The Ketogenic Diet: Fact or Fad?

By Phoebe Chi, MD, MPH

Over the past year, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding the ketogenic diet. Not surprisingly, I have encountered many questions regarding them. What is it? Is it safe? Would I recommend it? 

Despite the recent trend, a “ketogenic diet” is actually not new at all. In the 1970’s, Dr. Atkins popularized his low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss that began with a very strict two-week ketogenic phase. Over the years, other popular diets also incorporated similar approaches for weight loss. But in medicine, we have been using this method for almost a century to treat some forms of epilepsy, especially drug-resistant types in children.

As you know, whenever something is popularized, much information goes around—some accurate, some not so accurate. The purpose of this post is to summarize for you what the medical community actually knows so far through its research on the health effects of ketogenic diets. This post is not to make a stance either for or against, because as you will see, there are both pros and potential cons (as well as some unknowns); rather, I simply want to equip you with the right information in order to empower you to make the best decision for your personal situation.

So let’s get started!

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