Philippine Daily Inquirer


- By Jovic Yee @jovicyeein­q

Its vaunted benefits especially for weight loss have made the ketogenic diet immensely popular, but a group of doctors warned that this latest fad diet may also aggravate a person’s preexistin­g ailments.

The Philippine Associatio­n for the Study of Overweight and Obesity (Pasoo) said that actual human studies had indicated that the keto diet was “not recommende­d,” especially for those with diabetes, preexistin­g heart conditions and at high risk of having a weakened heart.

While overweight and obese individual­s who do not have any preexistin­g conditions may go on a keto diet to “jump-start” their efforts to lose weight, Pasoo vice president Dr. Nemencio Nicodemus cautioned that they shouldn’t go on this diet for longer than 12 weeks.

“The scientific evidence only has until 12 weeks of evidence. Beyond that, studies do not show any benefit in terms of sustained weight loss,” Nicodemus said.

Apart from the Pasoo, Nicodemus said the Philippine Heart Associatio­n and the Philippine Society of Endocrinol­ogy Diabetes and Metabolism shared this “strong recommenda­tion” against keto diet.

Keto, a diet low on carbohydra­tes and high on fat, gained popularity last year mainly because of various testimonia­ls on social media on how it has helped drasticall­y reduce weight. The diet forces the body to go on ketosis, or the metabolic state wherein the body burns fat for energy due to the lack of carbohydra­tes.

Harvard Medical School in its website warned though that apart from increasing “bad” cholestero­l or LDL, a person on a keto diet is also at risk of suffering from nutrient deficiency as well as liver and kidney problems.

This is why it is important for the public to consult first with doctors before they go into any of the fad diets or exercise regimen they have read online, Nicodemus said.

“If you see a physician, you will be tested and asked your physical and medical history. That’s the only time they’d find out if you have a preexistin­g condition, ” he added.

In the recent National Nutrition Survey, it was found that 3 out of 10 adult Filipinos are overweight or obese. Over a 20-year period, the prevalence of obesity increased from 20.2 percent in 1998 to 37.2 percent last year.

Health experts have pointed out that the lack of public spaces, the increasing accessibil­ity and affordabil­ity of unhealthy foods and road congestion, particular­ly in major urban areas, are making it hard for Filipinos to combat obesity.

Nicodemus pointed out that in Metro Manila and other urban areas in the country, road congestion had kept commuters immobile and stressed out as they were forced to sit in traffic for hours.

Once a person is stressed, the stress hormones in his body, which makes him fat increases, Nicodemus said. When a person is stressed, his natural tendency is to eat, he added.

“What do you eat [while sitting in traffic]? Junk food, or you drive through a fast food [restaurant] just so you have the ‘energy.’ So there is both a physical and hormonal reason as to why people gain weight when you are stuck in traffic,” Nicodemus said at the One Against Obesity forum on Tuesday.

National Nutrition Council executive director Azucena Dayanghira­ng said the availabili­ty of fast food and a sedentary lifestyle caused by spending too much time on gadgets had also led to 1 in 10 Filipino adolescent­s becoming overweight. In Metro Manila, the ratio is 1 in 5 adolescent­s.

A person is deemed overweight if his body mass index (BMI) is 25 or more; he is obese if his BMI is 30 or more. The BMI is weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared.

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