Is the keto diet safe? USC experts have some serious concerns
Dietitians may recommend the popular high fat, very low carbohydrate plan for certain patients, but most of us can get the same results without going to such extremes
The keto diet a high fat, moderate protein, very low carbohydrate plan might be eclipsing paleo and Whole30 as the hot diet trend of 2019.
The diet asks for cutting out major groups of foods, such as grains, legumes and dairy and sometimes cutting back on certain nutrient-rich vegetables. The idea is to get your body to switch from burning carbs to burning fat for fuel, in turn producing ketones, leading to ketosis.
Maybe youve seen #keto on your Instagram feed plates heaped with steaks, bacon and avocado. Meal delivery companies are accommodating keto eaters, too, like they might for vegetarians or vegans, even offering strip tests to test your ketone levels.
But USC experts say to exercise caution when trying out the trend.
Ninety percent of Americans have been on a diet and when you ask why theyre dieting is it for health or to lose weight? the predominant answer is to lose weight, according to Dean Pinchas Cohen of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.
So its no surprise keto essentially a new take on the Atkins diet is popular since it results in weight loss, he said. But long term, the keto diet could be detrimental, since cutting out carbs increases health risks and mortality over time, Cohen said.
The ketogenic diet is usually something thats prescribed by a registered dietitian. For example, Jessica Lowe, a Keck School of Medicine of USC ketogenic dietitian, said she might prescribe it to a patient who has epilepsy, since theres research that shows it can help control seizures. Theres also growing interest in whether high-fat diets could help with brain injuries or neurodegenerative diseases, Lowe said. For the everyday dieter, Lowe said, its important to consult a registered dietitian.
Is the keto diet safe: the main problem
The main problem with it is that its not nutritionally adequate, Lowe said. She often tells her patients to supplement it with fresh vegetables and fruit.
Otherwise, she said, youre at risk for micronutrient deficiency.
Building on Cohens concern, Lowe said its also unclear how long term keto dieting could affect bone health.
Then theres the whole ketosis thing.
It is not dangerous. We just do not have an understanding as to what the long term impact of ketosis is on ones long-term health, Lowe said. For certain populations in particular those with intractable epilepsy, who are placed on a ketogenic diet reaching ketosis is necessary.
Is the keto diet safe: getting results
Michael Goran, a Keck School of Medicine obesity researcher, said you can get the same results as the keto diet without being so extreme. He advises his patients to cut out added sugars sodas, juices, processed foods and simple carbohydrates that metabolize into sugar faster and lack fiber.
Those are the main culprits you should be worried about eliminating from your diet, he said.
Lorraine Turcotte, a metabolism researcher at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, said that although its less trendy, long-term healthy eating is the tried-and-true solution. Shes not sure why people prefer difficult dietary manipulations than to say Im just going to eat moderately a well balanced diet, lots of fruits and vegetables.
Maybe its just not as fun as jumping on a trend.