Does the Ketogenic Diet Make Sense for Long-Term Weight Loss?

Everyone seems to be on a different diet these days. From the passionate paleos to the rigid vegans, it’s hard to know what’s best for your health. One eating trend that’s gaining traction is the ketogenic diet, a plan that claims consuming fat is the secret to weight loss. But is this diet sustainable in the long run? I’m here to help you find out.

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The premise behind the ketogenic diet is that it causes your body to use fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates (glucose). While your cells typically convert carbs into energy, their absence causes cells to break down your stored fat for fuel instead. By turning this fat into ‘ketone bodies,’ you put your body into ketosis, an optimal fat-burning state. Once you reach ketosis, your body will continue to burn fat until you give it glucose again.

Following the Ketogenic Diet

Most people reach ketosis after a few days of eating fewer than 30 grams of carbs per day. To get in this state, your diet should be 60 to 80 percent fat, 15 to 35 percent protein, and just five percent carbohydrates. For most of us, that comes down to 20 to 30 grams of carbs a day.

Eating such a high-fat, low-carb diet requires you to eliminate many foods from your diet, including starchy vegetables, most fruits, dairy products, whole grains, nuts, beans, and all forms of sugar- natural and otherwise. Instead, you’ll fill up on meats, eggs, butter, oils, and fiber-filled veggies.

If you think that sounds difficult, then you’re correct. The average American diet is more than fifty percent carbs, so consuming just a fraction of that is far from easy. Lots of people struggle with the commitment of adjusting to a ketogenic diet. But is the effort worthwhile? In truth, I have significant reservations about the diet’s long-term health effects. 

Long-Term Effects of Keto Eating

At this point, there isn’t much research on the long-term effects of the ketogenic diet. However, the evidence we have shows that there is cause for concern.

For many, there seems to be a link between the diet and the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Those with kidney disease or diabetes should also be concerned, as following the diet can worsen health. Over time, going keto can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, which is caused by excessive ketone production that causes vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and other adverse side effects.

Another drawback is that going keto limits your fruit and vegetable intake. If you follow this diet for months on end, you might start experiencing nutrient deficiencies.

My Take: Is the Ketogenic Diet Sustainable?

So, does it make sense to try the ketogenic diet? Following this plan long-term can be exhausting and limiting, which is why some people think the sweet spot is about six weeks at a time, several times a year. This puts your body into ketosis long enough to burn fat without increasing your risk of nutritional deficiencies.

However, a better strategy is to follow an eating plan you can stick with for life. With The Food Fix, I’ve created an actionable guide to improve your relationship with food. My program will teach you how to acheive a balanced, unprocessed diet that provides your body with exactly what it needs for better health.

Ready to learn more about The Food Fix? Visit foodfix.me to learn how The Food Fix can help you live your healthiest life.

Heather Bauer

Heather Bauer is a nationally recognized nutrition expert, author, and entrepreneur.

She brings her fresh and inspiring approach to diet to prime time spots on Good Morning America, CNN, CBS, The Talk, Access Hollywood Live and The Tyra Banks Show. And she's featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and People Magazine. 

Heather is the author of two best-selling nutrition and diet books, The Wall Street Diet and Bread is the Devil, and has regular columns on The Huffington Post and USNews where she writes about the latest trends.

She is the founder of Bestowed, the leading product discovery platform for health-conscious consumers, and has an active nutrition counseling practice in NYC, which she founded in 2001.

Heather is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a New York State Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist (CDN). She graduated from The University of Wisconsin with honors and is a member of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and the New York State Dietetic Association (NYSDA).