Lake Martin Community Hospital food service director and clinical dietician Julie Hudson prefers her patients, friends and family take the traditional approach of moderation and exercise to lose or maintain weight rather than trying a "fad" diet such as the ketogenic diet.
"A lot of us in the nutrition world are not pushing this (keto diet)," Hudson said. "As far as the science goes, you're eating a lot of high-fatty items. First thing to think of is, what can this do to my heart? There is more research to be done."
She does believe if someone has the drive to lose weight and attempts most any diet he or she will experience weight loss.
"They are going to lose weight because they are following something," Hudson said. "Anybody that's really following anything to the letter, that person would probably still lose weight."
According to Hudson, the reason behind this has to do with human nature.
"It is always easier to follow something," she said. "As humans we like programs; we want someone to be very specific to tell us what to put in our mouths."
The keto diet was originally created for a certain type of patient, Hudson said.
"It was used to help epileptic patients to control seizures," she said.
She warned there are not enough long-term studies to confirm if this is a safe diet.
"There just has to be more studies to see how it's going to affect our heart," she said. "In the past, all the research has been done on small groups of people. We do not have long-term research done on just using it as a weight loss plan. How are people feeling who are on it long term? What are the ultimate health risks?"
As for how weight loss occurs while being on the keto diet, Hudson said the high-protein diet replaces carbohydrates with fat.
"Keto is a high-fat, moderate protein and low-carbohydrate eating plan," she said. "It is very different than normal healthy eating recommendations just because, normally, carbs come from nutrient rich foods.
"On the keto diet, carb sources are restricted. Normally we get our energy from carbs. If we are not feeding our body carbs, then our body has to find that energy source from somewhere else. It finds it from fat sources. It breaks down fat into what is called ketones. This is quite different than normal eating patterns."
Hudson recommends a traditional diet, using portion control and exercising more.
"If we are eating everything we are supposed to be eating, the serving sizes and portions, if we stuck to that, carbs would not get such a bad rap and obesity would not be such a big problem," she said. "No matter if you have to lose weight or not, exercising is good for our heart, blood pressure and stress. We cannot forget that piece."
Hudson said ultimately in her mind the keto diet, although trendy, is not sustainable.
“It is very hard to follow and keep up,” Hudson said. “It goes against all our principles. We push whole grain food, fruits and vegetables. These are all the things people are cutting out on keto."
As with any medical decisions, she urged people to seek the advice of their physicians and consult with a dietitian.