Restrictive Diets Of Any Kinds Have Been Shown To Put Kids And Teens At Risk Of Disordered Eating
Keto was never intended for general use, according to Zeitlin. It was developed as a last-resort treatment for children with epilepy and other seizure disorders who didn’t respond to medications.
Keto can also be also problematic for kids simply because it’s so restrictive. The American Academy of Pediatrics cautions against any kind of dieting for children. There’s substantial research linking diets with weight gain as well as increased risk of eating disorders, particularly over the long term.
Zeitlin said any weight loss or dietary concerns about children should be addressed with a pediatrician before parents start restricting any food groups.
“When you’re teaching children a restrictive diet, you’re teaching them food shaming, body shaming, disordered eating, not teaching them a healthy relationship with food,” she said.
How Does Ketogenic Diet Work
A ketogenic diet is a form of a low-carbohydrate diet where most calories come from fat. Carbohydrate intake is reduced to as low as 20 to 50 grams per day , while dietary fat is increased by about four grams of fat consumed for every gram of carbohydrate and protein. Thus, almost 90% of calories in a ketogenic diet come from fat .
The name ketogenic means producing ketones. The diet mimics fasting since the body has inadequate glucose, the primary source of energy derived from carbohydrates. Therefore, the body enters ketosis, a state where it uses fat to synthesize ketones, the compounds which become the primary source of energy for the body .
The use of ketones for energy alters the bodys metabolism and leads to changes, such as a decrease in insulin levels and fat storage. Some other changes that can be noticed include a reduction in seizures, body weight, and blood sugar. Ketones can be detected in urine, blood and breath.
The Case For The Ketogenic Diet For Kids
Those that believe that children would be perfectly OK on a low carb diet cite the fact that the keto diet done properly is a mix of protein, healthy fats and vegetables.
These are all foods found in nature and introduces a healthy diet to our children, steering them away from foods that are processed and packaged.
It cannot be denied that our children are addicted to sugar from an early age and facing an epidemic of becoming more and more obese from earlier and earlier ages.
While yes, I dont think children should be restricted on any sort of diet, I also believe that low carb living is sustainable on some level for life and so is not a diet but a way of eating. This is similar to those who are vegan or dairy-free, they eat that way long term and so do us low carbers.
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Benefit And Controversies Of Low Carb Diet In Overweight Teens
We know that the incidence of childhood obesity is escalating in the United States. The implications of this go far beyond “looks” and even the emotional ramifications of “looking fat.” The health effects of childhood obesity, as in adults, ranging from diabetes to sleep apnea.
Researchers have attempted to determine the reasons for the skyrocketing rate of childhood obesity. It may seem ironic that as weight among teens has increased, the number of calories consumed in a child’s diet hasn’t changed significantly over the past 30 years.
What researchers are guessing is that, while the lack of exercise may play a big role, the amount and type of carbohydrates consumed is responsible. It’s thought that high glycemic foods cause an excessive amount of insulin to be secreted after eating, which in turn leads to weight gain.
Although very few research studies have been done on low-carb diets for kids, one study did show that overweight teens did better on a low-carb diet vs. a low-fat diet. Researchers concluded that a low-carb “diet appears to be an effective method for short-term weight loss in overweight adolescents.”
Interestingly, after one year, of 36 children in the study, only one teen on the low-fat diet, but 8 on the low-carb diet, came back for a follow-up. The researchers concluded that may mean that the low-carb diet might have been easier for the teens to follow.
The Keto Diet Can Lead To Nutritional Deficiencies And Other Health Issues
Even when used with children with intractable epilepsy and close medical supervision, there are possible adverse effects of a ketogenic diet, including increased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides and increased risk for kidney stones, Kirkpatrick said. There is also a risk for reduced bone mineral density if the ketogenic diet is followed for longer than two years.
Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, cited a 2013 study on the efficacy and safety of the ketogenic diet in Chinese children, which found frequent reports of gastrointestinal disturbance, food refusal and hypoproteinemia .
It seems that unless completely necessary for seizure control, the keto diet isnt necessarily the best diet for children, Valdez said.
Kirkpatrick noted that severely restricting kids carbohydrate intake to 20-50 grams per day restricts the intake of foods that provide fuel for energy and cognitive function, as well as foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals required for growth and development.
Rapid growth, bone deposition, hormonal changes, metabolic rate and a host of other differences make kids react very differently to nutrition than adults.
– Dr. Christopher F. Bolling
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The Cons Of A Keto Lifestyle
Unlike a vegan or gluten-free diet, it is not as easy to find clearly labeled items that are keto-approved in the grocery store, and it may not be likely that there are dedicated sections in stores for keto-friendly items. However, once you have the hang of shopping for keto, it will become more second nature.
Additionally, the ketogenic diet could cause health concerns down the line on growing bodies, Routhenstein explained: If a child without epilepsy follows a 50-55% fat diet and reduces carbohydrates to a very dangerous amount it can impair growth and development, cause GI upset and possible constipation, cause vitamin/mineral deficiencies and can actually promote hardened arteries that lead to heart disease, heart attacks and stroke later in life.
Parents interested in raising their child with a low-carb or ketogenic diet should also take into consideration social situations such as school lunches, birthday parties, field trips, and playdates. Arming your child, no matter their diet, with information about healthy eating habits from a young age can impact how they view food moving forward.
Routhenstein added: Our job as parents is to educate and model a healthy relationship with food and an appropriate balance so our children can learn to make healthy choices on their own. We want to create healthy habits from when they are young so they grow into adults who live a healthy lifestyle.
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We get many questions about kids and ketogenic diets. We have fed our kids keto from the time they came to us and have helped many clients put their kids on a ketogenic diet and see big improvements in focus, moods, ADHD and other symptoms. In this post we want to talk about kids going keto, the changes to make versus an adult eating keto and address some common myths.
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Keto For Kids: Where Do Carbs Come In
If you look at the body, its hard to figure out why the experts tell us to eat so many carbs. If you take away water, then we are mostly made of fat, protein, and minerals.
Our brains are mostly fat, our cells are protected by a bi-layer of fat, and we need fat and cholesterol for hormonal and nerve health. Protein and minerals provide the structural building materials for growth.
We often hear kids need carbs to grow, but only 1% of the human body is carbohydrates. So, why are carbs/sugar supposed to make up 45-65% of the diet ? It doesnt seem very logical. Does it?
What Is A Ketogenic Diet
If medicine doesn’t control seizures in epilepsy, sometimes doctors prescribe a ketogenic diet. A ketogenic diet is a strict high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that can reduce, and sometimes stop, seizures.
It’s called “ketogenic” because it makes ketones in the body. Ketones are made when the body uses fat for energy. By replacing carbs with fat in the diet, the body burns more fat and makes more ketones.
The ketogenic diet is prescribed by a doctor. Kids on the diet need to be followed closely by a dietitian to make sure they follow the diet and get the nutrients they need. The diet starts with fasting during an overnight hospital stay.
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Keto For Kids: How To Do It Right
As mentioned at the beginning, when done properly, keto should be quite safe for kids. In an interview for my podcast , Craig Emmerich and I discussed the right and wrong way to do keto for kids. Listen to that episode below or on your favorite podcast player.
Craig pointed out that studies that deem keto to be dangerous featured poorly designed diets that were too high in fat and too low in protein .
I did find one 6 month study on the safety of keto for kids. The researchers noticed sustained growth rates, and even saw improved liver function after this 6 month period. Of course, the study had the same limitations as the ones Craig talked about in our interview.
Too much fat, too little protein, and the participants were only children that had epilepsy. Its hard to extrapolate these results and apply them to healthy kids who do not have other medical conditions.
How Many Carbs Per Day Does A Child Need
To start, kids need carbs for energy and fuel. That doesn’t mean they have to get them from pastries and sugary cereal, but to cut kids down to getting only 5 to 10 percent of their calories from carbs is not healthy for children.
According to the current dietary guidelines, its recommended that carbs account for 45 to 65 percent of childrens total caloric intake, says Kristi King, a senior pediatric dietitian at Texas Childrens Hospital. The calculations vary depending on the age of the child, she says. And gender typically plays a role in the numbers too, with girls being on the lower end of the range than boys. Her calculations, based on daily recommended intake values for a healthy child, are:
- 1-3 years of age 110-159 grams/day
- 4-8 years of age 130-220 grams/day
- 9-14 years of age 170-280 grams/day
- 14-18 years of age 220-300 grams/day
While it’s clear that kids need carbs, it’s perfectly fine to focus on giving your kids the healthy kind. Carbohydrates are in more places than just breads and pastries. You can find carbs in dairy, grains, vegetables, fruits, etc., King notes. So 130 grams of carbohydrates a day could look like three cups of milk, two pieces of wheat bread, a banana, an apple, and approximately two cups of veggies.
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Is It Safe To Put Kids On The Keto Diet
In short, no. In fact, the keto diet wasnt intended for weight lossit was developed back in the 1920s to control seizures in epileptic children.
In my opinion it is not safe without medical supervision, says Helen Lowe, who is a dietitian with the Ketogenic Diet Program at SickKids. She treats children with epilepsy using a ketogenic dietbut only after they have been thoroughly assessed by the medical team.
We review all the potential side effects, and we monitor them very closely, she says.
Everything you believe about the BRAT diet is wrongPatients must undergo regular testing: bloodwork, ultrasounds, and other testing to monitor their growth and nutrient intake. While the exact mechanism that makes it work isnt yet fully understood, Lowe says that the current research shows a strong correlation between being in good ketosis and seizure control.
However, between the food restrictions, the medical surveillance and the risk of malnutrition, the keto diet is no childs play. Thats why the team typically treats children who have already tried two or more anti-epileptic medications.
We would not recommend putting children on a ketogenic diet if it wasnt medically indicated, says Lowe.
Dan Flanders, the owner and executive director of KinderCare Pediatrics, says hes not aware of any data on the long-term impacts of ketosis on relatively healthy children.
Keto Benefits For Adults
Keto has taken the diet world by storm. Some segments of the population have experienced such positive effects on their health that others wonder if they too might reap the rewards.
As a nutritionist, I always look at the science and ignore the hype around diet claims. Heres what we have to go on when assessing the potential benefits of the ketogenic diet:
A ketogenic diet done well shows strong evidence for:
- Weight loss
- Improving insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
- Treating epilepsy
Emerging evidence also shows promising benefits for the treatment of:
- Some cancers
Anecdotally, people following a keto approach report benefits including:
- Reduced sugar cravings
- Better mood
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Big Question: Are Low Carb/keto Diets Safe For Kids
Is keto Safe For Kids, lots of people believe that children benefit from low carb/ketogenic diets because they lower their kids wheat and sugar/carb intake.Their thinking is, parents dont need to be as strict about keeping their children in such a tight rigid weight range because their insulin sensitivity is better than adults, so are better able to handle carbs and sugar.
Keto For Kids: Is It Safe And How To Start
Feb 15, 2019 | Keto Lifestyle |
What do you think about keto for kids? Good idea or no? Im on the keto diet and have found a host of benefits from being on this diet. Let me share with you how I approach feeding my family while Im following the ketogenic way of eating.
The ketogenic diet is surrounded by controversy right now as we unlearn all that we grew up on when it comes to our diets and eating healthy. Now that were eating more fat than ever and realizing that weve been blaming butter for what the bread did, more questions are being raised.
Questions like, is this way of eating safe for the long term and is it safe for kids? This article will look at ket for kids discussing the pros and cons of starting your children on a low carb diet and how to transition them to this lifestyle if you choose to.
New to the keto diet? Start here! This will help you to figure out how to stick to this diet and make it a lifestyle for you.
Its a good time here to bring up the fact that the keto diet was actually developed for children who suffered from epilepsy.
It was discovered that the brain thrived on using fat as a source of fuel and so it is children that first benefited from this diet. In fact, children start out being in ketosis if they are breast fed.
Think about it, your breast milk is made up of fat mostly, and babies use this fat to grow and develop. It is us that introduce them to carbs and sugar and change their way of eating from what theyre used to.
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The Keto Diet For Kids Is Too Restrictive
Is keto safe for kids? As weve mentioned, no. Another big issue with keto for kids is that it teaches a restriction mindset at a young age.
Pediatricians teach families and kids to stick to the five-a-day rule . Keto eliminates this healthy habit because it cuts out all fruit as well as the fiber found in high-carb vegetables.
Although diet culture is everywhere, encouraging kids to go on keto which can be restrictive introduces children to it directly. There are keto meals for kids, but that involves taking out important fruits and fiber that is necessary.
Plus, keto is difficult to follow for kids. They can eat keto meals with you at breakfast and dinner, and you can pack them lunches. But how do you control what they eat with other family members, at birthday parties, or by themselves? If you put kids on keto, it will be hard to truly monitor every occasion.
Following the plan rigorously either sets them up for failure or leaves them feeling deprived and isolated from their peers. Whats more, theres limited research on its effectiveness and it deprives them of nutrients. Keto meals for kids are not safe and or recommended.
Choosing strict keto for kids can be a lose-lose situation for everyone involved therefore you should not put kids on keto.
Side Effects Of Keto Diet For Children
When the body goes through ketosis, children might feel some initial side effects, including:
“The side effects happen because the body literally thinks it’s starving,” explains Fossier.
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Can My Kids Do Keto Too
Yes, kids can do keto. In fact, ketogenic diets were first tested on children that had epilepsy, and it was found to be safe and effective.
As long as the children are drinking plenty of water and meeting their macronutrient and micronutrient needs, they will be able to follow the ketogenic diet without any major issues. They may even be more focused and better behaved as a result of burning ketones for fuel.
To figure out what macros your child needs to eat, use our keto calculator.
Here are some recommendation for water intake:
Daily Water Intake Suggestions For Females:
- 4-8 years old drink 1.7 liters of water per day
- 9-13 years old drink 2.1 liters of water per day
- 14-18 years old drink 2.3 liters of water per day
- 19+ drink 2.7 liters of water per day
Daily Water Intake Suggestions For Males:
- 4-8 years old drink 1.7 liters of water per day
- 9-13 years old drink 2.4 liters of water per day
- 14-18 years old drink 3.3 liters of water per day
- 19+ drink 3.7 liters of water per day
If your child is active and/or first starting keto, make sure they drink a couple of extra glasses of water on those days.
Here are some essential minerals that they need to get enough of: