So, is the Keto Diet Healthy or Not?
You might remember that Dr. Atkins popularized low-carb diets a few decades ago, but you may not know that doctors first used these kinds of diets as long ago as the early 20th Century to help manage epilepsy. According to Harvard Medical School, keto diets may be an effective way to help reduce seizures, but is the keto diet healthy for people who simply want to lose weight?
A Brief Intro to Keto Diets
Just in case you’re not sure exactly what following a keto diet means, you can look at this graphic from Dr. Jockers. Basically, you reduce your carbohydrate intake to only five to ten percent of your total calorie consumption. About 20 percent of your consumption should come from protein, and the rest is fat.
Most people call a keto diet a type of low-carb diet, but you should also know that it’s also a very high-fat diet. By the way, Dr. Jockers is an advocate for his version of the keto diet, so you can’t say that we’re not fair and balanced here. He says it works, and this article doesn’t even argue that it might work. The point is that keto diets might be unhealthy and not work for you.
Why Do Some Doctors Say the Keto Diet is Unhealthy?
Dr. Campos, the contributor to the Harvard Medical School blog, isn’t such a fan and offered several reasons why a keto diet may be unhealthy as a weight-loss tool. Consider some of the doctor’s very sensible reasoning after observing his patients before and after trying a ketogenic diet for weight loss:
- Yo-Yo dieting: A lot of the health problems with the ketogenic diet center on the basic premise of our diet failure infographic. The diet may mainly cause health problems because it’s notoriously tough to stick to over time, so it can contribute to yo-yo dieting, an healthy practice. You can’t underestimate how important it is to find a healthy eating plan that you can live with and not one that may help you shed a few pounds quickly and then regain it and more just as fast.
- Initial weight loss with a keto diet is mostly just water: People tend to get encouraged by their initial results on the keto diet. Indeed, lots of dieters may lose about 10 pounds very quickly. The problem is that most of this first weight loss is just water weight because carbs hold water in muscle. When people don’t consume carbohydrates, the body sends this water away.
Are Keto Diet Fans Relying Upon Survivor’s Bias?
So, if most people can’t stick to this extremely low-carb diet much past the first loss of water weight, why do so many people strongly argue that a keto diet is healthy? Turn a critical eye to this thread on a popular Reddit sub about the survivor’s bias with the keto diet. The whole point of this diet is that if you reduce fat and protein and minimize carbs, you will continue to lose weight and cut cravings.
Yes, you can lose weight if you can stick to a keto diet. Short-term studies, at least, have also confirmed that low-carb diets may help with blood-sugar and cholesterol control. Does that mean that keto diets are healthy? Well, you can lose weight if you can stick to almost any diet.
You Can Lose Weight on Almost Any Popular Diet — Will it Last?
This report from a team of Canadian researchers found almost the same, average weight loss from common low-fat, low-carb, or other sorts of diet plans. They tested 48 different diets, including Atkins, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and Ornish. With a year, people on all of these different kinds of diets lost an average of 16 pounds, if they stuck to the plan with any regularity.
Most of these diets advertise more than 16 pounds of weight loss for very overweight people people within an entire year. The takeaway is that most people probably didn’t stick to the plans religiously, and of course, you should have your treats and cheat. This study would have really been golden if it would have followed up a year or two later to see if they had managed to at least maintain this weight loss or had regained weight and maybe even gained more.
If you Can’t Stick to a Keto Diet, it Doesn’t Work!
When people dared to say that a keto diet didn’t work for them, other sub members accused them of eating too many calories. Ah ha, so this diet really isn’t working to reduce cravings, and it still requires restricting calories. Again, the main point against the keto diet being healthy or effective comes down to this:
- If you cannot stick to a diet, it doesn’t work.
- If you need to watch your calorie intake, why not do it in a more pleasant, sustainable, and healthy way than eliminating entire, healthy food groups?
If the keto diet failed you, you didn’t fail. Apparently, it works for some people who enjoy eating lots of animal protein, but it certainly doesn’t work for everybody. Diets that don’t work for you are diets that make you fatter in the long run.
Other Reasons Keto Diets Are Not Healthy for Everybody
It’s easy to get stuck on the point that keto diets aren’t healthy because they are too hard to stick to and encourage yo-yo dieting. In the end, you lose a little weight and then fall off the wagon and end up gaining more weight than you lost. While some people say they feel satiated on the keto diet, a lot more people never curb their cravings. Again, those cravings simply mean that your body and brain are telling you that you need to eat certain nutrients, but they don’t always communicate in a way that you can interpret well.
Look, some people thrive on a keto or other low-carb diet plan. Because they can finally lose weight, the diet may even save their life. In order for that to be true, these folks have to be committed to their keto lifestyle and make sure they follow a good plan very well. If you’re interested in exploring keto diets, try that Reddit sub about keto diets that you can find linked to earlier in this post.
So, is a Keto Diet Healthy for You?
Really, you should not ask if a keto diet is healthy. You should ask if keto diet plans are healthy and sustainable for you. Before you decide to commit to a low-carbohydrate eating plan, consider some advice about red flags about keto diets from this nutritionist with a master’s degree in public health:
- Be wary of keto diets if you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or having reproductive or menstrual cycle issues.
- Athletic and very active people tend not to thrive on low-carb diets, though there are some exceptions.
- Low-carbohydrate intake can aggravate or even cause symptoms of hypothyroidism.
- You’re only as healthy as your gut biome, and keto diets reduce the diversity of gut flora.
Anyway, if a keto diet works for you, that’s great. Sometimes, a short-term keto diet of only a few days can help people reset their appetite and lose a craving for carbs. It’s not something we tend to suggest as a long-term solution because it simply doesn’t work for most people for months or years, and you need a lifetime eating plan and not another yo-yo diet.