Dietician Melissa Fossier doesn't recommend keto diets for kids and young teens as it limits the carbohydrates necessary for them to be mentally and physically active.
A mother has sparked controversy after sharing that her two young children are on a keto diet. Abby Durlewanger, who goes by the name @houseofketo on TikTok, achieved fame on the video-sharing website after parting the health benefits of a ketogenic diet, having committed to it herself. She revealed that her 11-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son are also following this particular diet, according to Yahoo! News.
In the clip that raised alarm amongst her followers, Durlewanger was seen packing a keto-friendly lunchbox for her oldest child. "My 11-year-old’s keto and this is what I made her for lunch," she said as she packed a lettuce wrap with shredded chicken, cilantro-lime crema sauce, and shredded cheddar cheese. She then put some fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and some leftover watermelon as a "surprise" treat in the box, explaining that watermelon was not typically a part of the family's keto diet.
"Typically we don’t include watermelon in our regular everyday ketogenic lifestyle [because it contains] more carbs and sugar than we would normally eat," she added. Finally, she placed a hard-boiled egg and two slices of cheddar cheese in the lunch pack for her daughter before saying, "Our entire family eats this way, including our 5-year-old, our puppies, and my husband."
A ketogenic or keto diet involves the consumption of low carbohydrates and high fat, which places one's body in a metabolic state called ketosis. According to Healthline, when this happens, the body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. Health experts don't have enough evidence to determine whether or not the keto lifestyle is healthy for children and young teens.
The director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, Kathy McManus, said, "The keto diet is primarily used to help reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures in children. While it also has been tried for weight loss, only short-term results have been studied, and the results have been mixed." The registered dietitian continued, "We don't know if it works in the long term, nor whether it's safe."
A registered dietician at Children's Health, Melissa Fossier does not recommend putting children and teens on a keto diet unless there's a specific medical requirement. Per Harvard Health Publishing, the keto plan "centers on fat, which supplies as much as 90% of daily calories." Thus, the diet limits carbohydrates intake, which is essential for children, who need to be mentally and physically active. "Carbohydrates provide us with energy and important nutrients," explained Fossier.
"Children need carbohydrates for growth and development, to do homework, to read books, and to go outside and play," continued the dietitian. Naturally, Durlewanger's followers became concerned about the long-term impact the diet would have on her children's health. "It concerns me that your five and 11-year-old are keto. Every doctor and nutritionist I have ever talked to has said that keto is a diet only," noted one user.
"Great. That child is going to develop an eating disorder and clogged arteries. Why is an 11-year-old on a keto diet?" asked another. A third chimed in, "Don't do this. My parents put me on the Atkins diet with them and my body hates me so much now, and I don't know how to eat properly. I never felt full." Responding to the criticism, Durlewanger uploaded another video where she explained her reasons behind putting her kids on a keto diet. "If your child is not on a diet, what is wrong with you?" she said.
"We have to feed our kids, I know they want to eat all the time but we literally have to feed them – your child has to be on a diet. A diet is just food or drink that you consistently consume – habitual nourishment. A diet is not synonymous with weight loss, a diet is not even synonymous with restriction. We never use the word 'diet' in our videos." She also argued that "it is entirely possible to be keto and lose absolutely no weight" or "stay absolutely the same."
Cover image source: TikTok | @houseofketo