Thursday: What Does The Science Say About Following A Keto Diet? | St. Louis Public Radio

Thursday: What Does The Science Say About Following A Keto Diet?

2 minutes ago

The keto diet is a low-carb, high fat diet that includes meat, dairy, eggs and low-carb vegetables.
Credit Ted Eytan | Flickr

This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” during the noon hour Thursday. This story will be updated after the show. Here are several ways you can listen live.

A few weeks ago on St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked about a brand new medical device that allows users to measure nutritional ketosis with a breathalyzer. Nutritionists say they’ve witnessed the reemergence of the keto diet as a means for weight loss in the past few years.

Both during and after that segment aired, we received a lot of questions about the keto diet, as well as some concern that this may be an unhealthy choice for some people. So, we looked into it.

What does a keto diet entail?

Keto diets alter energy metabolism for the body. As ketones levels rise, the way the body metabolises nutrients for energy shifts. Transitioning the body into ketosis sparks a major shift in metabolism, and there are changes to the body’s neurotransmitters as well.

According to the director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University’s School of Medicine, Dr. Sam Klein, with this type of diet you eat few enough carbs that the body releases fatty acids. Then, insulin levels get low. “It changes the fuel use of organs, and makes it so you don’t need as much insulin,” he says.

What’s the concern?

The metabolic process of ketosis has the possibility of being a life-threatening problem for people with Type 1 diabetes. If their insulin levels become too low, they may suffer from diabetic ketoacidosis. This condition occurs when the body starts breaking down fat at much too fast a rate. The liver processes the fat into ketones, a fuel that causes the blood to become acidic, leading to dehydration, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and gastrointestinal stress. 

St. Louis University’s Dr. Whitney Linsenmeyer, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says she sees more people trying the keto diet on their own without physician supervision, which has her concerned. She says patients should be medically supervised when transitioning into ketosis.

She also only recommends this diet to patients with epilepsy. She says that at SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital, when they shift patients into ketosis, the patients typically spend three to four days in the hospital, so they can manage symptoms that occur. “It’s such a severe change,” she says.

Thursday on the show, we'll dive into what the research says about the keto diet with Linsenmeyer, Klein and Simon Lusky, the owner of Revel Kitchen. Lusky’s restaurant menu caters to many diets, including gluten-free, vegan, paleo, keto and “Whole30” options.

What questions do you have about the keto diet, or low-carb diets in general? Tweet us (@STLonAir), send an email to talk@stlpublicradio.orgor share your thoughts via our St. Louis on the Air Facebook group, and help inform our coverage.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The engineer is Aaron Doerr and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.