20 Reasons Keto Stinks and is the Biggest Diet Scam of All-Time | Rob Killen
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard plenty about the ketogenic (keto) diet over the past few years. Keto advocates tout it as a great way to lose weight, have more energy, and maintain a sharper focus. I don't disagree, but I still think it's a terrible diet, and I'm not alone in that opinion. Over Thirty Years Ago In 1988, I was in the Air Force, helping pilots, military personnel, and their dependents build healthier bodies by prescribing workouts and a well-balanced diet. Thirty-two years later, the foundation of my nutritional recommendations remains the same – eat a healthy, balanced, whole foods diet, and avoid added sugars and processed foods as much as possible. Balance in nutrition for me, and the majority of those I worked with wanting to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, means eating 55-60% of daily calories from carbohydrates, 25-30% from protein, and 15-20% from fat. Exercise Routines Should be Like Your Nutrition – Balanced and Well-Rounded Athletes, avid weightlifters, bodybuilders, and people who participate in high-intensity workouts each week may need to bump up their protein an extra 5-10% and lower their carbs by the same amount to build and preserve muscle tissue. These modifications depend on your athletic and physique goals and how your body feels and responds best. Exercising is to diets what gasoline is to fire. Adding exercise will ignite your metabolism into overdrive, causing your body to burn more calories around the clock. Obesity in America Diet trends continue to come and go every few years, while America's obesity rate keeps increasing. Obesity is a disease brought on by having an excessive amount of body fat. People with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 25 are overweight, and those who have a BMI of 30 and above are obese. The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control put the U.S. obesity rate at over 42%, which represents a 30% increase in obesity since 1990 when the percentage was 12%. The Origin of the Ketogenic Diet The Ketogenic diet was created in 1921 as a treatment to reduce seizures in patients with epilepsy by Dr. Rusel Wilder of the Mayo Clinic. Over the years, the Keto-diet has continued to be successful in reducing epileptic seizures in children by altering the genes involved in energy metabolism in the brain. I'm all in for anything that helps reduce seizures in children. I believe doctors and parents need to decide together what's best for the health of their children. If keto improves the quality of life, reduces seizures, or is successful in helping with other significant illnesses and life-threatening diseases, then absolutely use it. Slightly more than 1% of all Americans suffer seizures, yet the Keto way of eating exploded in popularity and has become a mainstream diet for the masses with no let-up in sight. What is a Ketogenic Diet, and How Did it Become so Accepted? I'll answer the second question first. The keto diet is famous because it works! If your goal is to lose weight, keto can help you get there. However, liquid diets, Adkins, South Beach, Paleo, Mediterranean, Weight Watcher's, the Dash diet, and countless others are also useful for weight loss. Losing weight, while challenging and difficult for many people, is a simple scientific process – you burn off more calories than you consume over a prolonged period. This caloric deficit, regardless of how achieved, results in shedding excess pounds. Easy enough to understand, but adhering to this pattern to keep weight off for life is something upwards of 90-95% of dieters can't accomplish. A classic ketogenic diet is consuming 90% of all calories from fat, 6% from protein, and 4% from carbs. Modified versions of a keto-diet reduce dietary fat intake to as low as 70-75% of daily calories, with 15-20% from protein and the rest from carbs. Eating an extremely low-carb, high fat diet puts the body into a state known as ketosis, which causes the dieter to burn fat instead of the glucose found in carbs for fuel. Like any diet, the number of calories you eat per day to lose weight depends on your size, lean body mass, and daily activity levels. Here are the Reasons I Feel the Keto-Diet is a Scam 1. Social Media It's no coincidence that the explosion of social media usage over the past few years matches the growth of the keto diet. The Keto diet trend went mainstream at an unprecedented time in history. No other diet has ever received the amount of exposure and publicity as keto has over the past several years. Keto continues to ride the wave of non-stop social media while attracting more fans and followers. 2. Celebrity Influence Celebrities have always been among the most outspoken and first to jump on the bandwagon of the latest diet fads and trends. Where stars go, the rest will follow. Their influence often combined with paid endorsements to represent a brand, endorse a diet, or serve as a spokesperson can lure millions of new people to trying a diet, supplement, or weight loss product. Some celebrities who have endorsed keto, or mentioned trying it for a time – Lebron James, Halle Berry, Tim Tebow, to name a few - have always looked great, and never been overweight. When you combine their celebrity status with reason # 1, and their millions of followers on social media, it's easy to see why the keto diet popularity has soared. 3. Most People Aren't Doing keto, but a Modified Keto Version As mentioned above, the classic ketogenic diet is almost void of any carbs. It's hard enough to follow any strict eating regimen, but removing virtually all carbs is next to impossible for most people. Yes, there are exceptions, and I know plenty of people muster up enough discipline to stay on a classic keto diet. Still, the overwhelming majority of people on ketogenic diets are doing a modified version by reducing their carbs. Despite not putting their bodies into a state of ketosis, they're eating fewer carbs, which means consuming fewer calories, resulting in weight loss. 4. Modified Keto is About the Same as the Atkins Diet Dr. Robert Atkins was a cardiologist who introduced the Atkins diet to the world in his 1972 best selling book, " Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution." The Atkins Diet is also high fat and low carb, but consists of four different phases: Phase 1 (induction): Under 20 grams of carbs per day for two weeks. Eat high-fat, high-protein, with low-carb veggies, like leafy greens. This kick-starts weight loss. Phase 2 (balancing): Slowly add more nuts, low-carb vegetables, and small amounts of fruit back to your diet. Phase 3 (fine-tuning): When you close in on your goal weight, add more carbs to your diet until weight loss slows down. Phase 4 (maintenance): Eat as many healthy carbs as your body can tolerate without regaining weight. Dr. Atkins was admitted to a hospital back in 2003 after slipping on ice and hitting his head. He passed away nine days later as a result of his injuries. There was some controversy surrounding his health after his death when reports revealed Atkins suffered a heart attack in 2002 and had an extensive history with heart attacks, congestive heart failure, and hypertension. These reports were said to be inaccurate by one of Dr. Atkins colleagues, Dr. Stuart Trager, chairman of the Atkins Physicians Council. Trager said Dr. Atkins suffered from cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, likely caused by a virus. Dr. Atkins's widow refused to allow an autopsy, so many still question the underlying reasons for his heart conditions. 5. Only About 10% of Americans Eat Enough Vegetables According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 Americans get enough vegetables and fruits in their diets. What does this have to do with the keto diet? One of the biggest knocks on keto is the lack of nutrients because it eliminates too many healthy foods. The answer from keto advocates is to eat more healthy, green veggies. Statistics show this won't happen. If you're among the 10% of Americans who eat enough vegetables, you're likely not overweight and don't need to be on the keto diet in the first place. If you're eating more leafy green vegetables for the first time in your life as a result of going on the keto diet, congratulations! You've proven to yourself that you can eat healthily and no longer need to be on keto. 6. Most Nutrition Experts Don't Recommend keto Registered Dieticians, Nutritionists, and Nutrition Coaches routinely denounce keto and don't recommend it as a healthy option. The Mayo Clinic is the most aggressive in its anti-keto stances, calling the diet "more hype than help." I find this ironic since a Mayo Clinic doctor created keto. I also find it interesting that whenever a doctor or other "expert" promotes the keto diet, instead of being someone who specializes in nutrition and dietetics, they're a chiropractor who also happens to sell different "keto-friendly" supplements and products? 7. Health Experts Ranked Keto Second to the Last out of 35 Diets Each year, U.S. News and World Report have health and nutrition experts evaluate and rank the best and worst diets for the year ahead. In 2020, the keto diet ranked near the bottom of most categories, including finishing in dead last place for healthy eating, and next to last place overall out of the 35 diets listed. The rankings are based on seven categories, with each diet assigned a score between 1 and 5. For the past three years, the Mediterranean Diet ranked as the healthiest and best diet. 8. All About the Dollar Signs $$$ Like most other things in the world, monetary gain is the driving force behind much of the popularity and marketing of different diets, supplements, and other nutritional products. The keto diet has fueled a massive empire in supplements, shakes, and "keto-friendly" foods. Everywhere you turn online and in supermarkets, keto-friendly, and "keto-approved," meals and snacks are being advertised. The global keto market diet was responsible for over $10 billion in sales in 2018 and expects to reach almost $18 billion by 2026. 9. What About God and Jesus? If you believe God is the creator of earth and everything in it, this includes our primary food sources. God created human beings, and in His infinite wisdom, He designed our humanly bodies to function on a healthy, whole foods diet. Balanced nutrition is what keeps our internal systems working correctly, and helps regulate all our bodily processes. With God responsible for supplying the food chain, it makes perfect sense that Jesus ate a balanced and healthy diet. By many accounts, Jesus walked thousands of miles during his time on earth – over 3,000 just in his three years of full-time ministry. He needed energy and stamina to maintain such a hectic schedule. And what were the primary foods in his diet? Jesus likely had bread and fish every day. Other foods Jesus ate included lamb, whole grains, legumes, chickpeas, lentils, kale, pinenuts, oats, olives, dried fruits, squash, radishes, honey, vinegar, olive oil, figs, garlic, onions, spices, dates, pomegranates, and red wine. Red meat was expensive and consumed only a handful of times a year. Do these foods sound familiar? They should because they make up the bulk of the Mediterranean Diet, which includes healthy carbohydrates. It stands to reason that God's son ate the healthiest diet on earth. Food for thought – if you're a child of God, from any religion, should you be eating most of the same foods that the Son of God ate? 10. Low-Carb Diets Can Impact Your Mood and Brain Health Studies show low-carb, and other unhealthy diets can negatively affect our brain health. Your brain, like your heart, functions non-stop, 24 hours a day, every day of your life. Your brain needs plenty of healthy foods high in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants to allow your mind to function at its best and protected it from the oxidative stress it undergoes. Studies show that low carb diets can reduce serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Major depression is at all-time highs over the past few years, and the Coronavirus pandemic has made this worse. Others on keto have claimed to experience an increase in anger, but anger and irritability are common side effects found with many different diets.
11. Many of the Healthiest Foods Are Forbidden or Severely Restricted If you look at virtually any ranking of the world's healthiest foods, at least 25-30% of the foods listed can't be eaten on keto or are allowed in minimal amounts. It's challenging eating enough nutritious foods, let alone ones that you enjoy and find tasty, and now you're eliminating many of them from your diet. Many of the healthiest foods in the world - sweet potatoes, blueberries, oatmeal, Greek yogurt, edamame, barley, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, apples, oranges, quinoa, bananas, and brown rice - are too high in carbohydrates for keto dieters. Classic keto dieters, depending on the total number of calories, are allowed 15-30 grams of carbs per day. Eat one medium-sized apple with 25 carbs, and you reach your limit for the day. 12. Long-Term Studies Show Keto to be Unhealthy Let me begin with some positives on keto research. Yes, you read right, the positives on keto! Many smaller, short-term studies show that keto is effective for improving almost all known biomarkers for disease. It's worth noting that many of these studies include smaller sampling sizes over a shorter period. The studies also include obese people and others with pre-existing health conditions who are likely to show improvements on any diet that reduces their intake of sugar and processed carbs with no nutritional value. Several of the pro-keto studies are funded and backed by groups that market and sell keto-foods and supplements. What these pro keto studies haven't done is show ketogenic diets to extend life and reduce cardiovascular events over a long-term basis. Many of these same studies touting the short-term benefits of keto go on to say that it's not recommended and is unhealthy to continue keto for an extended time. So what's the big deal? I want to drop 50 pounds, and if it's healthy in the short-term, and helps me reach my weight loss goal, why not try it? Because you still have to develop healthy, sustainable long-term eating habits to keep the weight off permanently. Otherwise, once you hit your goal and come off keto, you'll continue doing what 90-95% of all people do who lose weight on any diet -gain it all back. Several long-term studies have proven keto to be unhealthy. One 10-year study on keto and epilepsy management in children found the following side effects: constipation (65%), high triglycerides (40%), high cholesterol (29%), diarrhea (19%), lethargy (17%), iron deficiency (15%), and vomiting (13%). One of the most extensive global studies examined the eating habits of almost 500,000 people around the world and found that banning entire food groups works for a while to lose weight, but it could also send you into an early grave. People who ate diets lower in nutritional quality and healthy amounts of carbohydrates were more likely to develop some of the more common and deadliest forms of cancer, including stomach, lung, colon, liver, and breast cancers. The National Lipid Association Nutrition and Lifestyle Task Force reviewed all available data as of 2019. They determined that "low-carb and very low-carb diets are not superior to other dietary approaches for weight loss, and intake is associated with increased all-cause mortality." 13. The Keto Diet Avoids Many Foods High in Fiber and Healthy Gut Bacteria B vitamins found in beans and grains are critical to keeping your digestive system healthy. Foods high in B vitamins are often high in fiber, which is essential to digestion, good gut health, and avoiding constipation. Fiber is necessary for the production of butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids, which are critical for immune function, controlling inflammation, and overall gut health. 14. Deprivation Nutritional regimens that deprive dieters the most by limiting their variety in food choices, flavors, and textures are the hardest to adhere to for the long-term. Would you rather lose the same 40 pounds 20 times during your lifetime, or lose it one time AND never gain it back? Set yourself up for your best chance of long-term success! Learn to eat for balance, health, and well-being for the rest of your life. 15. Keto is Not the Best Diet for Building Lean Body Mass (Muscle) A 2018 study determined that a group of men performing weight training exercises for two months failed to gain any muscle on the keto diet. The men did lose body fat during the two-month study, which shows the effectiveness of keto for losing weight. However, weight loss from keto likely includes muscle tissue, which can result in lowering strength and metabolism levels. 16. Could Keto Make You Fatter Long-term? A 2020 study in Nature showed mice improved metabolism and reduced inflammation, but after two to three months on keto, the mice became obese. Their inflammation levels skyrocketed, and metabolism became impaired. Many people have safely been following the keto diet for far longer than a few months, but will they experience metabolism and inflammation issues at some point later? 17. Stinky "Keto" Crotch Nothing screams health and vitality like a smelly vagina. Despite no conclusive studies confirming the cause of "keto crotch," gynecologists theorize that the bad vagina odor is the result of a vaginal change in ph levels from the keto diet. One woman claims the smell ruined her seventeen-year marriage. For many, the smell goes away after several days to several weeks of going on the keto diet. For others, the scent continues as long as they remain on the keto diet. 18. Bad Breath Bad breath can be the single biggest deal breaker when looking for a new relationship. 80% of people surveyed said they would not go on a second date with someone who had terrible breath. When keto dieters put their body into a state of ketosis, the fatty acids break down into ketones. One of these ketones is acetone, which causes bad breath, commonly referred to as "keto breath." Acetone is the same chemical found in some nail polish removers. Keto breath typically disappears within the first two weeks of starting the diet, once your body adjusts to it. 19. Muscle Cramps and Heart Palpitations Potassium is one of the most critical minerals in the diet, and it's vital for many essential bodily functions, such as regulating fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signals. Low potassium is associated with a risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer, digestive disorders, and infertility. A high potassium diet may help reduce blood pressure and water retention, protect against stroke, and prevent osteoporosis and kidney stones. It's common for keto dieters to be deficient in potassium because many foods high in potassium (fruits, beans, and sweet potatoes) aren't permitted on keto. 20. Keto Flu The Keto Flu is a term used to describe many of the side effects some keto dieters experience during the first couple of weeks. It's not dangerous or contagious to others. Symptoms of the keto flu include fatigue, headache, irritability, difficulty focusing ("brain fog"), lack of motivation, dizziness, sugar cravings, nausea, and the previously mentioned muscle cramps. Most symptoms of the keto flu disappear within the first two weeks. Side effects associated with the keto flu occur as your body switches from burning carbs to burning fat as its primary fuel source. Winding Things Down Despite evidence touting many positive benefits of the keto diet, most of these findings are in the short-term and have more to do with ceasing the intake of sugar and unhealthy processed carbs, the same as most other healthy diets. All carbs aren't created equal. Remember that 25-30% of the world's healthiest foods – including many fruits, beans, legumes, and whole grains – are also moderate and high carb foods. These foods are either not allowed or severely restricted for keto dieters. There's no denying that the keto diet is effective for weight loss. I dislike keto because it carries far too many side effects and is not a healthy, sustainable way of eating for life. Using the keto diet to lose weight is like using a credit card. Both of them will get you what you want now, but sooner or later you'll have to pay. Save yourself the time, aggravation, and nasty side effects from the keto diet. Instead, learn about healthy nutrition and eat a healthy, balanced diet for the rest of your life.
About the Author Rob Killen is a Certified Holistic Wellness Life Coach, Emotional Intelligence Trainer, Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, Behavior Change Specialist, Career Transitions Coach, and author. A former MID-USA Bodybuilding Champion, Rob holds a Master's Degree in Public Administration and has over thirty years of experience in the health and wellness industry. Rob developed and patented the Peace Benefits, a dimensions of wellness model, which he uses to help his clients change mindsets, behaviors, and bodies. Rob lives in Wellington, Florida, with his wife Kelly, and two dogs. Kelly owns and operates KK Wellness Consulting, where she and her team of coach clinicians have helped thousands of people successfully lose weight. Rob and Kelly work with clients remotely around the world.