Is the Keto diet the new Atkins?

We decode the diet trend taking the Middle East by storm, and ponder if coffee with butter in it is a good idea...
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Is the Keto diet the new Atkins?

People are raving about the keto diet – and Grazia wants to know why. What are the benefits of forcing the body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates, and what are the risks? Moreover, just how sustainable is it?
We meet with Dubai-based keto diet specialist Alexia Bjarkan from Aesthetics International to expand on the method of eating currently on everyone’s lips. “The body has two ways to use fuel for energy: carbs or fat,” Alexia starts. “The primary fuel source is carbs, so if your diet is excessive in carbs, your body will be busy burning that off and will never get to the fat storage. On the keto diet, most carbs are eliminated, which ‘forces’ the body to use fat for fuel instead. The result is that you will automatically burn off all of your excess weight.

It seems super straightforward, but as with all diets, there’s controversy. When the keto diet starves the body of carbs, the liver starts producing molecules called ketones. Ketones are then removed through increased urination, which may lead to dehydration and flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, irritability and nausea.
The keto diet is also extremely low in certain fruits, vegetables and grains, meaning people can miss out on fibre, vitamins, minerals and increase their risk of chronic diseases. “Ketosis is a natural state for humans; it’s how we evolved. It’s only in recent times that we’ve been introduced to lots of carbs,” Alexia argues. “Aside from weight loss, ketogenesis also turns off hunger and cravings; plus it stabilises blood sugar levels and boosts energy. [There is some evidence to suggest the diet can weaken some types of cancerous cell] as sugar is their main source of fuel.” 
Alexia continues, “For me, the keto diet solved my problematic over-eating as a teenager and all the negative effects that came with it – weight-gain, acne, insomnia and mood swings.” After her discovery, Alexia quit her corporate career and trained to be a keto coach.
Alexia expands on why keto is the perfect fit for Dubai residents. “City people are busy, with careers, families, travelling or socialising. With keto, you don’t have to torture yourself by calorie restriction or give up your life to follow complicated rules,” she explains.
The keto diet was created in the 1920s by US researchers to treat epileptic children. With this in mind, surely adults should simply eat a balanced diet in order to be healthy? “Not all foods are healthy, so if a ‘balanced’ diet means eating a bit of everything, you will expose your body to toxins from unhealthy foods,” Alexia replies. “These toxins can lead to food cravings, so what’s meant to be a balanced diet ends up with overeating and weight gain. A balanced diet is a nice idea, but if it actually worked, we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic right now,” she concludes. 
There’s no denying the keto diet is big right now – celebrities slurping coffee loaded with butter is a regular feature on our Instagram feeds – but current ketogenic research is limited, which means we don’t know all of the potential adverse effects of this diet. So it’s imperative to read up and decide whether keto supports your individual needs before changing your eating habits so drastically.  
Visit aesthetics.ae for more information, or call (+971) 4 384 5600 to secure your consultation with Alexia
Photos: iStock and Instagram