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The Ketogenic Diet: Is it a good fit for bariatric patients?

By Dana Babeu, R.D. | June 3, 2021

The keto diet has gained popularity in the past few years, especially on social media. I often get asked whether or not the keto diet is right for bariatric patients. The short answer is no - the ketogenic diet is not generally recommended for the bariatric population and here’s why. 

The keto diet is high in fat, moderate in protein and low in carbohydrates. Keto forces the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. Following a ketogenic diet means fats are the main source of food. The amount of fat consumed is not usually limited and typically makes up about 70-80% of daily calories. This leaves only 20-30% of your daily calories coming from carbohydrates AND protein. 

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Following a bariatric diet requires 60 - 100 grams of protein per day.  However, the keto diet limits protein intake and fiber-rich foods. Lean protein should make up the majority of the post-operative diet in order to minimize loss of muscle tissue during times of active weight loss. Also important are fiber-rich foods which help prevent constipation and increase fullness. The development of fatty diarrhea, nutrient malabsorption and dumping syndrome are potential downsides of keto following weight loss surgery.  This significant decrease in protein and fiber-rich foods is why we do not recommend the keto diet for bariatric patients.

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It’s always important to discuss a new diet or eating plan with your doctor or dietitian before starting the latest diet trend. Make an appointment to meet with your dietitian to discuss the best dietary options for you.

Dana Babeu, RD, is a registered dietitian at New Jersey Bariatric Center, a medical & surgical weight loss center with offices in Springfield, Somerville, Hoboken, East Brunswick, Hackettstown and Sparta, New Jersey. She provides pre-operative and post-operative nutritional counseling to New Jersey Bariatric Center’s Gastric Bypass, Gastric Sleeve, LAP-BAND (gastric band) and revision patients, in addition to dietary counseling for patients in our Medical Weight Loss program.
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