After coming out of a diabetic coma two-and-a-half years ago, Lesley Kiser, 57, knew he needed to make some serious lifestyle changes.
He started with his diet by cutting back on his carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat, which describes one of the main principles of the ketogenic diet.
“The idea behind the ketogenic diet is to put the body into ketosis. The body mainly runs off of carbohydrates for fuel, but when we put the body into ketosis, we are essentially burning fat instead of the glucose from carbohydrates,” said Baylee Leonhardt, registered dietician at OhioHealth Mansfield and Shelby Hospitals.
After adopting the keto diet, Kiser dropped about 130 pounds. He says it reversed his type 2 diabetes and drastically reduced his medication usage.
“I was taking 37 total medications. I take zero now,” he said.
The restaurant keeps a running count of how much weight its customers have lost, which is now up to 20,000 pounds, Kiser said.
He said one customer from Columbus weighed 500 pounds and had stage 3 cancer, and through the keto diet lost 238 pounds and reversed his cancer. Now he’s a bodybuilder and owns a gym, Kiser said.
Many other customers have shared their personal weight-loss victories and how the keto diet has reduced inflammation and alleviated aches and pains, Kiser said.
Leonhardt said the clinical keto diet involves limiting carbohydrate intake to 20-50 grams per day (less than four slices of bread’s worth). The diet consists of 75-90 percent of calories from fat, 10 percent from protein, and 5 percent from carbs, she said.
Kiser, who wrote a book on the keto diet called "Ketogenic Diet 101," said he tries to limit his carb intake to 30 grams daily, eating mainly from his restaurant which uses low-carb ingredients like almond flour and coconut flour in its dishes.
Kiser encourages keto newcomers to ease into the diet by reducing their carb and sugar intake for 2-3 weeks.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time they come back and say, ‘Wow. All my clothes are getting baggy.’ And they’re starting to feel great,” he said.
One way to tell if your body is in ketosis is through the use of ketone strips, which measure ketone levels in the urine.
Below is a breakdown of the keto diet, provided by The Keto Zone.
“You don’t starve on keto,” Kiser said. “You eat good.”
One of keto’s appeals is the focus on fats, but Leonhardt cautions upping your saturated fat intake, as this may affect heart health over time. Opt for healthier fats found in such sources as avocados, nuts and fatty fish.
Before becoming a popular diet trend, keto has traditionally been used for the treatment of epilepsy.
“Researchers have found that it manipulates your gut microbiota to help with epileptic seizures,” Leonhardt said.
However the jury’s still out on whether keto is an ideal long-term, weight-loss solution.
“There is still being research done on whether or not the keto diet is a sustainable option for weight loss,” Leonhardt said.
One of the downsides Leonhardt sees to the keto diet is that it cuts out/limits certain healthy foods, such as starchy vegetables, legumes, fruits and whole-grain foods.
“If you want to limit your refined carbs and added sugars, by all means, that’d be a great idea… But eliminating a lot of (nutrient-rich sources) could lead to vitamin deficiencies if you're not being extremely careful,” she said.
That’s why Leonhardt recommends consulting your doctor before adopting the keto diet to determine if it’s the best option for you.
“Consult your doctor or your provider and then meet with a dietician who specializes in the ketogenic diet who can help you get on a plan that can give you a lot of food varieties,” she said.
“Everyone's needs are so individualized and everyone has a different medical history, so I think it would take a lot of counseling with a dietician one-on-one.”
If your goal is to lose some weight, Leonhardt suggests subtracting 500 calories from your typical calorie intake each day, along with physical activity, to promote a one-pound weight loss per week.
Leonhardt is a proponent of the Plate Method, which recommends that half the plate consist of non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter of grain foods/starchy vegetables and the other one-quarter of lean protein, with fruit and/or dairy on the side and healthy fats in small amounts.
“I'm really for lifestyle changes, so trying to incorporate more exercise and getting a well-balanced meal is going to be my first recommendation for weight loss,” she said.