Low carb ketogenic diets have been popping up all over the internet and we wanted to find out just how healthy or not these popular diets are. Led by Cyrus Khambatta, Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he points out the various ways in which he came to learn about the health risks from long-term ketogenic diets.
Although various studies have examined the short-term effects of a ketogenic diet in reducing weight in obese patients, its long-term effects on various physical and biochemical pathways have shown that there are long-term health risks for anyone on this particular diet.
In the short-term, 6 months or less, there are benefits that have been shown, particularly those who may be obese or have epilepsy. But if a person goes off of the diet, the body adapts back to a normal state by not producing ketones in the body, and when carbs are reintroduced, they gain the weight back, and more quickly.(1)
Unfortunately, the ‘Keto craze’ is missing the incredibly important points that show how long-term keto diets can be damaging to one’s health.
Many scientific papers have reported deaths as an adverse effect from long-term ketogenic diets. Stewart, et al., 2001, Kang, et al., 2004, Kang, et al., 2005. Two of these papers are case studies, and the other three are papers derived from two separate clinical trials, all studies in epileptic children. Some of the deaths can be attributed to extra complications from secondary conditions or accidents that befell the child during the course of the clinical trial; however, other deaths—most typically from severe infection or heart disease—are attributed directly to long-term ketosis.
Are the long-term health risks of ketogenic diet worth it?
In this video below, Dr. Cyrus Khambatta explains the myths and truths about ketogenic diets and debunks its core principles on why keto diets pose serious health risks long-term.
Are low-carb diets good or bad?
It depends on what type of carbs they are. In the short-term, low-carb diets can drastically improve your overall weight and health. There are good carbs which are complex in nature, and there are simple carbs which are all the process foods and contain a vast amount of sugar, and many times from high fructose corn syrup which plays havoc on your health.
Unfortunately, over the long-term, low-carb diets that are higher in proteins and fats from meat which keto diets adhere to, having adverse reactions that can have devastating effects on your overall health.
Not only is a keto diet bad for your health long-term, it’s unsustainable. I realize that there will be a backlash of people on a high-fat low carb keto diet that will say their health has improved, and in the short-term, I’m sure it has. But eating meat and dairy products ladened with saturated fats, as has been proven to increase the rate of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mortality in study after study, Bank, et al., 2008, Suo, et al., 2013.
How does eating meat increase the rate of cancer?
To explain the connection between meat consumption and cancer risk, first, meat is devoid of fiber and other nutrients that have a protective effect. Meat also contains animal protein, saturated fat, and, in some cases, carcinogenic compounds such as heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) formed during the processing or cooking of meat.
HCAs, formed as meat is cooked at high temperatures, and PAHs, formed during the burning of organic substances, are believed to increase cancer risk. In addition, the high-fat content of meat and other animal products increases hormone production, thus increasing the risk of hormone-related cancers such as breast and prostate cancer.
The consumption of high-fat foods such as meat, dairy products, fried foods, and even vegetable oils causes a woman’s body to make more estrogens, which encourage cancer cell growth in the breast and other organs that are sensitive to female sex hormones. This suggests that, by avoiding fatty foods throughout life, hormone-related cancer risk decreases.(2)
Two themes consistently emerge from studies of cancer and its relation to eating vegetables and fruits help to reduce the risk of cancer, while meat, animal products, and other fatty foods are frequently found to increase the risk. Consumption of dietary fat drives production of hormones, which, in turn, promotes the growth of cancer cells in hormone-sensitive organs such as the breast and prostate.
Meat is devoid of the protective effects of fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and other helpful nutrients, and it contains high concentrations of saturated fat and potentially carcinogenic compounds, which may increase one’s risk of developing many different kinds of cancer.
The great, good and bad carbs
Examples of whole carbs include vegetables, whole fruit, legumes, potatoes and whole grains. These foods are generally healthy. On the other hand, refined carbs include sugar–sweetened beverages, fruit juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice and others.
If you’re eating a ketogenic diet then you’re eating a diet that consists of the majority of foods from meat and dairy products, as well as some vegetables. Unfortunately, the saturated fat from meat and Dairy as well as process oils including olive oil and other oils that are suggested to be used on the ketogenic diet can increase your risk of many different diseases.
There are scientific studies that show that eating a ketogenic diet over the long-term to have deleterious effects on your health even though on the short-term it may seem as if you have found the Panacea for what ails you regarding your weight, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, but it will be very difficult to maintain this over course of more than 6 months and years without serious health risks.
Plant-based diets improve health, save animals and reduce your carbon footprint
Eating a low-fat plant-based diet has been shown over and over again to improve insulin resistance, weight loss, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and an assortment of other benefits that can only come when you’re eating food that is grown instead of processed.(4)
The way conventional animals are raised for meat are treated with some of the most inhumane types of torture by way of being slaughtered that any animal could suffer, and that has moral, ethical and sustainable implications.
If you’d rather not eat food that screams when it’s killed for you to eat your breakfast lunch or dinner meal time, then making the switch to a much healthier way of eating will not only help countless animals and the millions of tonnes of C02 emissions that are released from raising commercial livestock, but will offset your carbon footprint, and you and the planet will be that much healthier for it.(5)
This isn’t to suggest that a person should dive head-first into becoming a vegetarian, but with this information, it should at least point you in the direction that aligns your health with the benefits that come from eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans), nuts and seeds.
So, how do you find sustainable food?
While there is no sustainability label yet, there is an app for that! Plus, there is always the farmers market, where you can find out the story of your food directly from the growers. If no sustainable option is available, organic food remains the second best choice as often it is grown in a more sustainable fashion than conventionally grown produce.
If you can, choose sustainable food. While organic and sustainable products often sound synonymous, this is not always the case. Organic products consider mainly the aspect of human health, while sustainable practices take into account the economic, social, and ecological factors to ensure that we will continue to have the resources to protect the Earth.
With so much noise that’s on the internet that touts new diets and the craze that’s sweeping the country with the ketogenic fad diet, it’s hard to disseminate between what is true and good for you and what is being put out as misinformation. It’s important to critically analyze this information that we’re putting out along with the studies that we have cited so you can have a better understanding of what myriad of studies says is good for your health and is sustainable.
Vegetarian diets and diets rich in high-fiber plant foods such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits offer a measure of protection. Fiber greatly speeds the passage of food through the colon, effectively removing carcinogens, and fiber actually changes the type of bacteria that is present in the intestine, so there is reduced production of carcinogenic secondary bile acids.(6)
Plant foods are also naturally low in fat and rich in antioxidants and other anti-cancer compounds. Not surprisingly, vegetarians are at the lowest risk for cancer and have a significantly reduced risk compared to meat-eaters.
To get a more detailed look at why ketogenic or low-carb diets don’t offer long-term health benefits, download this free PDF of PaleoMom’s Literature Review of studies which contain details on all of the papers reporting adverse reactions.
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