Pros and cons of ketogenic diet

Many people looking to lose weight this summer are turning to the ketogenic diet.

It's a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates, resulting in weight loss.

For this week's Morning Rounds segment, we asked our medical expert Dr. Ryan Light with TPMG at Greenbrier Family Medicine to weigh in.

Is the keto diet safe?

Yes, the ketogenic diet is safe for most people. The ketogenic diet has been shown to be helpful with weight loss as well as lowering cholesterol. We do see in diabetic patients that it helps reduce medication usage and glucose variability. The long-term effects of the ketogenic diet are not known at this time. Before starting on the ketogenic diet check with your health care provider.

Will it lead to long-term weight loss?

Long-term weight loss is only accomplished by lifestyle modifications that can be maintain indefinitely. Most diets are fads and cannot be followed long term. 'Yo-yo diets' can make a change for a short period of time before returning to the habits that lead to being overweight. The only true way to maintain your weight is to limit caloric intake and increase cardiovascular exercise (30 min a day 5 times a week).

What are the benefits?

The ketogenic diet does help with weight loss but usually is limited to a loss of 13-17 pounds. Most of this weight loss is seen in the first 4 months. It has also been shown to lower total cholesterol, increasing your good cholesterol while lowering your bad cholesterol. This benefit is short lived, lasting approximately 12 months before the body adapts and returns to its normal cholesterol levels. When compared to calorie counting, the ketogenic diet shows no significant difference in weight loss or cardiovascular risk factors after two years.

What are the dangers?

The ketogenic diet with long-term use has been shown to cause kidney stones and osteoporosis. There is conflicting research with regard to the diet`s long term cardiovascular risks. In children, the ketogenic diet has been shown to impair growth and is only indicated in severe cases of epilepsy.