The keto or ketogenic diet isn’t new. According to the AARP, keto diets have actually been around for a century. The first low-carb diet originated in 1862. Then, an overweight undertaker William Banting was prescribed the diet by an ENT surgeon named Dr. William Harvey. The Harvey-Banting Diet, as it came to be known, was quite strict. Banting could have no starches, sugar, potatoes, or even beer.
The diet worked so well that Banting later published what historians say is the first diet book on the planet: Letter on Corpulence. In 1992, the low-carb diet made an appearance again, this time in the form of Dr. Atkin’s New Diet Revolution. Ketogenic diets DO WORK, and for some seniors, they are a sensible approach to weight loss.
However, they aren’t right for everyone. Seniors, in particular, may have special dietary needs to consider.
Today, we’ll explain how keto diets work and whether they may be a good option for you and your loved ones. Always remember: before making any dietary changes, talk to your physician first.
How Do Keto Diets Work?
Carbohydrates or “carbs” include bread, pasta, and starchy foods. When you eat them, your blood surges with glucose, the primary sugar that powers cell functions.
- If you avoid carbs for an extended time, your blood sugar drops, and your liver starts to convert body fat into W-shaped molecules called ketones.
- When you use body fat as fuel, the process is called ketosis.
- To achieve ketosis, you’ll need to severely limit your intake of carbohydrates. Your body will, instead, rely on fats and proteins for fuel.
This type of ketosis mustn’t be confused with diabetic ketosis, a serious condition in diabetes patients.
Ketosis & Intermittent Fasting
Keto diets usually blend two approaches: intermittent fasting and a low-carb/carb-free diet.
Intermittent fasting aims to mimic a sort of temporary “famine,” where you limit your food intake for a number of hours each day and only eat at specific times.
While these actions may lead to weight loss, they aren’t always a healthy option for seniors — and may negatively impact your well-being. Let’s consider some situations that would make keto an inappropriate diet and others that may benefit from it.
Risks of a Keto Diet for Seniors
Your body uses water to process carbohydrates. Many people believe they’re burning fat early in their keto experience, but they’re actually processing water. While this can equal a slimmer waist in the short term, it can increase your risk of dehydration.
The keto diet is also a poor choice for people who suffer from cognitive issues.
- Numerous studies have linked the value of a good diet with cognitive function among aging adults.
- Therefore, individuals who struggle with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease should avoid any diet that includes intermittent fasting.
If you experience episodes of mental “fog,” struggle with eating disorders, or have heart disease, a keto diet may not be in your best interest. That said, those with certain conditions may benefit from it.
Keto May Be Appropriate for Seniors With Diabetes and Some Cancers
Again, talk to your physician before making any dietary changes. Recent research seems to prove that a keto diet may be beneficial for managing diabetes as well as some seizure-related diseases. Despite its benefits, diabetes patients should only adopt keto diets under the guidance of a physician. Here’s why: you’ll need expert help in managing glucose levels to prevent hypoglycemic episodes.
Cancer patients may benefit from keto, as well:
- Some types of cancer cells can’t metabolize ketones.
- Studies on animals have shown that severe restrictions on carbohydrates can slow or halt the growth of some tumors.
- New studies further suggest that a keto-style diet may be a useful complement to radiation and chemotherapy.
- However, more research needs to be done, and we still have much to learn about the effects of keto on cancer.
Ultimately, adjusting your diet for weight loss purposes should always be something you discuss with your physician. Be sure to consider your health and family history, as well as any medications you take. Some prescriptions — like Warfarin for blood clots — work best with a diet that’s low in Vitamin K, which is found in cheese, prunes, kiwis, avocados, and many cruciferous vegetables.
David York Understands Keto Diets and Senior Nutrition in Queens
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