SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – It's described as a way to turn your body into a fat burning machine, promising to help you lose weight – fast!
The keto diet is a high fat, low carb eating plan that has quickly become one of the most popular health trends of the moment. And while the dramatic before and after pictures may entice you to give it a shot, experts say there are some real-life consequences it can have on your health.
"I lost 22 pounds in two months and I started teaching other people how to do it," said Jami Areia, who runs the Facebook group Keto Club For Women.
"I feel like I have freedom from food. I no longer have cravings, I no longer have food addictions, and I'm learning how to sustain with food instead of entertain with food," she said. "I have more mental clarity, more energy, stamina, I just feel good all day long," she added.
Areia has been following the keto diet for more than three years. She's helped others struggling with their weight lose as much as 73 pounds in a year.
"I am keto for life. Absolutely," Areia says.
The keto diet puts the body into a metabolic state known as "ketosis." When your body is in ketosis, the liver produces ketones – which become your body's main energy source.
Dieticians say the diet is so popular because it works, initially.
"The keto diet basically means that you have to keep your carbohydrates -- all day -- below 50 grams of carbohydrate," said Monica Randel, a dietician with Kaiser Permanente. "Who can turn down a peach in the summer? What about grapes? What about watermelon? So, people over time will go, 'I can't do this anymore' 'I can't handle this'... and then they'll crack and fall off it."
Randel says it can also be downright dangerous.
"When you eat a lot of nitrogen from animal products, your nitrogen goes up in your bloodstream and it brings down the acidity in your bloodstream," Randel said. "So, your blood becomes more acid and that can precipitate kidney stones."
Areia admits she's fallen off the wagon before, but says maintenance boils down to discipline. Randel argues such a restrictive diet isn't healthy long-term.
"A high protein diet with animal products is the leading cause of colon cancer," according to Randel.
She said people can also develop fatty liver disease, heart problems, an increase in cholesterol and a greater risk of developing ketoacidosis if you have diabetes.
"In very specific cases it can be beneficial, but we're talking about the rest of us that don't have that condition and that level of acid in our blood is actually dangerous," she said.
"I would challenge her with that to show evidence because I can show evidence of tens of thousands of people that are actually following a carnivore diet right now, where it's an all meat diet and they've been doing it for years and have reversed auto immune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, skin conditions," she said.
Dieticians say there are no conclusive long-term studies that show people can "reverse" certain health conditions on the keto diet, but say there are some promising results in patients who suffer from epilepsy.
Areia has had no adverse health effects and has no desire to go back to the standard American diet.
Before you start any diet, experts say you should always consult your doctor first.
For more information on Keto Club for Women: https://www.facebook.com/ketoclubforwomen/
for more features.