It seems like everywhere we look on YouTube these days, someone is trying the Keto Diet - from beauty bloggers to gamers. Plant-based keto is even on the rise. Keto interest online is at an all-time high. There are Doctors recommending the diet to patients and media dietitians like Abbey Sharp making keto-friendly baby meals. Promoters of the keto diet promise that the more bacon, cheese, eggs, and animal fat we eat, the slimmer we get. But how? Ketosis. That’s the ticket.
After a morning of intermittent fasting, dieters cling to their bulletproof coffees as they plan out their low carb meals and food list for the day. Their keto-cheat sheet includes meals like low carb fried mac and cheese, keto pepperoni pizza, bacon breakfast bagels, keto buffalo chicken crust pizza. Rice, pasta, potatoes, fruit are a no-go. Carbohydrates are fattening. Butter is better. Dieters relish these calorie-rich dishes as the number on the scales drops. Before long, they experience the ‘keto flu’. Feeling tired is normal. Expect weekly bowel movements. There are many claims made by proponents of the keto diet but what does the science say? Is it healthy and safe to be in a state of ketosis? Can I do the keto diet for life? Today we will dive deep into what the keto diet is and whether it is healthy or effective for long term weight loss. Today I will share with you what the keto diet advocates don’t tell you.
So, what is the Keto Diet? What does keto even mean?
The keto diet is a very low-carb diet that forces the body to use fat as fuel rather than carbohydrates. Unlike other low-carb diets, like the paleo diet, which focus on protein, a keto plan centres around fat, which supplies as much as 85% of daily calories. The diet includes liberal amounts of meats, including processed meats, sausages, eggs, cheeses, fish, nuts, butter, oils, seeds, and some fibrous vegetables. The average American gets over 50% of their daily calories from carbohydrates. The body breaks these incoming carbohydrates down into glucose molecules to use as fuel. Carbohydrate-rich food examples that dieters must eliminate or drastically restrict on a keto diet are fruits, sugar, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes. Keto dieters must eat fewer than 20- 50 grams of carbohydrates per day to reach a state of ketosis. This takes around 3-4 days to achieve. During this time the individual may experience lethargy, irritability, dehydration, and challenging bowel movements.
What is ketosis?
To move forward with awareness, we must first understand the importance of glucose in our human bodies. Every one of the trillions of cells in our body is fuelled by simple sugar aka glucose which is a sugar molecule derived from carbohydrates. We can also derive glucose from protein and fat via an energy-inefficient multi-step process called Gluconeogenesis (the creation of new sugar). Your brain is particularly hungry for sugars and uses a whopping 25% of your circulating glucose. In a healthy state, glucose is the body and brains preferred fuel source. That’s why humans have such an intense ‘sweet tooth’. This is a natural trait amongst all frugivorous primates’ such as gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonobos.
When we stop eating all or most carbohydrates like fruit, bread, potatoes, rice, pasta then we force our bodies to use stored glucose in our liver and muscles (called glycogen) to replace the lack of carbohydrates we are eating. Yes, your body is so cool that it literally has a backup of instantly usable sugar to help keep you alive and healthy. And for every 1 gram of glucose stored in the body, we also store around 2.8 grams of water. Our body releases this healthy hydration once our body burns up its stored glucose reserves. Once all our glucose is used up, then our body also stops storing the associated water weight. This results in instant weight loss. Keto dieters celebrate this temporary ‘win’ as a sign of the diet working. After 3-4 days on the keto diet the lack of incoming carbs forces our body and brain to burn its non-preferred back up fuel source—fat. This is a crisis state that kicks in to save our life in case of starvation. Your body then creates emergency fuel via the liver breaking down fat which results in the production of ketone bodies. This leads to an influx of ketones in the blood which as we will discuss soon, is dangerous long term. Proponents sell dieters the idea that if they stop eating carbohydrates, they will start burning body fat effortlessly and they will reach their desired weight. But, is it that easy?
Why do people lose weight initially on the Keto diet?
Keto dieters lose weight through calorie restriction, a lack of appetite due to illness and dehydration. It’s that simple. The average person’s body stores around 300 grams of glucose so with the addition of the associated water loss we will lose around 2.2 lbs of weight on the scales within a few days. Keep in mind this is glucose and water weight. Continued weight loss after this is a percentage of fat and protein and a large percentage of water loss. In a state of Ketosis, dieters lose their appetite because of the ketones in the blood causing nausea, fatigue and low appetite. The body is in a state of illness as high levels of ketones begin to poison the blood. These ketones cause a strong diuretic effect on dieters kidneys causing them to release even more water weight or hydration. At this point, they are very dehydrated.
During this time because of an obvious lack of overall calories, in particular, carbohydrates, dieter's will feel weak hence why keto dieters become addicted to stimulants like bulletproof coffee. Caffeine dependency is the first sign of a failing diet. This lack of appetite associated with the ketones is eventually overridden by the brain’s survival instinct. To increase energy levels dieters reach for the caffeine and artificial sweetener but their brain cannot derive any glucose from these substances so before long they ‘binge-out’ out on carbohydrate-rich foods. This is not a sign of weakness or lack of discipline on the dieters behalf but the brain overriding the human ego and preventing death from starvation. Dieter's then gain back the glucose, water and any fat loss but now have the addition of a ravenous ‘extreme hunger’ as Stephanie buttermore puts it from the forced calorie deficit. Dieter's then you go ‘all in’ and end up gaining even more fat as their body holds onto the fat in case of another future keto-famine. They then restrict again and the cycle continues, and for some, it never ends.
Ketoacidosis on the Keto Diet may also result. Ketoacidosis may be more common in diabetics, however, a lack of glucose can force the body into ketogenesis causing metabolic acidosis. Ketogenic diets like low carbohydrate, high fat can induce ketoacidosis. Also, when it comes to keto and type 2 diabetes risk (due to increased risk of insulin resistance) the keto diet can lead to type 2 diabetes which, yes, can lead to ketoacidosis. Over 100 million Americans are diabetic and prediabetic. "Epidemiological studies indicate that “subjects with higher intakes of fat are more prone to develop disturbances in glucose metabolism, type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance, than subjects with lower intakes of fat.” Additionally, experimental studies clearly demonstrated that diets high in fat impaired insulin sensitivity, while diets low in fat but high in carbohydrates improved it."
“We report on a 51-year-old white woman who does not have diabetes but had ketoacidosis while consuming a “no-carbohydrate” diet. There was no family history of diabetes, and she was not currently taking any medications. While adhering to a regimen of carbohydrate restriction, she reached a stable weight of 59.1 kg, a decrease from 72.7 kg. After several months of stable weight, she was admitted to the hospital four times with vomiting but without abdominal pain. On each occasion, she reported no alcohol.”
Your risk of all mortality and cardio vascular disease increase:
Science demonstrates that a high intake of red meat increases ones risk of all-cause and CVD mortality. The increased risks were consistently observed in participants with low, medium, and high fruit and veg consumption. So, the risk is still high if you eat a diet high in fruits and veggies in addition to a high intake of meat. So we cannot protect ourselves with fruit and veg consumption if we still eat high quantities of meat. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27557655
We are at an increased risk of parasites from eating raw or undercooked salmon, anisakid nematodes and also tape worm. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9501379
"Few human studies on the effects of a ketogenic diet on performance have yielded positive results, and most studies have yielded equivocal or null results, and a few negative results. " https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28599043
Short-term low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diets reduce exercise performance in activities that heavily depend on anaerobic energy systems. These findings have clear performance implications for athletes, especially for high-intensity, short duration activities and sports" https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29619799
There have been several reports about renal calculi developing in children on the ketogenic diet since the first report more than 30 years ago. The prevalence of renal caculi in people on the ketogenic diet is up to 10%, compared with 1 in several thousand in the general population. Chronic acidosis, dehydration, low urine pH, and fat malabsorption all contribute to the formation of uric acid and calcium oxalate stones. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2852806/
“Studies in the New England Journal of Medicine found that most of the weight one initially lost while following Atkins was water weight; and subjects who followed the diet typically gained back any lost weight in six months"
The metabolic adaptation to the KD involves a shift from use of carbohydrates to lipids as the primary energy source. As such, a patient with a disorder of fat metabolism might develop a devastating catabolic crisis (i.e., coma, death) in the setting of fasting or a KD. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664869/
Some short-term effects:
Nausea/vomiting, Constipation ,Dehydration, Anorexia, Lethargy, Hypoglycemia, Acidosis.
After running through the adverse effects associated with ketosis, the American institute for Cancer Research wrote, “those are the short-term effects. The long-term effects are even more dire." Additional diseases and problems brought on by this deadly diet, include:
* Malnutrition (compromised vitamin and mineral intake).
* Cancer, stroke, gout, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
* Potential kidney, bone, liver, and cholesterol abnormalities.
* Cardiac disease, arrhythmias, contractile function impairment.
* Impairment of physical activity.
* A rise in blood pressure with age.
* Rapid falling blood pressure upon standing (orthostatic hypotension).
* Sudden death
Low carbohydrate, high-fat dietary programs are shown to result in weight loss due to appetite-suppressing high blood levels of hydroxybutyrate (a ketone satiety trigger). http://www.ccjm.org/pdffiles/Volek1102.pdf
Dieters bodily functions start to slow right down in order for the brain and body to conserve energy (as there is little to no carbohydrate coming in).
So, as you’ve just found out, not only is the keto diet unsafe and unhealthy but ineffective for long term weight loss. Weight loss is temporarily achieved through depletion and starvation and for that reason no human can healthfully stay in a state of ketosis, long term. Short term is even extremely difficult and as you have learned, unhealthy. Humans are naturally high carbohydrate creatures, not low carb. As stated, the frugivorous human brain requires a steady supply of glucose from the consumption of simple sugars to maintain bodily homeostasis.
I call the Keto Diet a low life diet because, well, carbs are LIFE. Without them you will become sick, and everytime you omit them you increase your risk of premature death.
Watch Freelee's video here.