Keto is dangerous. Keto destroys your kidneys, Keto is too restrictive. Keto will give you nutrient deficiencies.
Yea I’ve heard it all. I wasn’t a believer in Keto until about five years ago. Actually, I’d never even heard of it until I stumbled across a documentary about it. I thought it was insane. You purposely eat fat?? You purposely cut out fruit and grains and beans, which are obviously healthy and necessary???
Learning about the Ketogenic Diet
I have a bit of a crunchy personality strangely mixed with a healthy dose of skepticism, conservatism and gun ownership as I was raised by two scientists. I was intrigued (crunchy side), but I needed evidence (science side).
I started to do research on PubMed, which is a government repository of all published science articles. These aren’t blog articles (like this one) that are solely people’s opinions. These are legit peer reviewed research papers.
To my amazement, the research supported the physiological premises of keto. There was paper after paper that said carbohydrate intake caused an insulin spike, insulin caused fat storage and fat pretty much only provided benefits to your health.
While I always knew each separate piece, somehow the combined process of gaining and losing weight never really sunk in. When I was in High School, I told my doctor I wanted to lose weight. He told me to carry a bag of cheerios around with me, snack on grapes and eat licorice. That seems horrifying now, but it made total sense back then. They were all fat free and carbohydrates are good for you and give you energy so the insanely high carb count can’t be bad.
Now I know why I’ve been overweight my entire life.
I argued with my scientist mom for weeks about this. She had been taught in medical school that metabolism was like a fire. Yes you needed fat because that was the big logs in the fire of metabolism, but you had to have carbohydrates because they were the tinder that got the fire going. That’s what her professors taught her and I remember many times hearing that metaphor as a professor in her own college classes.
They were wrong. She was wrong. And now she teaches Ketogenic principles to her college students despite the textbooks still to this day contradicting her.
Why I jumped on board the Keto ship
I have been fat and sick my entire life. I feel like the majority of my life I just slept and the rest of the time I was angry, irritable or depressed and wanted to be back asleep.
I found out when I was 24 that I had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition where your immune system nicely destroys your thyroid gland and therefore your energy levels. Medication helped, but I still felt miserable.
I also found out that I have Narcolepsy. Fantastic.
Narcolepsy is another autoimmune disease where your body doesn’t produce enough Hypocretin, a neurotransmitter that keeps you awake. Guess what else lowers Hypocretin? Glucose. The higher your blood glucose levels, the lower your Hypocretin, the more tired you are. So the best treatment for Narcolepsy appears to be…drum roll please…the Ketogenic diet! And here’s a study that agrees.
Busting the Myths
All those things I mentioned at the beginning of this were things that scared me.
Keto is dangerous
Of course this is the number one thing that I looked at. Is Keto good for you like people claim or is it actually dangerous? The number one thing that convinced me was a study I read dating back to the 1920’s that put kids with epilepsy on the Ketogenic Diet. These kids were on Keto for decades without showing any health problems whatsoever (still looking for this article I read years ago, but here is another one that followed kids with epilepsy for over a decade. Side effects included kidney stones and fractured bones, which I can see because you can struggle to get the right nutrition if you aren’t including veggies. Could also be due to meds they were on for epilepsy).
Keto will destroy your kidneys because of the high protein intake.
Sort of true. Too much protein, especially if you have kidney dysfunction, can injure your kidneys. However, the ketogenic diet isn’t high protein. It’s moderate protein and it’s actually pretty much in line with the government recommendations (the only thing that is in line with it).
Keto will cause you to go into Ketoacidosis.
Nope. Not actually possible. This was definitely a scary one for me until I found a research paper about fasting. It measured ketones and showed that ketones increased until about day 7 and leveled off no matter how long the person wasn’t eating. And that’s not eating at all. Keto still involves eating and a few carbs which means there’s even lower ketones than fasting.
Ketoacidosis is usually called “Diabetic Ketoacidosis” because it’s something that happens for diabetics when their body isn’t producing insulin and can’t get any glucose into the cells. The body freaks out and starts breaking down enormous quantities of fat into ketones, which can lead to ketoacidosis if untreated.
The only other type of Ketoacidosis I’ve ever seen is in starving sheep pregnant with twins. If a sheep doesn’t have enough nutrition and it is pregnant with twins then its body will start breaking down as much fat as it can to feed the babies. Because there is such a high nutrient need, the body seems to go into high gear to break down fat in huge quantities as fast as possible. The sheep then goes into ketoacidosis. The treatment? Force feed it a bottle of corn syrup. As soon as the body has carbs to use, insulin levels spike, it stops burning fat because insulin’s job is to store fat, and ketone levels drop to take the sheep out of ketoacidosis. Which just goes to support the whole idea of the ketogenic diet.
So ok, if you’re pregnant with twins and starving to death, you may want to consider not being on the Ketogenic diet.
Keto is restrictive.
Well yea. This one is totally true. Of course it’s restrictive, that’s the whole point of it. The idea is the modern Standard American Diet (SAD) is crappy and is killing us and we need to cut out all the bad food that is hurting us. Is it difficult? Duh. If it wasn’t then we would all be healthy and skinny and Starburst would be out of business along with all the other producers of crap food that tastes like heaven.
Keto will give you malnourishment.
No, not really. Your poor food choices will give you malnourishment and this is true no matter if you eat according to the Ketogenic diet or the Standard American Diet. Keto has some very basic principles and that allows you to get away with not eating healthy. You could eat chicken with butter every single day and follow Keto.
However, as healthy as these items are, you will become nutrient deficient after a while. You can also exactly follow the Ketogenic Diet if you eat loads of vegetables, a small amount of fruit and a variety of meats and other foods. Obviously one of these is going to cause to cause malnourishment and the other is going to cause fantastic health.
I personally struggle with getting enough potassium because I hate vegetables. Not because the Ketogenic diet is bad. Low potassium causes kidney stone formation so not really surprising with the side effects in the study mentioned above.
Truths about Keto
The truth about keto is that while it has some downsides that you have to work on to overcome (what doesn’t), the benefits of doing it successfully are amazing. Verses the benefits of the Standard American Diet is diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disease and early death.
Keto helps people lose weight and thats great, but the best benefit of Keto is lowering inflammation and healing your guts. The benefit of those two things is healing autoimmune diseases, decreasing or eliminating allergies, healing your neurological system (think narcolepsy or multiple sclerosis). Of course there’s other benefits like more energy, better skin, putting on muscle and so on. The list is sooooo long. I’ve been kept for five years now and I have no plans of stopping.