The ketogenic diet, eating low-carb and high-fat foods, is popular for many adults, but is it ever safe for kids or young adults? The Doctors welcome pediatrician Dr. Dafna Ahdoot and “The Keto Doctor” Dr. John Limansky to weigh in.
Dr. Ahdoot explains the keto diet eliminates or nearly eliminates carbs and notes that 65 percent of a kid's diets consist of carbohydrates and that the brain needs sugar to thrive and our bodies need sugar in order to be active. "If we are eliminating that, we are putting our kids at risk for nutrient deficiencies, vitamin deficiencies, fiber deficiencies, and constipation," she says, explaining she is not a big proponent of a keto diet for kids. However, she is in favor of reducing the carb intake for kids, especially the unhealthy types of carbs.
Dr. Limansky says he is seeing kids with adult diseases like hypertension, diabetes, fatty liver disease and feels for those cases a keto diet might be something to consider. He explains he would only suggest these kids stay on the diet for 6 to 12 months in hopes of reversing some of their health concerns. He suggests starting with small changes and removing high-sugar processed foods.
ER physician Dr. Travis Stork notes the keto diet can be helpful for people seeking to lose weight or address a health concern in the short-term, but he worries about people staying on the diet for too long and also going about it the wrong way, like eating too many unhealthy types of fatty foods.
The Doctors note that creating a healthy relationship with food at a young age is key, along with teaching kids about moderation, when it comes to combating childhood obesity and the related health issues.
In order to create healthy habits for the entire family, Dr. Ahdoot suggests:
- Focus on the family as a whole, and not just the child
- Make healthy meal choices
- Keep healthy food options in the kitchen pantry
- Remove as many processed foods as possible
- Eliminate or reduce soda and sugary drinks
- Incorporate daily activities like a 30-minute walk into the family's routine
If you are considering a keto diet for a young person or child, Dr. Ahdoot says to check with your doctor, continue to monitor their health and ensure they are done with puberty and growing.