Keto: Is It Worth It?

They say their sugar cravings are gone, they no longer have “brain fog” and they are losing 3-5 pounds per week. All because they are “going keto.”

Is it too good to be true?

What is “keto?”

The ketogenic diet is a very high fat, low carb eating plan where EVERYTHING sweet and starchy is avoided. You got it — this means no cake, candy, cookies, soda, juice, sweet tea, lemonade, pizza, pasta, rice, potatoes, corn, popcorn, chips, bread, sandwiches, crackers, most fruit, sweet dressings, even ketchup! Instead, you eat lots of nuts, avocados, oils, butter and ghee, along with modest meat, chicken, pork or fish, and a few fruits and vegetables (not too many, because they have carbs).

And, by following this diet perfectly, your reward is a metabolic state called ketosis, where the body burns fat instead of carbs for fuel. In ketosis, the liver makes ketones, which are (controversially) touted as the preferred fuel, turning you into a “fat-burning machine.” WOW! Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?!

Is ketosis really where the magic occurs?

Science does show there’s a slight caloric benefit to “being in ketosis.” During this state, calories sneak out of the body unused via breath and sweat. But, in reality, they only total about 45 calories per day. You may be thinking…that’s not a lot of benefit for a whole lot of dietary deprivation! In fact, this video by Dr. Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.org reviews the science, and suggests that the ketogenic metabolic advantage has been “falsified.”

How do people lose weight so quickly on the keto diet?

There are two mechanisms:

  1. The keto diet is actually a low-calorie diet. Many keto dieters average around 1,400 calories a day according to dietary analysis. (The average daily caloric intake to maintain weight is 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 for men.) Thanks to the extra fat burning promised by ketosis, there’s high motivation to say “no” to everything sweet and starchy like never before, resulting in restricted caloric intake. Additionally, eating lots of fat means satiation kicks in so you don’t eat as much.
  2. Water loss. When carbs are restricted, glycogen stores in the muscle are reduced. Glycogen is responsible for water retention, so when glycogen levels fall, so do water levels, resulting in a significant loss of water weight.

What is “clean keto” vs “dirty keto?”

“Clean keto” is avocados, grass-fed beef, and wild salmon.

“Dirty keto” is diet jello, cool whip, and fast food without the bun. These are foods that even keto dieters admit “aren’t good for you.” But, since the diet is SO incredibly restrictive, the internet is flooded with these cheat foods for staying in ketosis.

Is “keto” a high protein diet?

As with the Atkins diet, you’re advised to eat a high-fat diet without eating too much protein. Too much protein allows the body to go into gluconeogenesis (the making of glucose), which kicks a person out of ketosis. Excessive protein is also hard on the kidneys. However, a plate of fat is hard to eat, so it’s not uncommon for people to eat too much protein on the keto diet.

Is ketosis safe?

Ketosis in and of itself is thought to be safe. But the nutritional consequences of what is required to be in ketosis is an entirely different story (as you’ll see in the CONS of keto below).

  1. Less sugar. People understand the dangers of sugars and refined starches like never before. Studies show that Americans currently eat 1/3 cup too much added sugar EVERY DAY. Learning to avoid added sugar and say “no thank you” to the frequent offers of birthday cake, candy and more, is truly a great “muscle” to flex!
  2. More fruit and vegetables. Many keto dieters eat more vegetables, berries and melon than they did before. Unfortunately, it’s still FAR LESS than what’s recommended, because vegetables and fruit remain limited in order to maintain ketosis.
  3. Natural appetite suppressant. Burning ketones as fuel naturally helps you to eat less.
  4. Easy-to-grasp rules. The keto guidelines provide a black and white “guard rail” that guarantees a low-calorie diet for weight loss. “Moderation” is a difficult achievement for many, so this extreme diet, with it’s well-defined rules, seems easy and effective.
  1. Nutritionally deficient. You might think that a single serving of berries, and two or so servings of vegetables will give you all the antioxidants you need in a day, but since most fats score a zero, and not a single whole-grain is allowed, up to 17 nutrient deficiencies have been noted among keto dieters.
  2. Detrimental to the gut microbiome. Studies show that as soon as the first 24 hours on a keto diet, the gut microbiome decreases notably. This is because the gut bacteria are literally being STARVED because they live on carbohydrates and fiber! (Most keto dieters eat a maximum of 15 grams of fiber/day when 30 grams are recommended.)
  3. Risky to the heart and prostate. The keto theory is saturated fat is only atherosclerotic (clogging to the arteries) in the presence of carbohydrates. However, due to the high bar required with this diet, carbs happen! (Many eventually become “keto-ish,” or do keto every 3 days or so.) Also, numerous studies (see below) have found saturated fat makes prostate cancer more aggressive.
  4. Harmful for those with diabetes. The keto diet appears to lower blood sugar so many wrongly believe it can cure diabetes. In fact, the high fat diet makes carbohydrate intolerance worse. (Watch this video to learn more.)
  5. Flagrant use of processed meat is a serious risk to the colon. Most people can enjoy a bit of bacon here and there without harm. However, keto dieters can be known to eat A LOT of bacon, often multiple times every day. Most keto advocates are aware that bacon isn’t good for you, but it has been said, “take a keto dieter’s bacon away, and they’ll never be able to adhere – the diet is so restrictive.” The World Health Organization has declared processed meats “carcinogenic to humans.” Scientists predict that by 2030 colon cancer rates among 20-34 year olds will increase by 90% (and 124% for rectal cancer), with processed meats (and low fiber) to blame.
  6. Hair loss. This is a common complaint of keto dieters (most likely from the compromised micronutrients), and ultimately one of the key reasons they end up quitting the diet.
  7. Too restrictive for most. People diet alone, but eat as a family. This much restriction is simply not a sustainable lifestyle to enjoy for a lifetime, let alone model for children. Plus, unfortunately, rebound weight gain is all too common.

What’s my bottom line?

Weight loss by any method can improve your numbers and make you feel better in the short term. However, the science indicates that the keto diet can be risky for the heart, prostate, colon, diabetes and microbiome. Even if you want to take the risk and bet that it’s healthy, it’s a lifestyle that’s extremely tough to sustain long term, or enjoy as a family.

What if you instead hang onto all that is good about keto (ending your sugar cravings and keeping overall carb intake relatively low), and add back the nutrients you need with a few strategically chosen good-for-you carbs?

Well, this is exactly what the 8 DIET FREE Habits step you into doing! Eating delicious REAL food, without giving up entire food groups, while seeing your sugar cravings vanish, and feeding your microbiome perfectly. You also lose your cravings for fried foods and anything “processed” (unlike “dirty keto” dieters).

Truth be known, a DIET FREE lifestyle focused on REAL food is actually “low sugar and low carb” (compared to the Standard American Diet). It is achieved without any “macros” counting and your whole family will enjoy and benefit for a lifetime. Even though initial weight loss may not be as rapid (without the water weight loss advantage), studies show after one year, the weight loss is the same!

Learn about the life-changing, easy to live for the rest of your life, 8 DIET FREE habits at dietfree.com.

¨     Watch all of Dr. Greger’s videos about the ketogenic diet here:  https://nutritionfacts.org/?s=keto

¨     Bank IM, Shemie SD, Rosenblatt B, Bernard C, Mackie AS. Sudden cardiac death in association with the ketogenic diet. Pediatr Neurol. 2008;39(6):429-31.

¨     Cândido FG, Valente FX, Grześkowiak ŁM, Moreira APB, Rocha DMUP, Alfenas RCG. Impact of dietary fat on gut microbiota and low-grade systemic inflammation: mechanisms and clinical implications on obesity. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2018;69(2):125-143.

¨     Brinkworth GD, Noakes M, Clifton PM, Bird AR. Comparative effects of very low-carbohydrate, high-fat and high-carbohydrate, low-fat weight-loss diets on bowel habit and faecal short-chain fatty acids and bacterial populations. Br J Nutr. 2009;101(10):1493-502.

¨     Zhang Y, Zhou S, Zhou Y, Yu L, Zhang L, Wang Y. Altered gut microbiome composition in children with refractory epilepsy after ketogenic diet. Epilepsy Res. 2018;145:163-168.

¨     Wu GD, Chen J, Hoffmann C, et al. Linking long-term dietary patterns with gut microbial enterotypes. Science. 2011;334(6052):105-8.

¨     Gabert L, Vors C, Louche-pélissier C, et al. 13C tracer recovery in human stools after digestion of a fat-rich meal labelled with [1,1,1-13C3]tripalmitin and [1,1,1-13C3]triolein. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2011;25(19):2697-703.

¨     Noto H, Goto A, Tsujimoto T, Noda M. Low-carbohydrate diets and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(1):e55030.

¨     Li S, Flint A, Pai JK, et al. Low carbohydrate diet from plant or animal sources and mortality among myocardial infarction survivors. J Am Heart Assoc. 2014;3(5):e001169.

¨     Seidelmann SB, Claggett B, Cheng S, et al. Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis. Lancet Public Health. 2018;3(9):e419-e428.

¨     Dattilo AM, Kris-etherton PM. Effects of weight reduction on blood lipids and lipoproteins: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;56(2):320-8.

¨     Bueno NB, De melo IS, De oliveira SL, Da rocha ataide T. Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Nutr. 2013;110(7):1178-87.

¨     Sacks FM, Lichtenstein AH, Wu JHY, et al. Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;136(3):e1-e23.

¨     Nicholls SJ, Lundman P, Harmer JA, et al. Consumption of saturated fat impairs the anti-inflammatory properties of high-density lipoproteins and endothelial function. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006;48(4):715-20.

¨     Phillips SA, Jurva JW, Syed AQ, et al. Benefit of low-fat over low-carbohydrate diet on endothelial health in obesity. Hypertension. 2008;51(2):376-82.

¨     Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration. Science Review of Isolated and Synthetic Non-Digestible Carbohydrates. 2016.

¨     Wibisono C, Rowe N, Beavis E, et al. Ten-year single-center experience of the ketogenic diet: factors influencing efficacy, tolerability, and compliance. J Pediatr. 2015;166(4):1030-6.e1.