If you’ve made the decision to start living a healthier life, chances are pretty high that you’ve encountered, or even embarked on the keto diet before. While on the surface the keto diet promises insurmountable weight loss and a healthier, sexy body, turns out it’s not all peaches and cream.
In fact, you could be setting yourself up for a very difficult time, or even open up other complications; a can of worms you do not wish to encounter. But why is the keto diet not good for you? In this article we explore the many pitfalls lying in wait for you.
More Protein Is Not Better
As the keto diet goes, you are mandated to restrict carbohydrates significantly; often limiting total intake to 50g (but often less) daily. As a result, you consume more fat, but frequently, more protein as well. But therein lies the problem.
While intentions may be good, protein has a way of affecting your carbohydrate bottom line without you ever realizing it, via a process known as gluconeogenesis[i]. What is this fancy named thing? Simply put, it is the body’s way of finding carbohydrates by converting other nutrients into this precious commodity.
Protein (amino acids to be precise) is often targeted for this process, and could help explain to you why you are failing to see any amount of weight loss despite your most rigorous carb restriction protocols. Of course, you will have an exceedingly difficult time entering/ staying in ketosis when this occurs.
It Fosters Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are the dark shadows lingering beside many seemingly normal people, but waiting for an opportunity to rear its ugly head. While at its core the keto diet may be well-meaning, often times the unhealthy relationship it can foster with food plays into the hands of eating disorders.
Just think of it; by villainizing an entire group of foods as evil, psychological changes occur that can forge compensatory disorders. It’s not uncommon for orthorexia[ii], anorexia or bulimia to develop as a result, causing a person to become socially withdrawn at the thought of having to eat in public. Body dysmorphic disorder also becomes rampant, with the afflicted unable to ever be satisfied with the way they look.
Wouldn’t it be much easier, and better for the mind and body to have a healthy relationship with good food instead?
It’s The Original Fad Diet
A fad diet is one which by definition gains extreme popularity over a short period of time, making promises of extreme weight loss or otherwise, and without the investment of any significant commitment. This is exactly why the majority of people that ever embark on the keto diet also drop out within a few weeks.
It is extremely unsustainable. Yes, you will probably notice a reduction of body weight after stepping on the scale shortly after starting keto, but that initial excitement is short lived once you appreciate the fact that it is virtually all water weight.
In turn, it contributes to the development of a yo-yo dieting pattern, one that is much more detrimental to your health than staying overweight from the inception (arguably). Yo-yo dieting causing negative adaptations ranging from your body becoming more receptive to storing fat (following a period of carb deprivation), to becoming less efficient at knowing when you have had enough to eat (leptin resistance).
That, and the fact that heart disease and diabetes risk go up[iii] also paint a bleak picture why you shouldn’t jump into the keto diet just for the “fun of it”.
It Can Be Downright Dangerous
Not to burst your bubble here, but there is a reason why advocates of diet “training” always add the disclaimer to consult your doctor first, and that is because there is the very real risk of danger if you’re not careful.
In the case of the keto diet, the risk is greatest to diabetics, which is a pity since it may seem so promising looking at it theoretically. However, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) - not to be confused with dietary ketosis, can be hard to distinguish by the untrained eye, and can lead to coma and death.
DKA occurs when hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose) is present, but the body still proceeds to make ketones since insulin levels are low[iv] and unable to remove sugar from circulation. In turn, blood acidity rises as ketones accumulate (ketones are acidic), and a coma can result.
Other people that should stay away (unless specifically advised by a healthcare professional) from keto include women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and anyone with a gallbladder disorder or had their gallbladder removed.
Does The Keto Diet Have A Future?
Now that you’ve understood some of the real issues that plague the keto diet, it is also important to understand that there is a place for it in the lives of some people.
For instance, there has been research done on it since the 1920’s that demonstrate mixed results when it comes to management of epilepsy[v]. It was able to reduce seizure frequency in adults and children alike who were not responsive to conventional medical therapy, in approximately 50% of cases.
The keto diet may also act as a dietary adjuvant when receiving chemotherapy, as starving cancer cells of glucose may promote their death, even though there is also evidence that such cells can adapt to using ketones, too.
In addition to these, there is limited scope in it helping to deal with neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and even ADHD management.
The keto diet, as you can see, it not something that you should toy with because numerous adverts on TV tout it as the next big weight loss trend. It has real-life implications that are often realized a little too late.
It is a much better long term plan to instead adapt a healthier lifestyle that includes wholesome foods from all the macronutrient groups, and not open the Pandora’s Box that is the keto diet.
[i] Margriet AB Veldhorst, Margriet S Westerterp-Plantenga, Klaas R Westerterp, Gluconeogenesis and energy expenditure after a high-protein, carbohydrate-free diet, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 90, Issue 3, September 2009, Pages 519–526, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.27834
[ii] Nevin SM, Vartanian LR. The stigma of clean dieting and orthorexia nervosa. J Eat Disord. 2017;5:37. Published 2017 Aug 25. doi:10.1186/s40337-017-0168-9
[iii] Strohacker K, Carpenter KC, McFarlin BK. Consequences of Weight Cycling: An Increase in Disease Risk?. Int J Exerc Sci. 2009;2(3):191–201.
[iv] Yehuda Handelsman, Robert R. Henry, Zachary T. Bloomgarden, Sam Dagogo-Jack, Ralph A. DeFronzo, Daniel Einhorn, Ele Ferrannini, Vivian A. Fonseca, Alan J. Garber, George Grunberger, Derek LeRoith, Guillermo E. Umpierrez, and Matthew R. Weir (2016) AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF CLINICAL ENDOCRINOLOGISTS AND AMERICAN COLLEGE OF ENDOCRINOLOGY POSITION STATEMENT ON THE ASSOCIATION OF SGLT-2 INHIBITORS AND DIABETIC KETOACIDOSIS. Endocrine Practice: June 2016, Vol. 22, No. 6, pp. 753-762.
[v] D'Andrea Meira I, Romão TT, Pires do Prado HJ, Krüger LT, Pires MEP, da Conceição PO. Ketogenic Diet and Epilepsy: What We Know So Far. Front Neurosci. 2019;13:5. Published 2019 Jan 29. doi:10.3389/fnins.2019.00005