INSIGHT: A Screed Against The Keto Diet

Keto is the new diet fad.  It’s also possibly the worst diet fad out there because it’s not a sustainable diet (apologies to the Grapefruit Diet, which has you eating nothing but grapefruit until you commit yourself to a mental health facility).  Keto is a throwback diet to the widely promoted and subsequently discredited Atkins Diet in a wolf’s clothing.   Worst of all, it wrongly views all carbs as undesirable.  Here’s why a Keto diet is, at best, a poor short-term weight-loss tactic.

Atkins Diet Compared to the Keto Diet

The Atkins diet was a low-carb diet introduced in 1972 by a Dr. Robert Atkins. The original version of the diet (now called Atkins 20) has four phases. It starts out with the very strict elimination of all carbs.  In subsequent phases, it begins to introduce limited (and relatively healthy carbs) back into the diet — up to 100 g per day, as long as your weight is maintained.   It worked particularly well with people who had become “addicted” to “empty” carb foods like baked goods, chips, pasta and white rice.

The Keto diet most frequently used was first developed in the 1920s to help children suffering from epilepsy.  It was believed that carbs triggered childhood seizures. It has subsequently morphed into a low-carb diet in which you  cut your carbs down to about 5 percent of your daily intake. Seventy-five percent of your remaining calories come from fat and 20 percent from protein.

It is called a keto diet because after a short period of time on this regimen, you will enter ketosis. Ketosis occurs when you don’t have enough sugar (glucose) for energy, so your body breaks down stored fat, causing ketones to build up in your body.  This is the body’s attempt to deal with the ketone overload.  It’s been known to trigger the Keto Flu,  a well-documented condition in which the body’s reaction to ketosis mimics flu symptoms.  Overtime, a keto diet can also lead to deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals and increase your risk of kidney stones and potentially heart disease, depending on the types of fats people choose.

The big difference between the two diets are amount of protein you’re allowed to take in and the reintroduction of carbs in the later phases. There’s no cap on Atkins, while the Keto Diet limits protein to about 20 percent of your daily calories. Also, in the Atkins regime you eventually reintroduce carbs.  In Keto, carbs are always severely curtailed….including fruits and whole grains.

That means Atkins may be more sustainable in the long run because it’s not quite as restrictive and doesn’t require you to make sure your body remains in ketosis.  Alas, neither diet is recommended for long-term use.

Neither Diet is Safe

For people with diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease, both diets are a no-no.   A study published in February 2017 in BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care looked at 10 low-carb studies and found dropout rates ranged from 2 percent to 60 percent.

A more recent 2019 study is even more alarming.  A Boston-based cardiologist published a massive, blockbuster global study of the eating patterns of more than 447,000 people around the world.  Her findings showed that no matter where you live or what your daily diet is like, banning entire food groups offers only short term benefits.  Even worse, the longer term impacts will cut your life short.   She pointed to the keto diet as an example of one that has harmful long-term consequences. 

Yet another 2019 study published in the journal PLOS Medicine that surveyed the eating habits of 471,495 Europeans over 22 years found that people whose diets had lower “nutritional quality” (i.e., fewer fresh vegetables, legumes, and nuts) were more likely to develop some of the most common and deadliest forms of cancer, including colon, stomach, lung, liver, and breast cancers.

In 2019, a group of Australian researchers published its findings in Cell Metabolism.  Their groundbreaking study showed the effects of protein, fat and carbohydrate on energy intake, metabolic health, ageing and longevity in mice. The research demonstrated in mice that calorie restriction, achieved by high protein diets or dietary dilution, has no beneficial effects on lifespan, a phenomenon researchers predict will apply in humans. While a high protein, low carbohydrate diet resulted in reduced body fat and food intake, it also led to a shorter lifespan and poor cardiometabolic health.  Meanwhile, a high carbohydrate, low protein diet resulted in longer lifespan and better cardiometabolic health, despite also increasing body fat.

The American Heart Association, the National Cholesterol Education Program, and the American Cancer Society all recommend a diet in which a smaller percentage of calories come from protein.  The scientific community is largely in complete agreement:  Americans eat too much animal protein.

The esteemed Mayo Clinic reports that Keto’s high fat and protein content — and especially the high level of unhealthy saturated fat — combined with limits on nutrient-rich fruits, veggies and grains is a concern for long-term heart health.  Some health experts believe that if you eat large amounts of fat and protein from animal sources,your risk of heart disease or certain cancers may actually increase.    Recent studies show that beef consumption is directly linked to gut inflammation and certain types of cancer.

Which Long Term Diets Actually Work?

Let’s face it, it’s not too difficult to find some obscure study that will support just about every weight-loss claim ever made. In fact, one enterprising journalist created a Chocolate diet, using dubious studies and unethical sales techniques to convince a major news outlet that eating chocolate will help you lose weight.   It was a hoax,but it made the point that science is continually abused by the weight-loss con-artists.

The overall consensus among reputable experts is that refined carbs are undesirable and should be largely eliminated.  That means, white, processed grains and sugars should not be consumed.   However, some unrefined grains such as quinoa, spelt, brown rice and other non-glutenous foods can be very helpful to the body.   And tubers like yams and sweet potatoes are excellent additions to a healthful diet.  

In fact, a recent study published in The Lancet shows a diet rich in fiber and whole grains reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease and colorectal cancer.   That’s big!

The bottom line here is that the vast majority of reputable health studies show that quick weight loss pills and potions simply don’t work.  If you are serious about exploring a diet aid, check out these free and reputable dieting and weight-loss resources for you on the Net:

Smart for Life – A free and fully evaluated practical diet plan.

Livestrong Diet –  Aims for a loss of about 1-2 pounds per week.

GM Diet  –  It’s not really a General Motors-designed diet plan.  It’s actually a short one-week detox program.   But it could be a useful starter to a major personal diet reboot.  Linora Low gives a helpful (and free)  step-by-step video and written guideto how to do this detox program.

The Lose Weight Diet –  It does what many of the diet scammersdo (take free  information and distill it down to 3 easily understoodphases) but he actually offers it for free!

Contrahealthscam recommends Truth From Within (Truth About Keto).  It claims that this program by Brad Pilon is designed specifically for women in response to the 2017 keto craze that left a lot of women in hormonal disrepair. So if you are a woman who wants to lose weight the right way, Truth from Within is something you should try.   It also recommends Eat Stop Eat, also by Brad Pilon, which has been studied extensively and has stood the test of time. 

And if you are serious about wanting to shed some pounds,begin by going to the Mayo Clinic’s free and reputable website.  The medical experts at the Clinic have fashioned a thoughtful and time-tested plan that has worked for untold numbers of people.  Effective weight loss requires you to master the habits, urges, and feelings that rule our lives.   It’s really all about learning more about your impulses.  Once you do, you can create your “new”normal and the pounds will begin to disappear.