In less than a year, Mikyhial Clarke lost 85 pounds.
His weight loss journey began last May, and by September he joined the increasing amount of people switching to a ketogenic diet, which is high in fats and low in carbohydrates.
“I have nothing to lose because I want to be eating healthy,” said Clarke, a junior journalism major. “I felt that this new change on the keto diet would help me learn more about my body and overall health in general.”
The keto diet causes rapid, significant weight loss, according to Healthline, a health and wellness information site. While dietary professionals suggest 60 percent of a person’s diet consist of carbohydrates, the keto diet keeps this number down to 5-10 percent, according to The Do, a publication by the American Osteopathic Association.
Increasing fat intake while reducing carbs puts the body in ketosis, a state in which the body turns fat, rather than carbohydrates, into energy.
Ketosis also happens during starvation, according to Healthline. The diet is controversial and not recommended.
“I realized it all boils down to you eating sugar,” Clarke said. “I now despise sugar. Even if I stop doing keto, I won’t touch sugar ever again.”
While Clarke finds the diet successful, some health professionals question the weight loss trend’s potential for long-term results.
David Sarwer, the director of Temple’s Center for Obesity Research and Education and a social and behavioral sciences professor, states that removing an entire food group affects the extreme weight loss.
“The consensus among experts in the field is that they need to get people making smaller changes that they can sustain over longer periods of time, rather than doing dramatic things to their diet to lose weight very quickly,” Sarwer said. “Unfortunately, the moment people return to a more normal, traditional diet, they usually regain their weight.”
A diet review by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found the keto diet’s results aren’t too different from conventional weight loss methods after one year. The eight-week study followed 39 adults following the keto diet and found an average 13 percent weight loss. Participants’ urges to eat significantly increased in the two weeks after abandoning the diet.
As their bodies adapt to the diet, dieters often report a side effect known as the keto flu, which includes fatigue, low energy and dizziness, according to Healthline.
Lori Lorditch, the nutritionist for Student Health Services, said the keto flu happens because dieters lose their main source of energy.
Lorditch recommends a different strategy for losing weight.
“Typically, I do a portion control type of meal plan with all foods in moderation and if someone is really struggling with that, then maybe go in [the keto] direction,” Lorditch said. “I would never go with that as a first try.”
Sarwer said the keto diet’s increasing popularity is largely because of the rise in marketing surrounding the trend.
Several books, like “The Complete Ketogenic Diet for Beginners,” have been written on the diet and appear on Amazon’s best seller list for health, fitness and dieting. Celebrities like Halle Berry and Tim Tebow have also endorsed the diet.
Lyle Drescher, a junior film and media arts major, followed the keto diet for a few weeks while in high school and lost about 15 pounds.
“I felt less hungry and [had] fewer cravings for food,” he said. “I liked that food didn’t have as much of a hold on me as it usually does.”
The term “keto” quadrupled in searches from 2016-17, according to Google Trends data. Despite the recent rise popularity, the diet is nothing new, Lorditch said.
“It is really just another low-carb diet, and these diets have been the trend for decades now,” Lorditch said. “I think when one loses popularity, there’s another one that gains popularity.”