So you’re thinking of going on a Keto diet but you’re wondering if it’s healthy?
You’re one of a few who actually wants to do what’s best for the body – choose healthy.
The reason why 99% of Keto dieters fail is because they dive into it blindly.
What is Keto diet?
Is it healthy?
Is Keto diet good for weight loss?
And how does it work?
I’m sure you did a bit of reading on it and it’s confusing, isn’t it?
You can’t really wrap your head around it. How can foods that are known to cause chronic disease suddenly make me lose weight and cure a handful of the same disease they cause on a side?
Also, how can I “burn fat” if I eat more fat than ever?
Let’s figure it out.
Ketogenic or ‘Keto’ Diet is a witty reincarnation of the super low carbohydrate diets such as the Atkins and basically LCHF diets.
In recent years the Keto diet got mega popular because of its unbelievable results in weight loss, health claims and a mysterious ketones that make you burn fat.
Foods that we know as “naughty” can now make you lose weight.
Bacon and eggs for breakfast.
Steak, avocado and broccoli for lunch.
Hard-boiled eggs, cheese and spinach for dinner.
Equals rapid weight loss because you turned your body in a “fat-burning” machine.
How good is that?!
Not to mention claims on reversing Type 2 Diabetes on a Keto diet!
But you have to be honest, it sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
Foods that are known to cause health problems like:
- saturated fats and cholesterol,
- too much protein and cancer,
- lack of fiber and IBS, Alzheimer’s, etc. are now somehow curing them.
Let’s really separate fact from fiction and understand where the science lies.
Are these claims supported by the unbiased scientists? What is the truth about the Keto diet beyond marketing and shocking body transformations? Is Keto diet really this healthy or are we being pulled into another fad diet?
To do this, we’ll answer 5 big questions:
- What is it about Keto that you suddenly burn fat instead of store it?
- Is the Keto Diet better for weight loss than other diets?
- Is the Keto Diet good for people with Type 2 Diabetes?
- Does the Keto diet reduce risk for chronic disease?
- Is the Keto Diet a long-term solution?
The mechanism of the Keto diet
Before we jump into the science, it’s important to understand the backbone of Ketogenic diet.
If done properly, a ketogenic diet consists of roughly:
- 5% of carbohydrates,
- 25% of protein, and
- 70% of fat.
This is why Keto diet can also be any low carbohydrate high fat diet (LCHF).
For comparison, a balanced diet is roughly:
- 55% carbs,
- 15% protein,
- 35% fat.
When you are on a Keto diet, 5% Carbs, 25% Protein, 70% Fat, your body lacks glucose (carbohydrates). Carbohydrates are the body’s primary and preferred fuel source.
Because of this carbs deprivation, the body transitions to a state of ‘ketosis’… thus the name Ketogenic diet, Keto. This means the body starts to produce compounds called ‘ketones’. Ketones are used for energy instead of glucose.
This switch in fuel is bodys survival mechanism. A plan B, in which the body can still create energy using a secondary source, ketones. This secondary source of energy, ketones, come from fat. And you eat a lot of fat on Keto diet.
But because this is only a survival mechanism it isn’t a long-term solution. Your body will do this to keep you alive, until you can eat carbohydrates again and bring it back to normal.
Is Keto diet better for losing weight than other diets?
First thing you should know is, there’re hardly any studies done on Ketogenic diets. I searched and dug deep but didn’t find much.
In theory, this is not backed by studies, the Keto mantra that you hear everywhere goes like this:
“Keto diet make your body switch from producing energy from glucose (carbohydrates) to a body that “burns fat”.
This means your body is burning fat instead of carbohydrates. Which means greater fat loss and a leaner body.
It does sound legit if you think about it– but, sadly that’s not really how it works.
A study, funded by the Keto industry wanted to prove the fat burning claims. Results showed exactly the opposite.(Source: Kevin D. Hall)
In a study, 17 overweight or obese men were first put on a high-carbohydrate diet that lasted 4 weeks. After that they switched to low-carbohydrate or Ketogenic diet for another 4 weeks.
For both diets, calorie intake was the same and so the study should prove one can lose more weight and more fat on a Keto diet.
The results actually showed that Keto diet slowed fat loss.
This bring us to a very basics of weight loss.
If you want to lose weight you have to be in a calorie deficit. In other words, you have to use more energy than you consume.
The same is with Keto diet. When in ketosis you are simply using the energy from the fat you’re consuming (70% ), not stored fat that everybody have in mind when talking about weight loss and burning fat.
So that “fat burning machine” is true but it only burns the 70% of fat you eat on a daily basis. Nothing from waist, tights or belly.
This is an important point that many Keto enthusiasts often fail to mention.
Fat burning is very different from fat loss.
-Simon Hill, MS Nutrition
To get into your body’s fat stores and shed some weight, you need to be burning more calories than you consume (a calorie deficit). Yes, that ol’ saying: “Move more, eat less.”
Following a strict Keto diet will put you in ketosis and your body will burn fat. But the fat being burned is only the fat you ate as a majority of the Keto diet.
Just like any other diet, unless you use more energy than you consume, you’re not burning stored body fat, just the fat you’re eating.
So why then a rapid weight loss when you switch to a ketogenic diet?
There are two major reasons that explain this phenomenon:
- No junk food
The first and super obvious one is glycogen.
Glycogen is a mix of glucose and water – it’s a fancy word but don’t stress over it. The point is, an average person stores about 500g of glucose in their muscles as glycogen. Each gram of glycogen attracts 3g of water. That’s roughly 1.5kg of your body weight.
When you switch to a Keto diet, the body first uses all of its glucose stores before going into ketosis – this empty glycogen storage results in a drop of about 2Kg.
This, 2kg glycogen empty storage, is exactly why searches such as “Best diet to lose weight fast”, “How to lose weight fast”, etc.. give you Keto diet as a solution for your problem.
But what’s the problem here?
You’re not burning fat or losing weight as we want it to.
There’s a difference between scale weight and actual fat loss.
You can lose scale weight because of osteoporosis. Your bones are lighter than before.
You can lose scale weight because you finally pooped after being constipated for days.
You can see how this fast drop in scale weight acts as a motivation in the beginning stages on Keto diet. This is what hooks people to the Keto diet.
Keto is not a miracle weight loss diet.
It is a misleading body biochemistry that no one tells you about.
The other reason that the Keto diet helps people lose weight, is by limiting carbohydrates.
This is the aspect I do like about Keto diet. With limited carbohydrates to only 5% junk food and most other processed food are a big no-no.
On a Keto diet, chocolate, cookies, ice-cream, pastries and fried potato chips are automatically off the menu.
This will likely lead in a significant calorie deficit for a lot of people. And this calorie deficit will make you lose weight like on any other diet..but no faster as any other diet.
Is Keto diet good for people with Type 2 Diabetes?
This claim itself is the most concerning.
The idea of “reversing insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes” is downright life-threatening..and I am not exaggerating.
With the gazillion studies, science and knowledge we have about Type 2 Diabetes…how could something like this happen?
In short, to reverse insulin resistance or Type 2 Diabetes you have to improve your ability to tolerate carbohydrates. This is insulin resistance – ability to tolerate carbohydrates. How can you tolerate carbohydrates if you don’t eat it??
This is a paradox.
Disease: Insulin intolerance = People with diabetes can’t handle carbohydrates
Symptom: high blood sugar = When diabetic eats carbohydrate he/she has a spike in blood sugar
Reversed or cured Diabetes: A disease is cured when he/she can eat all kind of food and don’t get high blood sugar.
Getting rid of the foods that causes a symptom (high blood sugar) isn’t treating a disease. It is managing the symptoms.
Yes, if you’re eating a low-carbohydrate diet you can keep sugar under control but that doesn’t mean the disease is reversed or treated. It only means you’re avoiding symptoms.
A disease is still there and according to research, in much worse state than before.
Keto diet can successfully lower blood sugar because there’s no spike in insulin because there’s no carbohydrates to spike it. But as soon as you have a little more carbs in you diet, your insulin spikes can be 4-times higher than when on a high-carb diet.
This means one would need to continue to eat a low-carbohydrate diet for the rest of their life to control their blood sugar. A Keto diet is not sustainable in the long run.
To learn more about evidence based diet for Type 2 Diabetes and how Keto diet plays in, watch the video below.
On the other hand, unlike a Keto diet, a low-fat wholefood plant-based diet has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. Several trials have been published where Type 2 Diabetics who adopt a low-fat plant-based diet have been able to completely come off their medications.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the number 1 cause of death for diabetics is cardiovascular disease. And we know cardiovascular disease is a lifestyle disease that is in tight connection with saturated fats in animal products.
Is Keto diet good for reducing risk for chronic disease?
There’re plenty of studies done on this topic – connection between food choice and chronic disease.
The evidence is clear: populations with worst chronic disease are the ones eating the most animal products, high in saturated fat and not enough nutrient dense foods.
In fact, research suggests that in the long-term, people who adopt such diets have a higher risk of premature death (Source: Noto H.).
Low carb proponents often point to the ‘Inuit Eskimos’. This is a population who consume a very high-fat diet made up of almost only animal products.
The Inuit population have the same risk of heart disease as “chronic disease” populations, twice the risk of stroke and a shorter life expectancy of around 10 years.
A recent study, done by Retterstol K., compared a Keto style diet (less than 20g of carbohydrates per day) to a control diet.
In just 3 weeks they found that the subjects on the low-carbohydrate diet experienced a 44% increase in LDL cholesterol.
We can look and see what type of diet eat patients with a bypass surgery. Dean Ornish, MD specializing in cardiovascular disease prevention, strongly advises to eat a no fat whole food plant based diet to his patients.
We know that people who eat more fiber and less fat, particularly saturated fat, experience a significantly lower risk of developing major chronic diseases. A complete opposite from a Keto diet.
Can you eat Keto diet in the long-run?
One of the biggest problems with Keto diet is that it’s not sustainable.
The ketosis state is only meant as a survival mechanism and not a lifestyle. In the long run, Keto diet almost always lead to weight gain.
- Your body with come out of survival mode and restore the empty glycogen storage, with some extra just in case,
- You will go back to refined carbs – cookies and chips, etc.
On the other hand, we know from several studies, that adopting a wholefood plant-based diet helps people maintain a healthy body weight without having to count and track calories.
Plant foods are less calorie dense than animal foods. With the same amount of food, you eat fewer calories.
Is Keto diet healthy?
If you know a little about how body works and what foods are good for you and what aren’t you can’t understand how Keto should or could work.
There’s no evidence to show that when calories are matched a typical Keto diet is better than any other diet in terms of weight loss.
In fact, a study done by a Keto proponents showed that fat loss on a Keto diet is slower than on a high-carbohydrate diet.
We have no data to say its a healthy way to eat in the long term, and in its typical form with lots of animal products, some veggies and sky-high amounts of fat, Keto diet is lacking in 17 vitamins and fiber.
Fiber is essential for a healthy Gut. And healthy Gut is essential for your overall well-being. On Keto diet most fruits are off limits which means you don’t get enough vitamins or minerals.
From what we’ve learnt Keto diet looks the opposite from what it’s promising you.
I was really discouraged by this because my mom is a huge Keto believer and it really doesn’t feel good when you start digging deeper and discover that..wtf is this?! Everything is the very opposite..and unhealthy opposite as well!
- Keto diet burns fat but unless you’re in a calorie deficit it only burns the fat you’re eating as a part of your diet.
- When it comes to weight loss, the first drop in weight is because of emptying water and glucose storage. After that, when you fall into ketosis, weight loss is slower than compared to a healthy whole food plant based diet
- Reversal of Type 2 Diabetes on Keto diet is a dangerous confusion between treating a disease and managing symptoms. Keto will lower you blood sugar but will not reverse the disease.
- Many many studies show that foods that are promoted on a Keto diet increase the risk of chronic disease.
- And since Keto diet isn’t sustainable, you can’t keep your body in ketosis. Once you get off the diet you’ll most probably gain the weight back, have worse case of diabetes, and a higher chance for chronic disease.
What about a vegan keto diet?
It seems to be healthier than an animal based Keto. But, just like with a mainstream Keto, a vegan Keto doesn’t have the science behind it.
I would say to look away from the sexy headlines. Stop a yo-yo dieting and go on a carbohydrate-rich wholefood plant-based diet.
Flexetarian is OK as well, as long as you are getting closer to eating more plants and fruits.
Plant based diet is sustainable for both you and will help you achieve the health and weight goals you wish for yourself.
To help get a better idea of what a plant based diet looks like, click on the banner below and try a free 1-week vegan weight loss challenge. You can easily lose weight on a healthy vegan diet while making sure you are fueling your body the right way.
P.S.: To write this post I was inspired by Simon Hill and how article “The truth about Keto diet”. I wanted to share with you his vast knowledge in a way that is easy to understand and follow.
What are your thought on Keto? Did you try it are you on it as we speak? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time,