heading straight into work is that you’ll be earning right away.

A great way to find entry-level jobs is to keep an eye on websites that advertise vacancies in specific fields. Mediargh is a great example for media-related careers (publishing, science – whatever).

Become an Entrepreneur

Ever wanted to start your own business? Now might be your chance! This can be an exciting option for those not looking to go to university, but it’s wise to first consider the funding, support, and advice you’ll need along the way. If you’re in the UK, check out these government guidelines for new businesses.

For an extra boost when it comes to marketing your business effectively, check out Google’s Digital Garage for free digital marketing training.

Study for an Online Diploma

A huge barrier for many prospective students is the possibility of getting in over £50,000 of debt for a qualification in an area they’re not entirely sure about, or wasn’t necessary for their preferred career.

Whether you’re looking to boost your entrepreneurial endeavours, or you want to get a feel for a subject before jumping into a degree, an online diploma can be a great way to go! Loads of platforms offer you the chance to study via the web and many don’t require specialist technology, so you can get going with just a laptop and a cup of tea.

If it’s nutrition you’re into, we at The Health Sciences Academy® have a whole host of certifications and short courses for you to explore.

Nutrition not your thing? Not to worry – there are loads of other great providers out there. Check out Coursera and Lynda for an array of online courses on a variety of subjects.

They’re called options for a reason…

It’s important to remember that choosing to not go to university isn’t something that sets your career in a permanent direction. You may try one of the above and decide you want to go to uni after all! Perhaps you want some work experience, maybe you’re looking to boost your know-how before embarking on a degree, or you might even decide to do both an online course and an apprenticeship – the point is: the sky’s the limit.

What you’re doing this September doesn’t necessarily define the rest of your life, but it CAN boost it. Do what’s best for you and remember: it’s quite natural to need a little bit of extra time to work out where you want your career to go.

The Health Sciences Academy® is the UK’s largest online educator in nutrition science.

We are home to a variety of Level 5 online diplomas, in addition to a range of accredited short courses in nutrition topics – ready to help you ignite your career.

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Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor
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