“Eat fat to lose fat” – this is a very popular diet slogan in the world, and the Arab region is no exception.
The keto diet filled the virtual space. As soon as you write the word keto in Arabic on Facebook, YouTube or websites, an endless array of nutritional plans and different cooking recipes suitable for this system and alternatives to banned foods appear.
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In addition to dozens of free guidance channels for specialists who also provide paid consultations via the internet or in their clinic for those who want it.
How does keto work?
There are medical concerns about this diet, which relies on stimulating the body to produce bodies called “ketone bodies”, which are manufactured by the liver to regulate the work of various hormones in a more balanced way.
The keto diet relies on fats (at a percentage between 75-80 percent) as the main source of body energy rather than fast-burning carbohydrates, much of which – in the bodies of those who consume it – is converted into fats that are converted into fats. accumulate in the body.
Thus, the keto diet’s reliance on fats instead of carbohydrates eliminates their body’s need for carbohydrates and thus stimulates the burning of old fats accumulated by the carbohydrates consumed in the past.
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This diet provides 15-20 percent protein, and the rest is starchy vegetables (such as mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, and broccoli) with a very limited number of fruits (such as cranberries).
It seems that the goal of most adherents of this diet is to lose weight, but if you look at the history of this diet, you will see that it was originally a treatment for childhood epilepsy since the 1920s, when it was shown to be an improvement. in these cases after the inability of all other methods in the time before the invention of drugs that help to reduce it.
The BBC spoke to a number of people from Arab countries about their experience with keto; Sarah, 28, said she tried it for a week on the advice of her friends: “I felt lighter and healthier and started to lose weight, but I didn’t keep it because I thought it was a bit expensive.”
As for Mohammed, 24, a hard-working athlete, he says he’s been on keto for a month and a half with intermittent fasting, and he enthusiastically recommends it, saying, “It’s one of the best diets I’ve tried. .
As for Muhammad’s only suffering, as he described it, it is the keto “flu” or “keto flu” during the first three days of the diet.
Specialists believe that this phenomenon is natural at first, because it is a symptom of the withdrawal of starch and sugars from the body, and this appears in the form of headaches, diarrhea or even something like the flu.
For her part, Nabila, 35, admits she didn’t have enough information about keto when she started a year and a half ago, so she followed it because it was “popular” and because she wanted to lose her extra weight anyway: “I saw a change in my measurements and an improvement in the health of my hair and skin. My energy has increased and my mood has improved, especially now that my addiction to sugars has been cut.”
Nabila adds that her suffering lies in temporarily leaving this system with what is known as “reved” or restocking the body with carbohydrates from time to time and then returning to the diet again.
As for Anas, 26, he thinks he has found what he wanted: “After losing hope from all the other types of diets, keto started losing my excess weight, but with keto I got relatively quick results; She lost 28 pounds in less than four months.”
“Keto will be harmful if applied the wrong way.”
The controversy about keto, both in medical circles and among people, is because it allows for eating red meat, nuts and the many fats needed in this type of diet.
As well as material costs, which many believe are a hallmark of this diet, especially as many Arab countries are suffering from deteriorating economic conditions.
Ahmed Samara, a clinical nutritionist with low-carb diets, has a YouTube channel and other platforms where he provides information and advice on the keto diet. He also provides consultations at his clinic to determine nutritional programs for his patients and to monitor their cases.
Samara explains how the keto diet contributes to reducing the severity of some chronic diseases or even treating them, saying, “The keto diet will be harmful if applied incorrectly, but if properly applied, it can cure chronic diseases and allow the patient to discontinue his treatments, provided he discontinues them under the supervision of his physician.” .
Samara says of the staple food of this system and its cost: “It’s just the dishes of our Arab cuisine without bread, rice and potatoes. It relies on meat in its natural, unprocessed form, chicken and fish, in addition to eggs and vegetables.
Eggs can always be substituted if meat is not available, as it is the cheapest and best source of protein.”
As for Dr Magdy Nazih, head of the Scientific Foundation for Food Culture in Egypt, it is not recommended to follow this diet and believes that people only use it for weight loss without regard to health outcomes: “We recommend this kind of diet because of its negative influence on the internal organs of the body, mainly the liver and kidneys.” .
dr. adds. It is fair that the World Health Organization and all international institutions recommend standards and proportions for a healthy diet, which are summed up as 65 percent carbohydrates to fix energy, then 15 percent proteins, then fats, in addition to nutrients for the safety of vital processes.
The head of the Scientific Foundation for Food Culture emphasizes that any diet should be based on various considerations, including weight and height, the patient’s health status, age and the medical history of his family, to take into account the genetic predisposition to disease, so it is not possible to give one template that can be followed by all people.
As part of a study on obesity in the Arab countries, conducted among a group of 1,292 keto followers, the specialized journal Elsevier published a joint study between the Department of Nutrition of the College of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences of the University of Petra in Jordan. capital, Amman, in collaboration with the College of Medicine and Medical Sciences in Amman, the Arabian Gulf University in Manama, Bahrain, and the Bahraini Ministry of Health.
The study, which included 50 percent of young people (18-34) and the rest of the 35-49 age group, found that more than 57 percent practice the keto diet without specialized supervision; 65 percent of them lost weight and maintained it, 22 percent gained it back, while 5 percent of the study group did not lose any weight.
With the different opinions of specialists and the contradictions of different diets, and on the one hand under the pressure of health problems and on the other the social picture of losing weight at any cost, we can only find a balanced comparison that shows potential long-term risks of each diet.