Why We Don’t Recommend the Ketogenic Diet - Your Top 14 Questions Answered!
This year the Ketogenic Diet will likely become the most popular diet in America, maybe even the world. Promotors of the diet often refer to weight loss, insulin/blood sugar balance, the reducing of medications and other health benefits. While these are positive outcomes, very few people are sharing the potential concerns of the Ketogenic Diet and the long-term problems associated with this type of program. We do not recommend the Keto Diet or any diet that is high in fats or proteins, and here's why.
As a healthcare practitioner, I see people every day who are miserable eating “healthy fats” on the Ketogenic, GAPS, or Weston A. Price diets. For a couple of years, my family and I followed a similar diet to GAPS and Weston A Price, and we can say with first-hand experience that high-fat diets like Keto simply don't work long-term for most families, including ours.
Our personal experience has been consistent with the many people we have helped at Spirit of Health. It is also consistent with the many other practitioners we talk to and follow. We all keep coming to the same conclusion; peoples’ bodies are congested, their pipes aren’t flowing, and this is why people are sick and struggle with their weight. If the blood, lymph, kidneys, lungs, and liver are congested and not able to eliminate toxins and waste from the body, the result is hormonal imbalances, pain, diabetes, cancer, auto-immune disease, weight gain, and so much more. That is why we focus on eating a diet that helps eliminate waste, not further congesting the body with fats (healthy or not).
To better help you understand why we don't recommend the Ketogenic Diet and others like it, we're going to answer some of the top asked questions on the subject.
Question #1 - What is The History of the Ketogenic Diet?
Before jumping into ketosis, understand the history of this diet and why it came about. The Diet started as a way to help kids who had epilepsy and seizures. They knew fasting was a powerful tool, but also challenging for many people, especially children. The Ketogenic Diet came about as a controlled way to fast, but still get the result of decreased seizures. Doctors from the mayo clinic (where the diet was refined and promoted for children) had great success by helping children with this low carbohydrate, high-fat diet. It was a way of partial fasting, while still getting good results.
In the 1920's and 1930's, anti-convulsant drugs became prevalent for controlling seizures and epilepsy, and sadly, resulting in the abandonment of exploring dietary options. The revival of the Ketogenic Diet came back just recently in the 1990's, largely because a Hollywood producer used it to help his son with epilepsy and it received national news.
Long-term use of this diet has been studied in children. (Again, remember this diet only came about to treat children with epilepsy). These are the sad results of many children long-term on the Ketogenic Diet; slowed and stunted growth, bone fractures, kidney stones, reduction of insulin (which is a critical hormone for growth in the body), and acidosis. Source: Kossoff EH, Zupec-Kania BA, Rho JM. Ketogenic diets: an update for child neurologists. J Child Neurol. 2009 Aug;24(8):979–88.
Question #2 - What are Ketones & Ketogenesis and Why Were Our Bodies Designed to Use Them?
Very simply, ketones are a chemical made in your liver when your body does not have enough sugars to feed your cells, muscles, tissues, brain and other organs. When the sugar is absent, the body uses fatty acids to make ketones, and it uses these as the fuel source for your body. Ketosis is not a common state for the body to be in, and it is, without question, not natural to be in a state of ketosis long-term. Being in ketosis would be rare and only happen in a state of emergency in the body (times of fasting or times of famine).
God is a smart Designer.
He designed ketones and ketosis as an “emergency backup plan.” It is not to be the norm, but the exception. It will keep us alive when famine strikes, or when we go into a deep state of fasting. To use ketosis specifically for “health” is not compatible with God’s original design of food and what we are designed to eat.
Question #3 - What is the Basis of the Ketogenic Diet?
Although many variations exist, the basic concept is to freely eat healthy fats and oils (nuts, seeds, dairy), meats, and non-starchy vegetables. In general, it is encouraged to eat 60%-75% of calories from fat, 15%-30% from protein and 5%-10% carbohydrates. It is encouraged to avoid all processed foods, grains, fruits, sugar, and all processed, unhealthy fats and oils like vegetable oils.
Question #4 - Is The Ketogenic Diet The Best Way to Fast?
We know fasting is critical for any healing, especially seizures and epilepsy. God has shown me the power of fasting time and time again in my health and with my clients. It is crucial to health, longevity, and connection to God. However, the way we fast is critical to the outcome we get. When we fast long-term using the Keto method, mostly eating fats, it is very dangerous. Below is what can happen with prolonged use of the ketogenic diet for some.
The Ketogenic Diet alters body metabolism, preventing the body from using carbohydrates and fuel, leading to a dependency on ketones. Persons with a deficiency in the ability to metabolize fatty acids will find their bodies consuming their own protein stores, leading to ketoacidosis, coma, and death. Source: Zupec-Kania B, Werner RR, Zupanc ML. Clinical Use of the Ketogenic Diet—The Dietitian's Role. In: Stafstrom CE, Rho JM, editors. Epilepsy and the ketogenic diet. Totowa: Humana Press; 2004. p. 63–81
Side effects are commonly constipation, acidosis in the blood (which is contrary to our goal in the health of alkalinity), high lipids in the blood (affecting 60% of children), and 30% increase on average of cholesterol levels. Source: Bergqvist AG. Long-term monitoring of the ketogenic diet: Do's and Don'ts. Epilepsy Res. 2011 Aug 18;100(3):261–6
Question #5 - What Is the Best Way to Fast?
The best way to fast is by consuming nothing but water. This allows the body to go into a state of ketosis, where it begins burning up and using old, sick, dead waste tissues from the human body for fuel. This type of fasting is powerful, restorative and regenerative because it allows the body to open all of the detoxification pathways. Your blood, lymph, kidneys, lungs, and liver all begin to cleanse and detox because they aren't working to process what you just ate. Plus on a water fast the body will never reach a state of eating its own protein stores until you enter into a state of starvation (this generally takes at least 40+ days on water only). An easier, and for many, the preferred method of fasting is juice fasting or just eating fruits and vegetables. This is also powerful because it gives the body its preferred fuel source (natural sugars) without bogging down your system with too many things for your body to break down and eliminate.
On the Ketogenic Diet, you will NEVER enter into this state of fasting, because your body is constantly trying to burn up and use the excessive fats you are feeding your body. The fat blocks the detoxification pathways, and your body will never burn up or remove old waste because it's working hard to eliminate what you're currently putting in.
All of the healing clinics around the world that have seen great success in healing major illnesses like cancer including Hippocrates, Optimum Health, Gerson and others all use fasting to help aid the body in healing. They mostly serve a no meat, low-fat, high greens, fruits, and vegetable diet as the norm, often encouraging greens and juicing. Where did we ever get the idea that eating lots of fat and protein would be good for us? If the healing centers have figured this out, we should listen.
Question #6 - Are Ketone Supplements Safe?
While there are probably people not using ketone supplements, a vast majority are. They often use them at the beginning of and at low points in the diet. I'm not sure if we know what they are. Ketones are naturally produced in the liver, so how can they be natural? I could be wrong on this, but I have found no conclusive evidence as to what these products come from. If you ask someone selling ketone products what the source is, most of them have no idea. If it is a synthetic or chemical, how is this the answer to our weight loss or other health concerns?
Question #7 - Is Fat the Body’s Preferred Source of Fuel Over Sugar?
Sugar is and always has been the primary fuel source for the human body. This is obvious just looking around the world. God’s creation is filled with fruits from trees and bushes, as well as vegetables that grow abundantly from the ground. If you study basic chemistry and biology, you will see that sugar is the main fuel source for the human cell. Study how the Krebs cycle works in the cells. The fact that we produce insulin (its main function is to move sugar into cells) shows that sugar is preferred. Fats do have their benefits and purpose, but not as a main fuel source for the body.
Question #8 - Is It Healthy to Eat as Many "Healthy" Fats as You Want?
Promoters of the Ketogenic Diet like to focus on healthy vs. unhealthy fats. Although there is an absolute truth that healthy fats (olive, nuts, seeds, fish) are better than unhealthy fats (vegetable oils, fried foods, and trans fats), we need to look deeper. We need to be careful not to make the assumption (which seems to be too common in the health world today) that if it's healthy fat, we should eat it without limitation. This is an absolute fallacy, and quite dangerous.
Question #9 - Is Insulin Dangerous & Something We Should Try to Minimize or Eliminate?
Insulin is primarily used to move sugar into the cells. Insulin is a powerful hormone crucial to human life. Animals and people make insulin every day. Without insulin, you would die. Look at how debilitating Type I Diabetes is to people. To label insulin as the bad guy is FALSE. The problem is excessive insulin caused by a poor diet or insulin resistance. A physiologically normal insulin level is crucial for human health.
Insulin is also crucial for the growth of the human body. Insulin is more responsible for healthy cells and growth of the human body than testosterone, estrogen and even growth hormones. By shutting down your insulin, you shut down growth, and you shut down your hormones.
Question #10 - Are Sugars & Carbohydrates Dangerous & Do They Spike Blood Sugars, Causing Insulin Resistance?
Excessive fat (as promoted by a Keto Diet) is what causes insulin resistance and blood sugar imbalances. How? Your body needs fuel, and sugar is fuel. Fat is also fuel. When people eat a high-fat diet, the cells become clogged with fat, way more than they need for the energy demands of the body. So, when you eat sugar or carbs, yes your blood sugar spikes because the cells do not need the sugar because of all the excessive fats hanging out that still needs to be burned up.
Sugars and carbohydrates will work as fuel in the cells only if there is space for them, and excessive fat blocks sugar from being absorbed into the cells. If you eat a low-fat diet, sugars and carbohydrates can now be utilized by the cells of the body because there is a space and need for them (think supply and demand).
Insulin resistance is a state of carbohydrate intolerance first created by the consumption of excessive dietary fat. The problem with the Standard American Diet is high fat AND high sugar, which quickly leads to insulin resistance. After eating a high-fat diet like Keto and you come off it and start eating sugars and carbs, guess what? You blow up. Your system and cells are so clogged with fat that it has nowhere for the sugars to go! This is going to cause rapid weight gain and insulin resistance. This is just one reason why Keto is so dangerous and why so many people are frustrated after “coming off” it. Like we discussed earlier, doing Keto longterm is also very dangerous.
Question #11 - Are Sugars & Carbohydrates Essential Nutrients?
Yes. Your brain needs glucose, but it can’t store it. Your brain must constantly import glucose from your bloodstream to function. When absent of sugar, this forces your liver to produce ketones to feed the brain. Every single cell of the human body uses sugars for fuel. The problem isn’t the sugar. The problem is the types of sugar we are eating, and the bigger problem is the high fat we are consuming.
Fruit is your best source of fuel. What is cool about fruit is that it doesn’t require insulin to be processed. In other words, you can eat fruit to get energy and fuel without contributing to insulin resistance. Fruit sugar is actually the preferred fuel source for the human body overall. If people with diabetes would eat whole fruit in moderation while limiting their dietary fats to 10% or less, they can reverse their condition. We have seen this numerous times with clients at Spirit of Health.
Question #12 - Why Do People Have Problems With Starches & Sugars?
Many people switch to eating fats because sugars, starches, and carbohydrates don’t work for them or make them feel bad. This is a common problem among people because our bodies are unhealthy. Digestive problems, congested organs, and infectious issues like microbes, candida, and parasites are the biggest reasons why people can't handle these foods. However, the solution isn’t eating a high-fat diet, that's only making the problem worse. You have to discover WHY your body isn’t handling these foods well and balance your internal environment inside of your body. Putting a band-aid on the situation by avoiding all fruit and vegetable sugars 100% and eating lots of fat and protein is not the answer.
If you feel better avoiding grains and starchy carbohydrates, we recommend going on a fast or cleanse that is primarily nonstarchy vegetables and low sugar fruits like berries for a few months to help heal the body. You may want to consider doing a Microbe or Parasite Cleanse or getting tested for infections. The goal is to ultimately get back to getting more fruits and starches as your body heals.
Question #13 - Can Some People Follow Keto Safely?
Ketosis is not an ideal state for the human body for long-term health. However, there may be ways to do it properly short-term or as a transitionary diet off the standard American diet (SAD). We know MANY people have greatly benefited from the temporary benefits of Keto, and many may be deciding if they should do this long-term. The only people who might be able to do some form of Keto safely long-term would be those who are incredibly active and understand that from time to time you need to consume some fruit or starchy carbohydrates for proper energy, metabolism, and insulin function. We recommend you talk to someone who understands this in more detail. If you just start eating fats and proteins without exercise and without understanding moderation, you can be in big trouble.
Question #14 - What Does a Good Healing Diet Look Like?
I always love to look at health and nutrition from God’s design perspective. The body uses sugar as its main fuel source. The abundance of fruits and vegetables on this planet should indicate this is true (Adam and Eve were put in the Garden of Eden). The only diet that will last forever is the diet God laid out for us in Genesis 1:29 and Leviticus 11
Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
To help us get on a biblical diet, we created a free online guide along with resources to help you along the way called Eating by Design. Like the Keto Diet, the guide helps you get off unhealthy and processed foods, but unlike Keto, it focuses on healing fruits and vegetables and small amounts of fats and proteins.
In conclusion, we don't discourage the Keto Diet because we think our way is better, we discourage it because we've seen hundreds of people hurting and sick after following high-fat diets. But don't take our word for it, research this on your own and come to your own conclusion. Here are a few articles and videos we recommend you check out for additional information:
I would encourage you to watch the videos done by Cyrus Khambatta with www.masteringdiabetes.org who does an excellent job of debunking the ketogenic diet and giving you the real science behind its shortcomings. Some of this information is from his videos.