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Say No to Keto

Beginning in the 70s, long before the Mediterranean diet was even a vague glimmer on the radar, the world became swept up by high protein/low-carbohydrate diets — the most prominent being the Scarsdale diet, followed by Atkins.

Bad ideas rarely go away, they simply return repackaged and with a clever new name to entice a whole new weight-loss obsessed audience. Enter the ketogenic diet.  Not unlike the previous iterations of this diet, the keto approach is predicated on the daily consumption of large quantities of fat and protein and precious few carbohydrates.

Eliminating a major food group is hardly ever a good idea. Carbohydrates are critical to healthy functioning of the human body, especially the brain. These foods are converted into glucose–it is this energy that fuels the brain. A brain deprived of carbohydrates is like a car driving with an empty tank.

Like most fad diets, keto has become hugely popular. News shows dig deep into its weight loss claims while celebrities argue about the diet’s efficacy with the fervor of zealous politicians. And, the ever-avaricious diet industry is making millions through the sale of keto-friendly foods and supplements. By and large, these products are a sham.

The truth is, those on the keto diet will lose weight. By limiting energy-rich carbohydrates, the human body is forced into a state of starvation. Convinced that it is literally dying, the body starts converting fat into the energy it requires. But, this process only transpires when the body enters ketosis – typically, this physiological state is exclusively experienced by diabetics.  People with this illness routinely use test strips to determine if a high level of molecules called ketones are present in the blood. If so, insulin must be injected to regain homeostasis and health.

Whereas those with diabetes view ketones as potentially dangerous, followers of this diet perceive ketosis as a highly desirable goal.  It means their body is in the process of burning fat. Indeed, test strips are now used by this dieting population to determine that ketosis has been achieved.  As if the fact that their urine is thick, urination is frequent and their breath smells unpleasantly of acetone isn’t enough to reassure them.

There is more.  The keto flu is just around the corner. Simply, this is the body’s backlash to this unhealthy new diet. The “flu” is marked by symptoms such as headache, constipation, petulance, weakness, nausea, and vomiting.

Eventually, pounds are shed, but the price is too high.  Frequent urination decreases important electrolytes in the blood. This can lead to cardiac arrhythmia since electrolytes are necessary for the normal beating of the heart.  Death can ensue. Kidney injury and kidney stones can also result.

The keto diet is efficacious for one very small population: children with epilepsy. Ketones in the brain mitigate seizures…children can experience a 50 percent reduction when on this diet. Therefore, unless someone falls into this category, no one should embrace the keto diet.

Severe food restriction ultimately translates into unsustainability. The medical consequences are real and could be far more vast than imagined. What’s more, diets can place an individual at risk of developing an eating disorder, due to the unhealthy relationship with food that is established.