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Low carb-high fat diet difficult to sustain in the long term

Cutting down on carbs like bread, pasta and potatoes in the ketogenic diet can help a person lose weight, but it is not sustainable.
Cutting down on carbs like bread, pasta and potatoes in the ketogenic diet can help a person lose weight, but it is not sustainable.PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

Q I am 17 and I have been on a ketogenic (low carb-high fat) diet for a week. The results have been great so far. I've been losing weight steadily and this has been very encouraging.

However, I've heard that people gained 10kg more than their starting weight when they quit the diet. And even though they did not overeat, they were unable to shed the extra kilograms.

Do you think it is possible to stay on the keto diet and still eat carbs, though not as much as before, without gaining weight?

A Regaining weight is a common problem.

The human body regulates many parameters, for example, blood sugar levels and internal body temperature, as well as the level of fat stores.

Hence, when we try to lose weight (fat stores), the body will respond through various mechanisms to take us back to our original weight, which it recognises as the "normal" weight.

These mechanisms can include hunger, cravings for energy-dense foods and lowering the basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy our body needs to function when at rest.

Therefore, the tendency to regain weight is actually a normal response. This is why maintaining weight loss is a challenge for most people.

Knowing that regaining weight is natural, the question is, how do we sustain weight loss?

Studies have shown that physical activity is very important and the person who engages in physical activities will have a high chance of maintaining weight loss.

The other important point that I stress to patients is the sustaina- bility of any weight-loss efforts.

Any diet that reduces one's overall energy intake can result in weight loss.

It is not surprising that the ketogenic diet, with its emphasis on extreme low-carb intake, can be effective in helping a person to lose weight. However, this diet can be difficult to keep up and, hence, sustainability beyond the short term is an issue.

I suggest you find a sustainable approach to weight management.

To do this, you should first get a comprehensive assessment done by healthcare professionals. This is especially important if your weight problem is severe, as there could be medical conditions or other factors that predispose you to weight gain.

Dr Benjamin Lam

Consultant weight management physician, Health For Life Centre, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2017, with the headline 'Low carb-high fat diet difficult to sustain in the long term'. Print Edition | Subscribe