How healthy is the keto diet? Center of Nutrition Outreach breaks it down


Tanya Falcone, the coordinator for the Center of Nutrition Outreach at Kent State, poses for a photo. 

Jade Critchfield

The keto diet is everywhere. From billboards to social media to health magazines, companies promote the diet as an effective weight-loss method. But despite the diet’s recent popularity, some nutritionists disapprove of the average person attempting it.

The keto diet, an extreme low-carb diet with a high intake of fats and protein, puts the body in a state called “ketosis,” or the breakdown of muscle and fat in order to feed the body.

Tyler Williams, a junior aerospace engineering major, followed the diet for a few months. He would sit down in his dorm with a plate full of hot, steaming food. After snacking on almonds for most of the day, it was refreshing to eat something warm. Williams’ juicy, fatty hamburger (and no bun) sat in front of him, cheese oozing down the sides. 

Next to it would be either a warm pile of asparagus or broccoli. The meal would be so filling that Williams wouldn’t even need dessert.

On the average diet, the human body turns sugar into energy. On the keto diet, the body goes through an extra step by converting proteins into sugar.

“When we don’t have carbs for energy, we do use protein and we do use fat, but the primary source of energy in your body is glucose, or sugar,” said Tanya Falcone, the coordinator for the Center of Nutrition Outreach at Kent State. “If we don’t have glucose, the body will use other sources, non-glucose sources, and convert that into sugar.”

When the body is using non-glucose sources to make glucose, it takes products that can’t be converted into anything and turns it into waste. Those are ketones. The body and brain end up feeding on the ketones, or the by-product of the breakdown of protein and fat, Falcone said.

Besides the body feeding on waste product, the keto diet also has some harmful side effects, such as headaches, fatigue, nausea and bad breath, according to Healthline.

Williams hasn’t experienced any side effects, except weight loss, while on the diet, he said.

“I felt amazing on the keto diet, way better than I did before. I loved it,” Williams said. “I actually felt like I had more energy.”

Williams loves to eat sweets and tends to follow more restrictive diets. He encourages students to try keto, but only if they do extensive research to see if the diet works for them.

“I did a lot of research on the diet because I didn’t want to do it half-assed,” Williams said.

The keto diet is potentially safe as a long-term diet for people with seizures, according to the Mayo Clinic. The diet was originally created for people who had seizures because, on a low-carb diet, there was less neuron activity that caused the seizures, Falcone said.

Falcone does not recommend anyone follow the diet longterm, even people who suffer from seizures. 

Low-carbohydrate diets, overall, have no advantage over traditional, nutritionally balanced diets in terms of weight loss and weight maintenance, some experts, like those published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, say.

Jade Critchfield covers health and fitness. Contact her at [email protected].