Ketogenic catastrophe

Ketogenic catastrophe

Recently, nearly every time I’m at a social function, I get asked about my views on the ketogenic diet. 

And, nearly every time, I have to suppress an eye roll.

The basic premise of a ketogenic diet is to deprive the body of carbohydrates so that it can’t generate glucose and starts to use other fuel sources (especially ketones) for energy. Ketones are made in the liver from the breakdown of fat. The idea is that if you create an environment where fats are burned preferentially, you will lose weight more directly, feel more energetic – and attain additional health benefits.

The “benefits” that have been attributed to a ketogenic diet primarily come from short term studies of patients with type 2 diabetes in whom ketogenic diets have been shown to lower blood insulin levels, lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and promote weight loss. However, please note that these are the exact same “benefits” you would experience with plain old starvation – which is the natural scenario under which ketogenesis occurs.

And anything that leads to weight loss in type 2 diabetics (even cancer and tuberculosis) will cause blood insulin levels to fall, blood cholesterol to fall, and blood pressure to decline. Clearly, just because you lose weight and have some blood markers improve does not necessarily mean you are better off in terms of overall health. 

And remember that the studies showing biochemical improvements from ketosis have been short-term only. There are no long-term studies on the health effects of a ketogenic diet. And no real human experience with this type of eating approach. Except for the Inuit - who enjoy an average lifespan which is about 10 years SHORTER than that of other Canadians. Catastrophic if you're hoping to see your grandchildren graduate from college.

If anything, human experience favors the exact opposite approach to the ketogenic diet. The communities of people who experience exceptional healthy longevity rely on a whole food plant based – i.e. carbohydrate-rich – diet. And even “hunter-gatherer” tribes that have demonstrated an amazing absence of heart disease are much more gatherers than hunters. 

The only reason people feel better on a diet low in carbohydrates is that they’re no longer eating the wrong carbs! Truth is - eating a diet rich in beans, greens, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and grains in their most whole and unprocessed form is the real key to health. And people who eat this way not only live longer but also feel GREAT.

This is why Step One Foods are made from oats and cranberries and chia - and not beef and butter. 

Reference: Goodbye Ketogenic Kool-Aid

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