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Keto: Pros and Cons

I want to talk to you today about Keto, or low carbohydrate diets. It’s something that’s been around for a long time. It started back in the 1970s with the Atkins diet. There are a lot of pros and cons, and it’s still controversial today.

Pros of a Keto Diet

We’ll get right into some of the upsides of keto:

  1. Insulin sensitivity– If you start to reduce total carbohydrates in your diet, you’re going to secrete typically a little less insulin and your body is going to be able to then have better glucose tolerance. You’re going be able to get carbohydrates in the muscle and also other nutrients a little bit easier.
  2. Reduced plant based allergens. So the majority of us may have allergies or sensitivities or intolerances to things in our environment, things that we eat. Well most of those are plant based. Believe or not, there’s actually a lot fewer that are animal based. So if you cut off mostly plants on your diet, you’re going to end up with fewer sensitivities that has a lot of benefit for a lot of people.
  3. Easier menu planning. It makes menu planning simple. We’re not going to eat any sugar, almost no carbohydrates, very few vegetables. So what’s left we got meat and fats. So that makes it pretty simple. You can find supportive recipes all over the place for that.
  4. Reducing cancer. It does reduce many types of cancer as far as the tumor size and may help with stopping some proliferation of cancer. So that’s a huge positive because you’re reducing one of the main fuels for cancer cells and that is glucose. They can use other metabolic pathways, but you’re still taking away a major fuel source for many cancers- that’s big.

Cons of a keto diet

  1. We’re going to end up lowering total nutrient density of your food. Remember, our food is so much less nutrient dense than it was even 20 years ago, but especially 50-100 years ago. Which means you actually have to consume a higher volume of food in order to get the same nutrients your parents and grandparents did. And so that’s kind of a problem. You’re going to reduce a lot of the foods that you get vitamins and minerals from, that’s really big.
  2. Another con-it kind of varies by the person-but generally I’ve seen a lot of thyroid downregulation when we restrict carbohydrates, and there’s a feedback mechanism. It’s a little more complicated, but basically it tells our hypothalamus that we may be starving we may be lacking enough nutrients, not enough fuel, and it may start to slow our thyroid out of the risk of starvation.
  3. Constipation is a big one for a lot of people. Most patients I see have way more problems with not going enough than too often. You’re removing fiber from the diet, and not always but most of the time that’s going to be a problem, you’re going to get more constipated, which leads to more impacted built up fecal matter. That’s kind of an issue, right?
  4. Difficult to follow when traveling. It may be limiting as far as the lifestyle goes, wherever you go. More of these alternative type diets are supported, but not really wholesale, where you’re traveling for long distances, or you’re out of the country. You may be a very busy person on the road a lot in business. Or traveling for personal reasons. If you’re out and about a lot, it may be difficult to transfer the Keto lifestyle wherever you go. You certainly can meal prep, but it can be difficult. So that’s another thing that’s limiting.
  5. More expensive. I mentioned this before, with talking about the all meat based diet, you’re going to have to consume some really high quality foods. A lot of people go into Keto or low carbohydrate thinking, you know, I can just grab the cheapest butter I can get at Walmart, and then bologna or deli meat. I mean, technically you can because those aren’t plants and those aren’t carbohydrates. However, you’re eating really low quality and that’s what I find a lot of people on Keto or low carb, they’re just not eating a high quality, meat diet. So you’re going to have to look for pasture raised meats, you’re going to have to look for grass fed beef, for example, wild caught salmon- these can be 8-10 plus dollars per pound to get quality meat and that’s really important. If you’re going to restrict your food groups, you’ve got to then get quality and by the way, it’s going to get more expensive typically, your food bill is going to be quite a bit higher than if you’re just eating, you know, plant based stuff because vegetables are usually cheaper.

So a couple things to keep in mind, again, there’s a place for Keto. But I usually don’t recommend it except for very specific situations based on the individual. I think all medicines and diets should be individualized, because that’s how we get the best results.

Let me know if I can help you with an individualized plan!

Be Well,

Dr. Jason

Naturopathic doctor in Lansing

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