Three things you need to know about the keto diet, according to science

The ketogenic or keto diet is a great weight loss tool, but how much do you really know about it?

Bacon and eggs, part of the ketogenic diet
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The keto diet is often lauded as a wonderful weight loss tool. We've seen loads of success stories and real-life body transformations begin with following the keto diet. 

Cutting out carbohydrates and increasing your protein intake is a good way to lose weight or build muscle, there's no doubt about it – but restrictive diets come with their own set of problems. It's not just about ditching sodas in favour of shakes made with the best protein powder for weight loss.

Below, you can see three key factors everybody interested in starting the keto diet needs to know, based on cold hard science.

1. The keto diet is a great way to lose weight

Keto diet on the surface, isn't anything new. Low carbohydrate diets have been with us since the early seventies in one form or another. However, the ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat, high-protein diet which is based around inducing a state called "ketosis" in the human body. In this state, your body doesn't have enough carbohydrates to burn, so you inevitably begin burning your fat reserves. 

In order to keep yourself full during this state, the keto diet recommends eating lots of sources of fat and protein instead of carbohydrates. You can continue eating certain foods, while burning through your fat stores. No wonder the diet is so popular. 

And it works, too: studies show the keto diet has a very positive effect on weight loss, metabolism and appetite, and even could have neuro-protective qualities, helping to guard against dementia. 

How to lose weight using keto: Salmon

(Image credit: Micheile Henderson on Unsplash)

2. The keto diet is hard to follow

With the right shopping list and a bit of willpower, the keto diet can do wonders for your waistline and general health. However, the issue with the keto diet lies in it being incredibly strict, limiting enormous amounts of some of your favourite foods. 

A report published by Harvard University School of Public Health writes: "It is important to remember that "yo-yo diets" that lead to rapid weight loss fluctuation are associated with increased mortality. 

"Instead of engaging in the next popular diet that would last only a few weeks to months (for most people that includes a ketogenic diet), try to embrace change that is sustainable over the long term." 

The last thing you want to do is to regain lost weight: only 20% of obese people studied were able to keep lost weight off long-term, according to the journal Frontiers in Genetics. You might want to find a "halfway house" that allows you to lose weight slowly. For some people, that might mean eating more carbs than the ketogenic diet would allow.

3. The keto diet isn't always healthy

The very restrictive nature of the keto diet often means quite a few things are off-the-menu, including weight-gaining carbohydrate sources such as bread and potatoes. However, vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, leeks and so on are also sources of carbohydrates. Sources of protein and fat can include red meat, processed meats, butter and vegetable oils. 

While a diet based on bacon seems like a dream, you need to be careful you're eating the right sources of protein and fat, and taking in enough healthy micronutrients, in order to avoid any health problems while on keto. Cooking lean cuts of meat in the best air fryer and best health grills can help, while regular vitamin consumption can help shore up any gaps in your diet. 

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.