Keto has been getting a lot of media exposure lately, and not all of it is positive. Today, I’m debunking the myths and sharing my research in the hopes that this piece will inspire others to dig a little deeper.
I’m always excited to see keto in the news, and in January, keto seemed to be everywhere! While I was excited about the conversation, the source of the debate centered around the results of the 2018 U.S. News panel of dietitians, who rated 40 diets for effectiveness and health. I looked for their findings on keto, and the results weren’t exactly what I expected; the keto diet ranked second to last with an overall score of 1.9 stars out of 5! I couldn’t believe what I was reading, so I decided to pull apart the criteria for further consideration.
While I always appreciate hearing from other nutritionists and nutrition experts, many of the panelists don’t seem to know exactly what the keto diet involves, and hardly any of them seem to acknowledge the latest research on ketogenic diets. You can read their opinions for yourself here.
As a nutrition educator, I want to set the record straight on keto, so I’m going to focus on the benefits of the keto lifestyle, using the same categories 6 U.S. News used in their assessment.
Category 1: Best Diabetes Diets
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – keto can be a great dietary choice for people with diabetes and pre-diabetes. By cutting carb intake and relying on ketones for energy, research shows that people with Type 2 Diabetes can slow the onset of the condition, reduce their weight, and improve their heart health.
Category 2: Easiest Diets to Follow
Switching to the Keto lifestyle can be difficult, especially if you’re a bread-lover! Like with any diet, it takes time and commitment to get started; when I started keto 4 years ago, there were no resources, but now, it’s so much easier!
Category 3: Best Heart-Healthy Diets
Keto is fantastic for improving cardiovascular health, which can help to prevent heart failure, especially in people who are obese or overweight. By following a ketogenic lifestyle, people can reduce their risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, and manage risk factors, like weight.
Category 4: Short and Long-Term Weight Loss
Many people, myself included, can agree that keto is great for long-term weight loss. Even better, I’ve got the science to back it up!
Category 5: Nutrition
For some reason, some nutrition experts still think that cutting carbs means cutting out nutrients in your diet. This isn’t true at all! You can get all the nutrients you need from a well-balanced ketogenic diet.
Category 6: Safety
Some experts maintain the outdated belief that reducing your carbohydrate intake can be dangerous for certain populations, including people with heart disease and diabetes and women who are pregnant — the U.S. News experts made the same argument.
Here’s the thing: you can alter your keto diet to suit your body! Keto can be a great fit for people with diabetes and heart disease, and pregnant women can follow the eating style, too, with proper nutritional guidance.
For anyone with a serious health condition, I recommend working with a holistic nutritionist and your doctor to make sure you’re following a ketogenic diet tailored towards your specific needs.
What About the Other Benefits?
This is where the panel ended their assessment, unfortunately. Although the U.S. News panel didn’t discuss them, a ketogenic diet offers benefits beyond the categories they listed! Here are just a few things I would have included in the rating:
- Cognitive Benefits: Keto actually improves your cognitive function and memory, and there’s tons of evidence that it can help slow the progression of neuromuscular and neurodegenerative diseases like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s! You can read more about it here and here, and check out Podcast Episode #52.
- Hormonal Benefits: so many women have benefitted hormonally from switching to keto, myself included! Whether you need help healing from amenorrhea like me, or you just want to focus on balancing your sex hormones, keto can be an amazing tool. In fact, women can reduce menopause symptoms just by eating more Omega-3 fatty acids, as found in this study.
- Protection from Cancer: That’s right, there are studies that show that a ketogenic diet can actually reduce your risk of cancer and improve the efficacy of cancer treatment! This article explains how ketosis can help starve cancer cells, and this one shows evidence that the keto diet can improve cancer treatment!
In short, I’m more than a little disappointed by U.S. News’s coverage of the keto diet, but I hope this information gives you a bit more background and empowers you to make an informed decision about whether a ketogenic diet is right for you.