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With celebrity followers helping boost its appeal – reportedly, dabblers include actor Halle Berry, a Kardashian (take your pick) and basketball star LeBron James – the keto diet is still very much in vogue. But does it sit comfortably within the natural health sector, asks Jane Wolfe

We’ve all heard of the keto diet, but may well be a little vague about exactly what it is, how it works and whether it is both effective and safe. Ketogenic therapy (classic keto) was created by pioneering researcher Dr Russell Wilder in 1923 to treat epilepsy in patients at the Mayo Clinic. The low-carb, high-fat diet is continuing to gain followers, partly due to the functional benefits it claims to offer – such as increased energy and mental clarity – in addition to significant weight loss. It is also helping to dispel the outdated ‘all fats are bad’ notion, which can surely only be a good thing. 

Well, as with many ‘on trend’ diet plans, this one has its fair share of both fans and detractors, and is certainly not without controversy. Headlines have warned about possible negative health impacts – blaming it for everything from insomnia and acne, to liver damage and high cholesterol. In fact when the 2017 documentary The Magic Pill, produced by celebrity chef Pete Evans, claimed the diet helped autism, asthma and cancer, it was highly criticized by the Australian Medical Association (AMA), which called on Netflix to remove it. 

In a Facebook response, Evans questioned the AMA’s motives, hinting that the organization was ‘fearful of people in Australia becoming healthy’, and asked: “Does the head of the AMA believe that eating vegetables and fruit with a side of well-sourced meat/seafood/eggs to be a dangerous way of life?”

So what’s it all about? Nutrition expert Patrick Holford explains how it works: “Cells can run on glucose or ketones, derived from fats. If you eat very few carbs (below 50g a day or 15 GLs) and increase your intake of fat, your metabolism switches to running on ketones. The fact that we have this ‘dual fuel’ metabolism is very interesting, and the hottest area of research right now is about switching, from time to time, to run on ketones, thus turning off your glucose engine. This triggers a process called ‘autophagy’ (literally self-eating) which repairs worn-out mitochondria, the energy factories in cells. So, running on ketones is about repair.”

Due to celeb endorsement and media hype, keto is rapidly making its way into the mainstream. “It’s really the latest in a long line of low-carb eating trends, from the Atkins Diet, to Gillian McKeith’s eating plans,” explains Planet Organic buying director Al Overton. “I’d say it’s a natural evolution, not something wholly new. A big part of its popularity can be explained by its usefulness in managing weight loss, but for us the most interesting part is the long-term health benefits and its effects on metabolism. Full-time keto is hard, and not necessarily a good health choice for everyone or if done for too long, but maintaining effective carb and fat metabolism, and the body’s ability to switch between the two, looks like it is good for general health.”

A good fit?
The basic tenet of the diet may appear to be the polar opposite of what many health food stores propose – a balanced, wholefood diet, with a wide variety of grains, pulses, fruit and veg – but it does seem to hold an increasingly important place within the sector.

“It’s an effective way of losing weight and it does contain some healthy foods, including vegetables, oily fish and mono and polyunsaturated fats,” explains clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer. “Plus we often forget that it can be used medically to good effect – in cases of epilepsy, as an example. It’s effective if followed correctly. People will often be consuming less calories overall once they start the programme, which will also have a positive effect on weight loss.”

However, Sawyer adds that it doesn’t exactly adhere to the accepted vision of what a healthy diet should look like. It requires people to eat about 60% fat (much of it saturated), so the macros are imbalanced, she says, is very low in fibre and doesn’t fulfil the 5 A Day recommendation. “It’s a different way of eating and needs to be followed closely, so it’s not really achievable within the ’normal’ wholefood, natural diet.”

And, as Holford adds, keto diets are also virtually impossible for vegans to follow. However, they can be achieved as a pescatarian, which he suggests is the healthiest way to go.

Although Planet Organic sees it as an area of probable growth, it doesn’t promote a strict keto diet, but simply a healthy diet, Overton explains. “Keto can definitely be part of that, even without going ‘full keto’ and constantly measuring for the metabolic state of ketosis. After all, it is possible to eat badly on a keto diet. I suppose someone could eat bacon for three meals a day and still adhere to keto principles, but we wouldn’t recommend that!”

Holford believes the first generation keto diets, like Atkins, were too high in protein, especially meat and milk, and so switched off autophagy, meaning followers didn’t get the cellular repair benefit. He also highlights the problems associated with consuming too much meat and dairy products, such as colorectal cancer.

“I think it’s a good idea to switch from carbs to ketones every now and again,” he says. Holford’s latest book The Hybrid Diet advocates switching regularly between a slow-carb and a high-fat diet. “The most exciting animal research is showing reversal of autoimmune disease – a kind of ‘reboot’ by doing a five-day ‘fasting-mimicking diet’ every two weeks. I recommend people do this every month to regain health, and once a quarter to maintain health. The more often you switch, the easier it becomes, giving you more metabolic flexibility.”

“For any new diet that people are unsure how to follow, it is always helpful to have signposted brands or products, whether vegan, keto, low FODMAP, etc”

Meeting demand
Mintel’s Stephanie Mattucci believes that as the diet becomes more popular, manufacturers should seek to develop keto-friendly products to help consumers follow this challenging diet. “Possibilities include the use of healthy fats, low-carb ingredients and to align with clean label principles in order to appeal to consumers who are looking to use the keto diet as part of a healthy lifestyle.”

Certainly as the ‘k word’ spreads across the country, demand is rising for specific foods designed to make it easier for followers to keep on track. Cue online specialist My Keto Shop, which launched after Liam Joyce, who created the shop with wife Hannah, decided to give the ketogenic diet a go but found it hard to buy suitable products. 

“At the time, the diet was huge in America, but when Liam was finding inspiration on Instagram and various Facebook groups he found some of the foods weren’t available here in the UK,” explains Hannah. “So My Keto Shop was born.”

“We choose products that are 100% keto,” she says. “There are some dieters that may be a little less strict and allow a few ingredients to sneak into their diet such as dextrose, but we won’t stock items that have any ingredient that can raise blood sugar levels, which in turn knocks you out of ketosis.

“A lot of new keto dieters decided to try it after watching the documentary The Magic Pill,” she adds. “However, it is in no way easy – it’s a complete life-style change.” And with this in mind, My Keto Shop is all too happy to offer advice to customers. “We answer every question, suggestion and complaint that is sent to us,” says Hannah. “The smallest thing can make any hard work go to waste and if someone isn’t completely clued up they may make mistakes without even knowing.”

“The business is doing better than we ever hoped,” says Joyce. “We started out in our kitchen and now are moving into new premises to have space to grow. We are opening a low-carb section for people who find the strict keto diet too hard to maintain, and are looking further into the health and wellbeing side so will introduce more vitamins and supplements.”

Planet Organic’s keto-specific offering centres mainly around snacking, which is where everything always seems to start, says Overton. “We have keto snack bars and will soon have keto breakfast cereals too. Keto-branded products will certainly increase in number. Keto is, of course, simply a way of eating, so there are a lot of foods suitable for the lifestyle. However, a lot of these aren’t yet branded as such because until recently it just wouldn’t have been recognized as meaningful brand messaging, and also most of the them are common foods – you don’t need to buy special keto nuts or keto broccoli.

“Keto has become a shortcut for low-carb or low-sugar products, for which there is a big interest in the UK. It can become a mark of reassurance without having to look at nutritional information for every product. For any new diet that people are unsure how to follow, it is always helpful to have signposted brands or products, whether they be vegan, keto, low FODMAP, etc.”

Future focus
Overton believes keto will continue to grow but also develop. “The latest step in the ongoing evolution of low-carb, low-sugar eating, it will eventually evolve beyond keto. It will become part of the growing awareness around understanding metabolism and the benefits of eating to control metabolism on some of the health problems which are particularly prevalent in the western world. I don’t think the future is for all of us to be using breath tests daily to ensure that we haven’t strayed outside a ketosis state. To stay in a metabolic state of ketosis all the time is very hard work. For most people it will be easier to maintain a metabolism that can switch in and out of ketosis effectively.”

“I think it will have a place, at least for a while,” agrees Sawyer. “However, what’s interesting is that its popularity is having no impact on our overall obesity rates in the UK. I think it will always be around, plus of course, there is a general push to reduce our intake of carbs overall, especially refined carbs. 

I think those who really need to lose weight for health reasons, who are clinically obese, may often be reluctant to follow such a strict programme. I also think there’s of confusion amongst the population generally about healthy eating. As always, education, from those who are qualified is key.”

 

Hydration on the go: AQUA Carpatica Natural Mineral Water Sports Cap

AQUA Carpatica
Tel: 01895 549041
E-mail:  [email protected]
www.aquacarpatica.co.uk

Staying hydrated when you’re always on the go might be tricky at times- we listened to our consumers and came up with the perfect solution, adapting our award-winning product to suit a busy lifestyle: the 750ml Sports Cap bottle. A great fit for fitness enthusiasts or active consumers, constantly on the move, AQUA Carpatica Still Natural Mineral Water in the new bottle format ensures a natural hydration anytime, anywhere:
• Virtually nitrate free (0.7mg/l)
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• Flip top sports cap
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Herbal Waterfall

FSC
Tel: 0800 083 0356
E-mail:  [email protected]
www.fscsupplements.com

FSC Waterfall is a carefully formulated blend of herbal supplements, including Dandelion Extract, Green Tea and Cider Vinegar to naturally help eliminate excess water. All FSC supplements are made in the UK with the finest ingredients and based on widely recognised scientific evidence of their health qualities. FSC Waterfall is suitable for Vegetarians and it is recommended to take one tablet in the morning, preferably with food.

 

2 Day Detox Plan

HealthAid Ltd, HealthAid House
Tel: 020 8426 3400
E-mail: [email protected]
www.HealthAid.co.uk

2-Detox Plan Revitalise and Energise – HealthAid® innovative and exciting 2-Detox Plan is an effective and easy way to help the body combat over-indulgence and flush away unwanted toxins. Containing a combination of flavonoids, polyphenols, antioxidants and other active ingredients that work synergistically to help stimulate the body’s natural purifying and elimination systems, the 2-Day Detox Plan from HealthAid® can leave you feeling refreshed, energised, revitalised and purified.  2-Day Detox Plan retails at £9.99 for 100ml. Contact HealthAid Ltd on 020 8426 3400 for purchase and stockist information or visit www.healthaid.co.uk

 

9 Day Detox Pack

HOLFORDirect
Tel: : 0370 3341575
E-mail:  [email protected]
www.holfordirect.com 

Specialised nutritional and antioxidant support to help a detox programme.  It contains potent liver support nutrients including alpha lipoic acid and N-acetyl cysteine that have been shown to support the body’s natural detoxifying processes and eliminate unwanted substances.  In order for the toxins to be removed, the pack includes digestive support which contains a combination of digestive enzymes, probiotics and glutamine powder. It not only powers the gut, but heals it too.  Email: [email protected] Website: www.holfordirect.com

 

Garden of Life Microbiome Formula Once Daily Women’s

Kinetic Natural Products Distributor
Tel: 08450 725 825
E-mail:  [email protected]
www.kinetic4health.co.uk

A unique ‘one capsule a day’ shelf stable live form of bacteria specifically designed to support a healthy female microbiome. Featuring 16 diverse strains of bacteria, including two particular strains, L.reuteri and L.fermentum, which were chosen for their clinical benefits in supporting women’s health. The strains of bacteria are resistant to both stomach and bile acid, as well as antibiotics. Contains organic acacia and organic potato starch as prebiotics, thus avoiding the commonly used prebiotic fructo-oligosaccharides to minimise bloating and provide better overall digestive comfort. Suitable for those following a Low FODMAP diet. Dairy free, gluten free and soya free.

 

OM Organic Mushroom Nutrition Maitake

Kinetic Natural Products Distributor
Tel: 08450 725 825
E-mail:  [email protected]
www.kinetic4health.co.uk

Maitake is a remarkable well-researched mushroom and studies suggest that maitake can help balance your blood sugar and insulin levels as well as support weight control and digestion in conjunction with dietary restriction and exercise. Om Organic Mushroom Nutrition is a leading producer of pure, fresh, certified 100% organic medicinal mushroom powders that contribute to optimise your health. Having travelled the world to discover unique mushroom varieties, Om have combined the perfect balance of ancient wisdom with modern growing methodology to grow these miraculous mushrooms in their state-of-the-art facility in California.

 

Garden of Life Raw Organic Fit Protein Powder

Kinetic Natural Products Distributor
Tel: 08450 725 825
E-mail:  [email protected]
www.kinetic4health.co.uk

Garden Of Life Raw Organic Fit offers 28g of complete plant protein with 13 organic sprouted grains, seeds and legumes plus 3 billion CFU of live bacteria, 13 digestive enzymes, and clinically studied ingredients, including Svetol® Green Coffee Bean Extract, Raw Food Created Chromium and Organic Cinnamon. All Garden Of Life’s plant proteins are produced at low temperatures, preserving their complete amino acid integrity.  Certified by Informed Choice, all Garden Of Life proteins are tested and trusted as a clean supplement for competitive sport. USDA/Ecocert Organic, non-GMO Project Verified, gluten-, dairy-, soy- free and vegan.

 

Lamberts® Green Tea 5000mg (providing 250mg catechins)

Lamberts Healthcare Ltd,
Tel: : 01892 554313
E-mail:  [email protected]
www.lambertshealthcare.co.uk

The green tea extract used in this Lamberts® product has been concentrated to ensure a high level of the active ingredients called catechins, providing 250mg per tablet. For Lamberts® to ensure the very best quality, and a high level of active ingredients, the extract is obtained from whole green tea leaves harvested young and without the leaves being fermented (the process that turns green tea in to black tea). Just one of our tablets is equivalent to ½ litre of traditionally brewed green tea but with a caffeine content a fraction of normal tea.

 

Lepicol Lighter

Lepicol – ADM Protexin Ltd
Tel: 01460 243230
E-mail:  [email protected]
www.lepicol.com

The extra pounds your customers carry aren’t always down to over consumption and lack of exercise. Lepicol Lighter is an award winning, scientifically developed, natural food supplement which could assist your customers’ weight loss journey. Lepicol Lighter contains glucomannan, which in the context of an energy restricted diet contributes to weight loss, chromium to help maintain blood glucose levels and 7 strains of live bacteria to keep the gut healthy.

 

Apple Cider Gummies

New Nordic Ltd
Tel: 0800 389 1255
E-mail:  [email protected]
www.newnordic.co.uk

New Nordic is now launching a vegan-friendly gummy variant of the popular Apple Cider™ supplement that suppresses your appetite, helps your digestion – and can also assist with mild and healthy weight loss. These delicious gummies contain a unique combination of natural ingredients with the taste of apple and without artificial colouring. They’re also a great alternative for people who have trouble swallowing pills. 

Apple Cider™ Yummies
• Contributes to mild and healthy weight loss
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• Pleasant, easy and convenient way to take apple cider vinegar, also vegan-friendly

 

Seaweed Diet

New Nordic Ltd
Tel: 0800 389 1255
E-mail:  [email protected]
www.newnordic.co.uk 

Wakame seaweed aids in weight management and fat metabolism. Globe artichoke helps support digestion. The Seaweed Diet tablet is based on the latest scientific findings on effective functional ingredients from seaweeds. Modern research has proved the link between the marine carotenoid fucoxanthin and the benefits of seaweed in weight management and fat metabolism. The Seaweed Diet tablet contains fucoxanthin rich wakame in combination extract with Norwegian kelp. The tablet also contains artichoke and black pepper which helps support digestion, dandelion and white mulberry leaf. It’s content of chromium helps maintain normal blood glucose levels and metabolism.

 

Klamath Blue Green Algae®

The Really Healthy Company
Tel: 0208 480 1000
E-mail:  [email protected]
www.healthy.co.uk

Klamath Blue Green Algae® – the most nutrient dense food on the planet.  Contains approximately 65% quality protein and a complete profile of easily assimilated vitamins, minerals, trace elements, enzymes, amino acids, carbohydrates and fatty acids, ALL in perfect synergistic balance. Klamath has the highest beta-carotene and chlorophyll content per gram of any food.  Our desiccation process increases Klamath’s nutritional concentration by as much as 20 times, therefore retaining its enzymatic and nutritional integrity.  Klamath Blue Green Algae® is a wild green whole food source that perfectly complements a healthy diet. Wild, Organic, Pure – The UK’s ORIGINAL Klamath Blue Green Algae   

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About the Author

Jane Wolfe

Deputy Editor
Natural Products News deputy editor Jane Wolfe re-joined NPN in 2013 having previously worked for the magazine as a sub and freelance journalist from its Steyning beginnings.

Articles by Jane Wolfe
Jane Wolfe
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