The sudden demise of 27-year-old Indian actress Mishti Mukherjee due to kidney failure related to “keto diet” has recently cast doubt on the boons of the trendy diet. While scrolling on social media like Facebook or Instagram, many people come to know about the advantages of the low-carb diet that gets more calories from protein and fat and less from carbohydrates. However, to find out whether the keto diet, known for its wondrous ability to achieve rapid weight loss, has been the real solution or just the hype of social media, one should know about its pros and cons before deciding on it.
Many celebrities vouch for the keto diet to be their holy grail to achieve fitness. Celebrities like Halle Berry, Kim Kardashian, LeBron James, Tim Tebow have shared their positive experiences of the keto diet on social media. The Oscar winner actress Halle Berry says the keto diet helped her manage her body fitness and diabetes. On Instagram, she shared her keto experience, including a story, with two links meant for explaining the keto diet to those who want to try it. In response to that, a fan named Stephanie wrote that while following Berry’s keto chart, she felt nauseated for the first two days, followed by headaches and fatigue. And she was quoted as saying in Body plus Soul Magazine, “It might work for Berry, but cutting out an entire food group is just not sustainable for me.”
Interestingly, over 70 per cent of those surveyed by US News and World say they chose to go on keto diet based on their ‘research’ or ‘social media posts’, whereas less than five per cent say it was recommended by a registered dietitian. The survey shows many people are falling prey to the dark side of the keto diet just by following in the footsteps of celebrities. An Australian study showed that obese people are able to lose, on average, 15 kg over a year. This is 3 kg more than the low-fat diet used in the study achieved. However, the saying “there are two sides to every coin” aptly explains the drawbacks of the keto diet. According to Priya Bharma, a senior dietician of Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute in New Delhi, any person with ideal or lesser body weight is generally not suggested going for a keto diet. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that only people with a BMI of more than 25 are considered victims of obesity. As a result, people with a normal BMI should not depend on a keto diet to maintain their health.
Due to the active promotion of the keto diet by several celebrities, it is now more like a trend than just a fitness need. In Bangladesh, amid this pandemic, many men and women have been following the keto diet. Compared to men, women are more attracted to this “keto trend” and have been following it without consulting experts. Nabanita Islam, a third year student at North South University, shared her experience of the keto diet as “her worst nightmare” in a personal interview. She wrote in a Facebook post that while following a fitness blogger-suggested keto diet chart she almost collapsed and had to be admitted to hospital. According to the hospital report, the reason behind her fainting was low blood pressure caused by extreme dieting.
A similar experience was shared by Mrs Ferdows, a 46-year-old government employee. In a telephone interview, she says she and her daughter both followed the same keto diet chart. Although both of them lost their weight, the child faced problems like depression, nutrient deficiencies, and disordered eating. Melissa Fossier, a registered dietitian at Children's Health℠, says she would not recommend the keto diet for kids unless it is used only for specific medical reasons.
Jackie Newgent, a culinary nutritionist in New York City and the author of “The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook”, says the keto diet is a fad diet that offers temporary results and permanent troubles. To conclude, no matter how beneficial the keto diet is, the risks involved are inexorable. Therefore, the keto diet is only a real solution for those who follow it consulting a dietician. And if someone thinks he/she is badly in need of a keto diet, he/she should consult a dietician rather than putting themselves on it by themselves. Moreover, one should know the history of the keto diet and the prerequisites for one’s body to better decide whether to go on such diet.
Jinnatul Raihan Mumu is a third year student of business and technology management at the Islamic University of Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].