Common Myths of Ketogenic Diets


The ketogenic diet is not a new diet, however, it has been on the rise again recently due to its many health benefits, including weight loss. This way of eating encompasses high fats, moderate proteins, and low carbohydrates (on average less than 50g a day). With any diet there tends to be a lot of conflicting information making it difficult to decipher what is true and what is a myth. Below are Dr. Hennigar’s responses to four of the most common myths heard about the ketogenic diet.

  • Myth 1: A ketogenic diet is unsafe

  • One of the safety concerns comes from the idea a ketogenic diet will put you in a dangerous state called ketoacidosis. This is a true medical emergency, however, if you have a proper working pancreas it is not possible to end up in this state simply from eating ketogenic. Another myth associated with the safety is around kidney function, which has been proven to be more an issue with high protein, not moderate amounts such as the ketogenic diet. The other common safety misconception is around elevating cholesterol levels by eating ketogenic. However, one study done by a clinical cardiology journal showed that there was a significant decrease in body weight, decreased triglycerides, decreased LDL and decreased blood glucose. Not only that, there was also an increase in HDL cholesterol with long term ketogenic diets. It also showed no significant side effects, including no significant changes in creatinine or urea levels. With any diet or way of life there will always be safety exceptions and the ketogenic diet is no different. Therefore there will be a subset of people who need to exercise caution with the ketogenic diet and either avoid it, or consult with their naturopathic physician prior to starting. This group includes, but not necessarily limited to, those with porphyria, beta-oxidation deficiencies, other fat metabolism disorders, pyruvate carboxylase deficiencies, mitochondria disorders, active gallbladder dysfunction, certain cancers, gastric bypass surgery, history of pancreatitis/pancreas insufficiency, history of kidney disease or those on certain epileptic medications.

  • Bottom Line: For majority of people the ketogenic diet is extremely safe. If you have any concerns or any of the conditions listed above please consult with a naturopathic doctor prior to starting or stopping a dietary program.

  • Myth 2: The ketogenic diets is boring and just includes a lot of bacon

  • This one is far from being true! There are so many wonderful resources for the ketogenic diet when it comes to variety and recipes. One of Dr. Hennigar's favourites being Maria Emmerich (no affiliation). She has countless recipes that are both unique or a play on your everyday favourites. The ketogenic diet encompasses everything from salads, to soups, stews, fat bombs, and so much more, even different keto baked goods. While bacon is high fat it is also decently high in protein therefore rest assured, if you are doing the ketogenic diet correctly you won’t just be eating a lot of bacon. In fact outside of the fats, there is also a stress on consuming green leafy vegetables, low carbohydrate fruits, nuts, and seeds. Therefore the myths that the ketogenic diet is boring or nutrient deficient just aren’t true.

  • Bottom Line: The ketogenic diet has a great variety of foods and is far from boring or bacon laden.

  • Myth 3: You can’t lose weight eating fats

  • This is a big one! We have had it ingrained in our brains since the 90’s that fats are B-A-D. Because fat has higher calories per gram than carbohydrates it was assumed people would put on weight by consuming. However, fat has a lower glycemic load (i.e. how much your blood glucose level changes from the foods you eat) than carbohydrates. The glycemic load is what has been shown to have the greatest affect on weight loss or gain. In reality sugar, i.e. carbohydrates, and excess proteins are what lead us to put on extra weight. A study of 83 obese patients put on the ketogenic diet was done, only to find that every participant lost significant amounts of weight, improving their BMI.

  • Bottom Line: You can’t lose weight from eating a diet high in sugars and carbohydrates. In reality you need to eat fats to lose weight and keep it off.

  • Myth 4: You can just take ketones to get into ketosis instead of changing your diet

  • So often as people look to new diets they are also looking for the quick fix. It is important to know that you cannot simply continue eating the way you do now and mitigate the effects with exogenous ketones. That being said, these supplements do have a place when taken under medical supervision to enhance the weight loss effects and clarity of mind.

  • Bottom Line: You definitely do not need to take exogenous ketones to become keto-adapted. These supplements should be utilized only after discussing with your physician.

Overall the ketogenic diet is safe, includes a variety of delicious tasting foods, allows you to not only lose weight but also sustain weight loss, and can be done simply by eating the correct combination of foods. If you have any questions about whether this is a good fit for you or not feel free to BOOK IN with Dr. Hennigar to discuss this further.

As always, this post is not designed to diagnose or treat you, but instead to give you something to think about. Please book a consult with a naturopathic doctor prior to changing, starting, or stopping medications or protocols.

Resources

Foster-Powell K, Holt SH, Brand-Miller JC. International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76:5–56.

Hussein, D. et al. (2004). Long term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. Experimental and Clinical Cardiology. 9(3):200-205. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/

Leeds AR. Glycemic index and heart disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76:286S–9S.

Martin, WF, Armstrong, LE, & Rodriguez, NR. (2005). Dietary protein intake and renal function. Nutrition Metabolism (Lond). 20:2:25. DOI:

10.1186/1743-7075-2-25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16174292

Olsen, S. What kills more people: sugar or cigarettes? http://www.olsonnd.com/what-kills-more-people-sugar-or-cigarettes/

Thio LL, Sitzwohl A, Trevathan E. (2002) The ketogenic diet. In: American Academy of Pediatrics Pediatric Nutrition Handbook 5th Ed (Kleinman RE, ed) (in press).

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