22 Experts Debunk Ketogenic, Paleo, & Low-Carb Diets
Anyone considering the Paleo or Ketogenic diet fads should read this post.
I share with you 22 quotes by nutrition experts I’ve interviewed in the past year, about the current fad, the “Ketogenic Diet.”
Any honest review of the body of longitudinal evidence–now over 10,000 published studies strong–will conclude that Americans are eating too little fiber and nutrients (found in whole-food plant foods of all kinds) and too many animal products and processed food.1
The longest-living and most disease-proof people around the world vary, in the types of foods they eat, but virtually all of them eat a 90 to 100 percent plant-based, whole foods diet.2
Any weight-loss diet will “work”–for weight loss. Keto, Paleo, Atkins, low fat, low carb, Weight Watchers, South Beach, the Potato Diet. Any of them.
And some of them will decrease your disease risk as well–but some of them may actually increase it.
When you eliminate classes of macro-nutrients (proteins, fats, and carbs), or classes of foods, you’re going to lose weight.
Most diets are just cleverly disguised calorie-restriction plans anyway, especially Atkins and Keto. (Which are virtually the same thing.)
But why would you do a diet for weight loss, that is bad for your long-term health?
You could adopt a diet that is sustainable, that you can do for the rest of your life, that leads you to your ideal weight, but also minimizes your disease risk.
I’ve been watching the Ketogenic and Paleo diets with concern. If you want to study in more depth very readable literature reviews about why virtually everything that is known about nutrition is violated by the “Keto” diet, see the References section below.
Each book I link you to (by Campbell, Whitten/Smith, Greger, Fuhrman, and Robbins) has extensive bibliographies of the published studies on diet, all of which point to a highly plant-based diet being best.
Cumulatively, these studies number in the thousands, and the results are very consistent, even if diet fads swing between the poles and usually favor the foods that Americans want to eat (e.g. animal products).
(Americans, after all, eat more animal products than virtually any large society in the history of the world.)
But in today’s blog post, I’ve taken excerpts from many podcast episodes I’ve done in the past year, with some of the most well known names in nutrition.
With “ketogenic diet” the most searched term on the internet in 2017, I felt it was important to bring together some consensus, so I’ve asked each of my many credentialed podcast guests what they think of “Keto.”
Some of the quotes aren’t directly related to the ketogenic diet, but rather, to one of the issues related to it. Such as whether legumes and grains are good for you, or whether carbohydrates are to be feared.
These are MD’s, NMD’s, and PhD’s, and some well known fitness pros and authors, all highly regarded in the field of health and wellness. I asked each of them about the evidence, and their opinion, on the high-fat and high-protein diets.
You are about to read some shocking statements about Paleo and Keto, by these author-researchers:
Yale’s David Katz, MD; John Robbins; Joel Fuhrman, M.D.; Alan Christianson, N.M.D.; John Douillard, D.C., Valter Longo, PhD; Chris Wark; Ari Whitten and Wade Smith, M.D.; Ben Greenfield; Michael Greger, M.D.; Stephen Lin, DMD; Joel Kahn, M.D.; Derek Henry; Terry Tillaart, PhD; Harry Massey; Stephen Masley, M.D., Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D.; John McDougall, M.D., Eric Zielinski, D.C., The Biggest Loser’s Bob Harper, and (yours truly) Robyn Openshaw.
I think you will find these comments by the world’s mostly highly credentialed and qualified nutrition experts very interesting, as you consider which diet trends are worth your time, and which aren’t:
Note: Some quotes have been edited for length and clarity.
Valter Longo, PhD
From my podcast interview with Dr. Longo, Episode 74:
I have to show that this [plant-based Longevity Diet] works using multiple pillars of science and medicine. One of the pillars of evidence [I consider] is epidemiology studies. So, what if you’re talking about, for example, a high meat, high protein, high fat, animal fat diet.
Is this high animal fat, animal protein diet and low sugar the successful one, in large populations?
For example: a large study by Harvard looking at low-carb, high-protein, high-fat diets showed a very clear increase overall in mortality including an increase in cardiovascular mortality and an increase in mortality from cancer. Epidemiology studies a large population, [which is] very important.3
Another “pillar” of evidence I consider is clinical studies. What if you take a group and you feed it high animal protein, high fat–and you take another group and you feed it a control diet? How do they do?
For example, you’ll see that those who eat a high protein diet will have a high level of IGF-1—a risk factor or a marker for cancer and also aging, etc. In the clinical level, there’s not much data about this, but certainly, it’s a very important pillar.
The third pillar is basic research focused on longevity. You need to look at, say, what about mice and other organisms that have been tested, what if they’re fed a high protein diet, for example, versus a low protein diet?
Do they do better? Well, it turns out that, not surprisingly, if they’re fed a low protein diet, they live longer and healthier.
The fourth pillar is centenarians in populations around the world that have record longevity, a very important pillar. Why is that? Well, because you could do some studies and you could, by mistake and coincidence, get a lot of opinions about something that has been based on a short study and maybe even multiple pillars will support it.
Then if you go look at the Okinawans, the people in Loma Linda, California, the people in Sardinia, Calabria, Icaria, Greece–the ones that have regular longevity–and you ask the question, did they have a high protein diet, for example–well, none of them do.
Everything in these four pillars of evidence now is supporting a low protein, mostly vegan–maybe some fish–diet.
The following are excerpts from Dr. Longo’s book: The Longevity Diet. 2018.4
In line with our previous protein study, a follow-up study of the same group followed by Harvard University, in which I acted as a co-author, showed that consumption of high levels of animal (but not plant-based) proteins was associated with increased mortality from cardiovascular disease.
A similar study of 40,000 men suggests that a low-carb, high-animal protein diet is associated with a twofold increase in diabetes, a finding also consistent with our discovery in the six-thousand-person protein study.
Mice on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet lived the shortest and the worst health, despite the effect of the diet on weight loss.
In our recent study, we showed that simply by lowering protein intake in mice, we can reduce the incidence of melanoma and breast cancer. Even after tumors were established, their rate of growth slowed in the presence of reduced protein intake.
Valter Longo, PhD is the Edna Jones Professor in Gerontology and Professor in Biological Science as well as the Director of the USC Longevity Institute. He is the founder of a non-profit organization promoting scientific and medical projects in low-cost, integrative therapies for the prevention and treatment of major diseases. He is the author of the international bestseller, The Longevity Diet, which features the 5-day “fasting mimicking diet” and reviews evidence of its success in disease prevention and weight loss.
From my podcast interview with Chris, Episode 38:
The Paleo Diet is an American fad. It is not rooted in science. It’s rooted in hype, and it’s rooted in sort of a mythology that our caveman ancestors ate a diet that was mostly meat, and maybe some root vegetables, and leafy greens, and nuts, and seeds. [It’s mythology] that they didn’t eat any carbohydrates.
If you adopt a Paleo Diet … and I will say the principles, you know, eating clean, grass fed, organically raised, pasture raised type meat and wild caught, wild killed meat, those principles, sure. That is a better quality of animal product than your commercially raised beef, and chicken, and pork, and stuff like that. Right?
Many Paleo advocates also advocate for eating whole foods and not processed food. That’s great advice. I totally agree.
But they’re very down on fruit, and they’re very down on starchy vegetables, because there’s just this idea that’s been propagated and regurgitated that our paleolithic caveman ancestors didn’t eat that stuff. Well, the reality is different, if you actually look at the science.
There’s a fantastic spread in Scientific American, where they investigate what is the real paleolithic diet. What they found is that the actual leading paleontologists, who are, by the way, not the authors of any Paleo Diet books–those [diet-book] guys are not actual scientists, they may do a little research, but they’re not actual paleontologists….
…the leading paleontologists around the world, when they investigate the remains, the bodies that have been pulled out of the Earth from prehistoric man and paleolithic peoples, guess what they find in their teeth? They find starchy plant matter in their teeth and digestive tracts, so we know they ate lots of starchy vegetables, and they ate very little animal products.
What we have now is we have this movement, and the Paleo Diet is really, you could actually just call it the Meat Lover’s Diet. That’s what it is. It’s branded as this healthy, cutting edge thing, but it’s really just a diet for people that love to eat meat and want to justify it as it’s the latest, greatest, healthy way to be, like our ancestors.
There’s one guy, I won’t name any names, but he has this painful, painful slogan, and I read an article he wrote about all the virtues of the Paleo Diet. One of his, you know, top reasons was, and I quote: “It worked for your ancestors, and it’ll work for you too.”
They weren’t eating bacon and butter, and they definitely weren’t drinking coffee. It seems like every Paleo [and Keto] person I know eats tons of bacon, butter, and drinks a lot of coffee. The reason they drink a lot of coffee is because their protein-heavy diet is such an energy depleting diet that they need coffee just to have normal energy level throughout the day, which is crazy, because it takes a lot more energy to digest animal protein.
It’s highly thermogenic, which is why it actually burns calories, why you lose weight eating a high protein diet, because your body actually has to use more energy to break this stuff down to convert it into energy.
There’s an energy cycle in digestion, so you eat food for energy, but then it takes energy to break it down to convert it into a form [you can use]. In other words, protein is converted into glucose in your liver. Anyway, the point is, it makes you feel sluggish and tired all the time when you eat tons of protein.
Even if we didn’t have research on paleolithic man, and we didn’t know what kind of foods they were eating, which was plant foods predominantly, and then hunting and killing when they could.
Even if we didn’t have that science, what we do have is many, many, many studies from around the world on the healthiest, longest living people on Earth.
These are people living today and people that have been alive in the last hundred years that researchers and scientists have been able to actually go and live with, and study, and track their disease rates, and take their blood.
We know that the healthiest, longest living people with the lowest rates of disease eat a diet that’s 95% plant based, on average–and they eat tons of starchy vegetables.
In fact, their main source of calories comes from starches, like rice, beans, corn, potatoes, grains, of course fruit. And they eat very little meat and dairy–like I said, less than 5% of their diet.
That can equate to eating meat a few times a week to a few times a month, and in some cases a few times a year, depending on their poverty level.
The healthiest, longest-living people with the lowest rates of western diseases, like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, actually are the poorest people in India, Africa, China, South America, Southeast Asia, in all of these undeveloped countries.
There’s several factors in animal foods that fuel cancer growth. Number one is animal protein raises IGF-1, which is insulin-like growth factor. That’s a hormonal response in the body that is like cancer “rocket fuel.”
Animal protein raises methionine, which is an amino acid that cancer cells are dependent on to survive, and then animal foods are high in animal fat. Animal fat is high in palmitic acid, and palmitic acid also fuels cancer growth.
Palmitic acid is also in palm oil, so processed, refined, commercially produced oils and animal fat fuel cancer growth as well, so it’s animal protein and animal fat.
Now, I’ll just say, you mentioned the Keto Diet. So, the Ketogenic Diet is in a whole class of its own. It’s just an experimental diet that is a high-fat diet, so it’s very high fat, a moderate amount of protein, and very, very low in carbs.
Of course, this diet will also cause you to lose weight….but there’s no population anywhere in the world that lives “in ketosis.”
Ketosis is a survival mechanism triggered in the body when you go without food. Let’s just say you lived hundreds of years ago and you grew your own food and raised livestock. Well, in the winter, you know, maybe you were a hunter. All the animals are hibernating.
You can’t grow any food, and so there are extended periods of time where you don’t have any food to eat, and so you might go for a day, or two, or three days, or even a week, or maybe even a few weeks where you had very little food.
Ketosis is a process where your body burns fat for energy, so it burns stored fat, converts it to ketones, which your body can use as fuel, instead of glucose, and it burns those and keeps you alive. It’s a wonderful, brilliant, intelligently designed, backup survival mode that your body kicks into when you’re trying to survive–and fasting’s very beneficial.
I’m a huge advocate of fasting. I know you do it periodically, too, Robyn, for a week or two at a time. You know, three to five days on water is a very powerful fast, but the point is there’s a segment of the scientific community and fad-diet community that has taken this idea of ketosis, which Atkins really popularized, and really taken it farther than he ever did.
And they’re encouraging people to just stay in ketosis, to eat this high-fat diet just for the rest of their life, essentially, and [they promote] that it’s healthy, that it’s good for them, but there’s no precedent anywhere in the world.
There’s no population [who has done this). Not even the Eskimos, who did eat a lot of fat, were in ketosis.
It’s a highly experimental diet. A lot of people have made claims that it’s the best diet for cancer patients, and there’s virtually no evidence of that, either. It’s all sort of theoretical, hypothetical speculation that because cancer cells feed on glucose, that if you convert to a diet that has no glucose in it and you’re eating all fat, that the ketone bodies, cancer cells have a hard time metabolizing fat, and you’ll survive, you’ll get better.
But we actually know there’s studies that tumors feed on fat–like I mentioned palmitic acid. Tumor cells have fat receptors, and they use those fat receptors to feed on fat and to metastasize.
Again, I could talk about this at length, but you can tell I’m not a fan of the Paleo Diet or the Ketogenic Diet. I look around the world at the healthy populations with low rates of cancer, and heart disease, and diabetes, and that’s the diet we want to imitate.
Let’s just go ahead, instead of experimenting with something that’s never been proven, why don’t we just imitate what’s working for people?
Another Chris Wark quote from the Keto & Paleo Manifesto:
“The ketogenic diet is like fasting, only with none of the health benefits.”
Chris Wark is an author, speaker and health coach. He was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer at the age of 26, 14 years ago. After surgery, he chose nutrition and natural therapies to heal himself and refused chemotherapy. He inspires people to take control of their health and reverse disease with a radical transformation of their diet and lifestyle. His book, Chris Beat Cancer, is available to pre-order on Amazon.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
From my podcast with Dr. Fuhrman, Episode 37:
Well, look, there’s always going to be those people coming up with their own independent ideas and hypotheses to make themselves stand out in some different way to appeal to the masses with some fad or gimmick or trick. That’s going to be a passing fad [but] never going to hold.
There was the “eat for your body type” diet. That was just made-up nonsense and eventually lost favor. The Atkins Diet lost favor for a while because there were so many long-term studies showing how dangerous it was to eat so much animal products–with the evidence being hard endpoints like death and cancer rates. Now we have a resurgence of that way of thinking.
After a while it comes back in [vogue], but of course, this idea that lectins and beans and phytates in nuts and seeds and vegetables are somewhat anti-nutritious or life-span shortening is another gimmick that doesn’t hold, that doesn’t have any scientific validity to it.
Let me just expound on that a little bit. First of all, the idea that lectins and beans were bad and have anti-nutrients stemmed from the paleo movement because they were advocating meat-heavy diets.
They wanted people not to eat grains and beans because they didn’t think that primitive people ate beans. That’s okay. It’s okay to have a hypothesis. I have nothing wrong with people taking a guess on what they think might work and have a reason why they are coming to that idea.
Then you have to say, “Where’s the evidence for that? What if we test it?” What if you test it, not just short term for a year or two, but what if we put people on beans, lots of beans, long term for 20 years or more. What if we take beans away and give them more meat, long term, for years.
The point is that we have to give more credence to studies that follow thousands of people for 20 years or more. We have to give less credence to ideas that follow people for a year or two.
In other words, we could feed people nothing but Twinkies or chocolate chip cookies and they go on just a mono-diet of just Twinkies.
They could do better because their triglycerides could go down. They could lose weight because they’re so sick of eating Twinkies they [don’t eat very much]. But if you followed people on a diet of just Twinkies or chocolate chip cookies for 20 years, you’d see a lot of needless cancers, lot of throat cancers, a lot of breast cancers, a lot of cardiac arrhythmia, and a lot of death.
In other words, a hard endpoint is death, heart attack, cancer. A soft endpoint might be weight loss, and triglycerides go down.
We look at large studies over many years, looking at hard endpoints, and we see two things.
Number one, that more beans leads to longer life. If you look at the nurses’ health study and other studies like that, that follow women over many years seeing their incidence of breast cancer and death from breast cancer, we see always that the women who eat the most beans have the lowest rates of breast cancer and the highest longevity, the longest life span.
A study published of 129,000 people that went on for more than 20 years, published in a 2010 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, showed that those people who ate more animal products, versus less, had a 43% increased risk of death.3
Every long-term study with large numbers of people show increased death rate with higher consumption of animal product, animal protein, and lower death rate, lower cancer rate, and longer life with higher consumption of beans and of course with vegetables that are so-called “high in phytates,” and the same thing with nuts and seeds.
Matter of fact, the lectins and the phytates that supposedly bind nutrients actually have anti-cancer effects in themselves. They actually bind mercury, lead, and toxic metals as well. They prevent excess nutrients like copper and iron from passing through the body.
If you’re going to eat some meat, if you’re eating beans with it, it mitigates some of the damage from the excess iron in meat that can cause damage to the body. Even eating more beans makes the meat less toxic.
Another quote from Dr. Joel Fuhrman is from The Keto/Paleo Manifesto:
There are many variations of the ketogenic diet, and some are more dangerous than others. One thing known without question is that the long-term safety of these diets is unknown, because studies would have to follow thousands of people for decades into their 70s and 80s to truly ascertain the true risks.
What we do know with certainty from such long-term studies is that as the proportion of products from animal products increase in the diet, so does the death rate from cancer and heart disease.
In other words, the quality and long-term safety of a diet can be determined by the ratio of ‘produce’ calories to ‘animal product’ calories. We also know that diets richer in antioxidants and phytochemicals–and with a broad variety of such anti-cancer immune-supporting substances–are critical to prevent later-life cancers.
The ketogenic diet generally uses high amounts of oils, which do not contain a significant micronutrient content as a source of calories, thus diluting the micronutrient density of the diet.
In summary, it is not the diet best designed to push the envelope of human longevity, though a ketogenic diet, if well designed, may not be as dangerous as the highly processed-food SAD diet, which contains dangerous ingredients such as white flour, sugar, fried foods, soda and junk food.
Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is a six-time New York Times bestselling author and internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing, who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods. His books include Eat to Live, The End of Heart Disease, The End of Diabetes, and Disease-Proof Your Child. He is currently the president of the Nutritional Research Foundation.
Dr. Michael Greger, M.D.
From my podcast interview with Dr. Greger, Episode 36:
Yeah, they’re all like zombie diets. They’re unkillable, they come back. Atkins was first published in the early ’70s and then of course fell out of favor until they return it from the dead and then it’s the new Atkins diet. By now we’re on the new-new-new Atkins diet [the Ketogenic Diet].
Basically, people love hearing good news about their bad habits. Tell people to eat bacon and butter sells a lot of magazines, sells a lot of books, but it sells the public short. It’s a classic tobacco-industry tactic, selling confusion, muddying the waters in the hopes that people just throw up their hands and eat whatever’s put in front of them.
The reality is there’s a remarkable consistency in the nutrition science literature that we should boost our intake of healthy plant foods like fruits and vegetables, limit our intake of animal foods and processed foods.
The public needs and deserves to know about the overwhelming global consensus regarding the core elements of healthy living.
Probably the farthest from that would be something like an Atkins diet, low-carb diet. Basically, as far as diets shift away from eating whole plant foods would be on the spectrum of worse versus better diet.
For example, a Mediterranean diet, very much vegetable-centric, very much closer to what an ideal diet might look like, whereas even something like a Paleo diet–look, the paleo diet, any diet that gets people to stop eating donuts is going to improve the health of the American public.
If you actually survey Paleo eaters, people that claim they’re eating “Paleo,” the biggest thing that differentiates their diet from the standard American diet is actually vegetable consumption.
They claim to eat more, significantly more, vegetables. If your definition of Paleo diet is “eat lots more vegetables,” fantastic. Unfortunately, many people just use that “Paleo” self-identity to just go out and eat garbage.
Basically, in fact there’s an index, there’s a dietary quality index that I talk about. I actually did a video about it. There’s all sorts of ways you can measure healthy eating, Harvard has one, you can measure concordance with the federal dietary guidelines.
This one is probably my favorite, and basically what it is, is just what percent of your diet is whole plant foods? For example, in the United States about 55% of our diet is processed junk and about 40% is animal protein, so that takes it down to about less than 10% actually whole plant foods, fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, legumes, that kind of thing.
There’s been a number of studies that have actually looked at that index and looked at breast cancer survival, for example, or diabetes, [and more].5
Basically, the greater percentage in your diet of whole plant foods the healthier you are, the lower your risk of chronic disease.
Michael Greger, M.D. is a physician, international speaker and New York Times bestselling author of the book How Not to Die. His non-profit NutritionFacts.org is a science-based, non-commercial website that provides daily videos and articles on the latest discoveries in nutrition.
Dr. Alan Christianson, N.M.D.
From my podcast interview with Dr. Christianson, Episode 50:
You talked before in the intro about nutrition fads. Sadly, that’s so much of the patterns in nutrition. It’s no more logical than the trends in fashion.
It’s like, what did we do last year? Well, that didn’t work. We need to go further the opposite way. Now we’re in this phase of really thinking about just going extreme low carb, and focusing on high fat diets, and high animal-food diets.
The evidence really has never flip-flopped back or forth or changed that radically, but trends and habits really have.
The tough part is that we’re all so very subject to placebos, to hoping something will work and maybe feeling the benefits from it. Or, the other thing that can help it a lot is that so many people’s diets are just so processed that any change they make [skews the conclusion].
They could change, say, ten parts of their diet and maybe three or four of those changes were really helpful, and maybe two or three were indifferent, and a few might have even been harmful–but they may have come out better because of the few good things they did do.
There’s a lot of ways in which someone can change a diet and have partial benefit, and feel some improvements from that.
There’s strong data about the importance and the benefit of having plant foods in the diet. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, intact whole grains. These things are so well documented.
[About Paleolithic Man] The bulk of our calories [in the Paleolithic era] would have come from plants. The extent that we had animal foods, they were a much smaller portion of our calories; and they were pretty lean and gamey foods, and probably mostly from the ocean.
This quote from Dr. Christianson challenges the entire foundation of the ketogenic diet, and is from a previous blog post that we published:
The ketogenic diet is a legitimate tool for helping reduce seizures among epileptic children who did not respond to medication. We may learn more in the coming years about benefits to other conditions, but most think of it as an easy path to weight loss.
The underlying assumption people make is that the ketogenic diet makes them better at burning fat. Sadly, it does the exact opposite, and the confusion comes about from using the phrase ‘burning fat’ in two different contexts.
Using fat for fuel is called beta-oxidation. Breaking down body fat is called lipolysis. Ketosis is the state in which your liver cannot burn fat for fuel. It can burn fat for fuel only when carbohydrate and protein are also present.
A ketogenic diet only leads to lipolysis when it contains fewer calories than is needed. This is true of any diet. When a ketogenic diet has more calories than is needed, the extra dietary fat that is initially converted to ketones gets turned into triglycerides and stored as body fat.
In a controlled human study comparing a ketogenic diet against a high carb, high-sugar diet with the same number of calories, the high-carb diet led to more fat loss than the ketogenic diet.
Besides the lack of efficacy for weight loss, the ketogenic diet has risks to consider for those seeking to improve their health. The evidence supporting the benefits of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, is undeniable. The ketogenic diet is devoid of fiber, and low in vitamins and minerals.
Along with a myriad of side effects like fatigue, diarrhea, muscle cramps, and headaches, people on ketogenic diets also run the risks of:
- impaired athletic performance
“We may find more medical applications of the ketogenic diet and more ways to mitigate some of the inherent risks and deficiencies it creates. However, ketones are not the ‘preferred’ source of fuel for the human body, nor are they effective hacks for weight loss.
Alan Christianson, N.M.D. is a New York Times bestselling author and physician who specializes in natural endocrinology. He founded the Endocrine Association of Naturopathic Physicians and formulated several supplements designed to reset and establish hormonal balance. He is the author of several books including The Metabolism Reset Diet, The Adrenal Reset Diet, and Integrative Health.
Quotes from his book The Super Carb Diet, 2017.16
Without the right number of carbs, a by-product will enter the body. This by-product is known as ketones.
When your body creates ketones, you run the risk of ketosis. I like to think of ketosis as the body’s way of telling you something ain’t right.
Now, you may have heard of a diet that is quite literally called the Ketogenic Diet. It’s for people who want their body to enter ketosis….however, it comes at the price of the loss of good complex carbohydrates and a whole lot of other negatives.
Urine sticks are even involved. Unless I’m pregnant, I don’t want to be peeing on a stick.
Ever talk to someone on the ketogenic diet? You can tell right away because their breath is often bad.
One type of ketone that is produced is called acetone. Acetone comes out in the breath (and urine), and it smells rotten. I’m talking dragon-breath bad.
I want us to use what the body was MEANT to use for fuel, and that includes carbohydrates and the right mix of nutrients.
Bob Harper is well-known as the host and personal trainer on the television series, The Biggest Loser. His life changed dramatically following a massive heart attack on February 12, 2017. He’s now intent on spreading the lessons he learned regarding diet and, particularly, carbohydrates. His many books include The Skinny Rules, Jumpstart to Skinny, Skinny Habits, Skinny Meals, and Are You Ready.
Ari Whitten and Wade Smith, M.D.
Quotes from their book The Low Carb Myth, 2015.6
The Carbohydrate Theory of Obesity [an attempt to blame fat gain on carbohydrates and sugars] is based on numerous scientific inaccuracies, omissions of data, and countless instances of data cherry-picking.
….the notion of everyone eating diets of essentially nothing but fat and protein with only a tiny amount of carbohydrate as a widespread initiative to combat obesity is laughable, since any dietary pattern so extreme as to jettison an entire macronutrient (and simultaneously limit another one) is simply unsustainable for the majority of people.
Ari Whitten and Wade Smith, M.D. are authors of The Low Carb Myth, a book that reveals the truth about low-carb diets and what is driving the obesity and diabetic epidemics. Wade Smith, M.D. is an Orthopedic Trauma Surgeon at the Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colorado and a Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Colorado, School of Medicine. Ari Whitten is a fat loss and metabolism specialist with a B.S. from SDSU in Exercise Science and two advanced certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Joel Kahn, M.D.
Cardiologist and Wayne State Clinical Professor of Medicine, quoted in The Keto/Paleo Manifesto:
While ketogenic diets prompt the production of ketone bodies as fuel and are of proven value in rare cases of refractory epilepsy, they are also associated with data in several studies suggesting they boost long term risk of premature death. I would not advise the daily use of a long term ketogenic strategy based on animal product consumption.7
Joel Kahn, M.D. is one of the world’s top holistic cardiologists who believes that plant-based nutrition is the most powerful source of preventative medicine on earth. He lectures throughout the country on the health benefits of a plant-based anti-aging diet. His books include Your Whole Heart Solution and The Plant-Based Solution.
Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D.
From my podcast interview with Dr. Esselstyn, Episode 102:
If you look over the scientific literature, to my knowledge, there has only been one diet that has ever halted, arrested and reversed patients who are seriously ill with cardiovascular disease, and that is whole foods, plant-based nutrition.
I am totally unaware of a single study of the Ketogenic diet where it has been reviewed in a peer reviewed process, where they have taken patients who were seriously ill with demonstrable cardiovascular disease and have been able to show the halting and the reversal of that disease.
Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D. directs the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. His many publications include the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, based on his benchmark research on reversing coronary artery disease in the seriously ill, in one of the longest longitudinal studies of its type.
Harry Massey, Filmmaker
Quote from Keto/Paleo Manifesto:
“I went on the ketogenic diet, I felt like crap, and three months later I was diabetic.”
Harry Massey is a writer, director and bioenergetic expert. He directed the full-length documentary film Choice Point and wrote the book by the same name. His mission is to inspire people to transform themselves and to develop paradigm-changing technology such as the NES Health. He is the executive producer and co-writer of the documentary, The Living Matrix: A New Science of Healing.
David Katz, M.D.
From my podcast interview with Dr. Katz, Episode 90:
I think the public really needs to finally clue in to the idea that confusion about diet is enormously profitable for a lot of industries and individuals, and to reject this nonsense once and for all.
Again, if all of the major epidemiologic studies show that the healthiest, longest-lived populations around the world routinely eat whole grains, then why are we debating whether or not whole grains are good for us?
It’s an established fact, it’s like, you know, opening whole investigations into whether or not, horses should eat grass and hay. It’s a silly question, it’s a waste of time. Yes, there are people who are gluten intolerant, they need to avoid gluten, that’s a different story, there are people with peanut allergies who need to avoid peanuts, but the question, are whole grains good for people–it’s answered, it’s done.
And then similarly, the idea that it’s possible to publish a book, The Plant Paradox for example, arguing that every food containing lectins needs to be avoided, even though all of the most nutritious foods contain lectins. So don’t eat beans, don’t eat lentils, don’t eat whole grains, don’t eat many vegetables and fruits–it’s preposterous.
People who do the opposite, who eat those things consistently have the best health outcomes. What we’ve equated all of this to, Robyn, is like pointing out to people, “Oxygen is toxic, and there’s oxygen in the atmosphere and I’m the only person willing to tell you about that,” and it’s a great controversy.
And what? Hold your breath? The failure to consider the big picture, yes there is oxygen in the atmosphere, yes too much oxygen is toxic for people, but you know what? You really need to breathe.
So the same thing about food. Sure, if you’re sensitive to gluten, avoid it, but eat other whole grains because they’re consistently good for people. Yes, there are lectins in some foods and there are some theoretical arguments about the possibility of harm for some people from some dose of lectins, but in general the foods that contain them, produce a net health benefit, and there’s just no basis for confusion.
Again and again, across every population, every kind of study no matter which way we aggregate the evidence, it’s perfectly clear that people do best when they eat diets of minimally processed foods, mostly plants, lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, plain water for thirst, every time.
And any argument that is at odds with that incredibly well established foundation, is an attempt to sell you something. Period, end of story.
Again, you can customize a little bit. So I fully respect the fact that some people need to avoid certain grains because of their gluten content, some people have food allergies or sensitivities and may need to avoid some members of the nightshade family, or pick anything else you like. Again, people allergic to peanut shouldn’t eat them.
But the replacement of the weight of evidence regarding human health outcomes with these isolated tidbits about nutrition, is a case of failure to see the forest for the trees, time and time again. And I think as long as we, the people are willing to be suckers, are willing to be gullible and silly, and pretend like the fundamentals of nutrition actually change every time a new book comes out, I think authors and publishers will be willing to keep selling us bad advice. So I really do think it’s time for us to stand up for good sense.
We want good science, but we have to filter it through good sense. It’s interesting, Robyn, you think about something that matters to people, like money, and everybody knows that get rich-quick-schemes are silly.
Sensible, responsible adults don’t get involved in get-rich-quick schemes, they don’t. People get an education, they work hard, they [live on less than they earn and invest] their money.
All we really need to do is grow up and start treating health the way most of us treat wealth, as something that serious people take seriously, and know the basic advice about it isn’t going to change every day on The Today Show.
And no, we’re not interested in every contrary opinion that comes out every day, and we’re in it for the long haul, and we want to take care of it in a way that will protect us across the span of not the next six weeks, but the next six decades.
And we want to invest in it, and we want to bequeath it to our children and share with our families. There’s just a whole different way of thinking about diet, lifestyle and health, and our culture really needs to grow up. I think we are acting like silly, gullible children, and so it’s a seller’s market for dietary nonsense.
And I do think unfortunately, given the profit incentive, as long as we’re willing to buy nonsense about fad diets, there will be people willing to sell it to us. And the result is, from my perspective, we have squandered literal decades going around the same circles by different names.
You go back to the 1970s, that’s when Robert Atkins first published his books about going low-carbohydrate. [The low-carb fads] came out again in the 1990s, when they really took off. If it was such a terrific idea, 20 years ago, where are all the lean, healthy people now?
The reality is you can cut fat and eat low-fat junk food, and get fatter and sicker.
You can cut carbs and eat low-carb junk food, and get fatter and sicker. And the only thing that’s a reliable defense against getting fatter and sicker is actually eating and living well, and that’s not about cutting one macronutrient class, it’s about choosing wholesome foods, in sensible combinations.
And you don’t get there by jettisoning lectins or gluten or fructose or carbohydrate or fat. You get there by focusing on foods and dietary patterns that stand the test of time. I’m very disheartened by the current preoccupation with the ketogenic diet, which from my perspective is basically just a low-carb diet that’s been popular several times before under a new name. And the idea here is to restrict carbohydrates to the point where the body switches over from running on glucose in the blood stream to running on a metabolite of fat called ketone bodies.
And what bothers me about this is, yes of course, if you remove one of three macronutrient classes from the diet, you will produce weight loss.
And if you produce weight loss in people who are overweight or obese, there’s a good chance you will improve in the short term their blood pressure, their blood cholesterol, their blood sugar because weight loss tends to do all of that.
The problem is, leaving aside that it’s nearly impossible for most people to sustain a diet that cuts out one of three major sources of macronutrients–and in this case cutting out most of the most nutritious foods–because all plant foods are carbohydrates, vegetables are carbohydrates; fruits are rich in carbohydrate; nuts and seeds contain carbohydrate; beans and lentils contain carbohydrate; whole grains are principally carbohydrates.
So all of the most nutritious foods are excluded when you cut carbohydrate out of your diet. But in addition to the doubts about anybody willing to live this way for the long term, there’s the simple fact that we have no evidence that this dietary pattern is consistent with long term human health, and every reason to worry that it’s not, since all of the best long term outcomes occur in people who eat lots of carbohydrate.
Not refined starch and added sugar–that’s bad carbohydrate–but lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds in their native, unprocessed form. That’s all carbohydrate too, but that’s the best stuff.
Those are the people who have the best health outcomes. So what’s the risk with a ketogenic diet? Well, from my perspective stating it quite bluntly, the risk is it’s like using cocaine or a bout of cholera to lose weight.
Yes, these things will cause you to lose weight in the short term, and yes, they will bring down your cholesterol and blood sugar, but that really doesn’t mean they’re good for you.
And we have every reason to be doubtful that this dietary pattern, which is fundamentally at odds with everything we know about long term human health and vitality, is a really bad idea and yet because it promises short term weight loss, it is the diet and lifestyle analog to a get-rich-quick scheme.
People go into a trance and start reaching for their credit cards, and we really need to fix that.
Robyn: I love your statement that you can lose weight using cocaine or cholera, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good way to eat. I feel like with 2017 on Google, the number one search term, I don’t know if you know this, was “ketogenic diet.” It’s the perfect example of how you talk about how Americans have gotten very, very silly and we want something to be discovered right now, that’s a hack, and it’s easy, it’s like a quick fix, “take a pill” kind of thinking, that overcomes thousands of published studies.
And so, you’ve already done it very well, but what I hear you saying, and you could correct me if I’m wrong, is that the low-carb diet is so dangerous because, you’re removing the foods that have high fiber, and Americans are notorious for not getting enough fiber. You’re removing the foods that are highest in micronutrients.
And so, do you feel, as I do, that in comparison to the body of evidence, that the ketogenic diet is one of the more dangerous diets we’ve seen in the last what? 50 years of the diet industry?
Dr. Katz: First of all Robyn, I think everything you said is fundamentally correct and really important. And I also think it’s really important that we stop talking about nutrients and start talking about foods, and how we put them together because what we’ve proven abundantly to one another is that, we can pick any nutrient we like and still get the diet wrong.
In contrast, if you get the foods and dietary pattern right, you inevitably get the nutrients right because they simply come along for the ride.
I think one of the critical messages here is almost any dietary advice that’s focusing on an ingredient or a kind of food or a nutrient, is going to be bad advice right from the start, because that’s the way it’s been for decades now. We’ve focused on one nutrient at a time, and basically proven that there are lots of different ways to eat badly, and we Americans seem committed to exploring them all.
I mean, just look at the rates of obesity and chronic diseases as the result.
So that’s really the critical issue and it’s not just about the ketogenic diet, it’s about whatever fad diet is going to come along next, too. It’s time to stop having an interest in any fad diet.
The places around the world where people live the longest and enjoy the greatest vitality, do not change their diets every time a book gets published. They eat the way they’ve eaten for generations, that’s the message. So wholesome foods, sensible combination stands the test of time, it’s about foods and dietary patterns rather than nutrients.
The nutrients sort themselves out, when you get the foods right. In terms of how dangerous the ketogenic diet per se is, to me it seems very likely that it’s dangerous.
It’s a diet that emphasizes foods associated with higher risks for every major chronic disease, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer or even dementia. I think it’s likely to be extremely injurious over time.
But as a scientist who is careful about what the evidence tells us, I suppose I have to say I don’t know for sure, because I’m not aware of any long term studies of the ketogenic diet. Because so few people in the real world stay on such a diet for any length of time.
So what I can say is, it seems likely to me that it would be harmful, not helpful, over time. It also seems likely to me that few people could stick to it anyway, which means you’ll lose the weight quickly and then gain it back, with interest, which is what most people who go on fad diets do. That’s not a good idea either.
And in contrast, diets of wholesome foods, mostly plants, which are high in carbohydrate, have also been associated with rapid weight loss, have also been associated with reversing type two diabetes, have also been associated with lowering blood pressure and lowering blood cholesterol, and have been associated with the ideal outcomes we all really care about, which is years in life, and life in years.
So if you can get everything you want with a dietary pattern we know is good for you, and good for your family, and it’s suitable for your children and can stand the test of time, and by the way is also good for the planet too, why on earth would you take the chance, of a leap of faith in another direction?
So again, I don’t have proof from a 20-year long study of the harms of the ketogenic diet because such a study has never been done. Even its fans have to admit they can’t know it’s helpful, because they have no evidence of that.
And in contrast, those of us advocating for the basic theme of the diet we know to be good for people, wholesome foods, mostly plants, sensible combinations, and consequently generally fairly high in carbohydrates, certainly not ketogenic, we’re not making that recommendation based on a leap of faith, we’re making that recommendation based on what really happens to real people in the real world over lifetimes.
David Katz, M.D. is founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, past-president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and current president of the True Health Initiative. He is recognized globally for his expertise in nutrition, weight management and the prevention of chronic disease and was named one of the nation’s top nutrition experts for 2017-2018 by DietSpotlight.com.
Terry Tillaart, PhD
Here is one reason why the ketogenic diet is so wrong: It is low in all of these nutrients, many of which are critical to life and death.
• Vitamins C and E
• Magnesium and Calcium (This can ultimately lead to muscle cramps, constipation, gallbladder and kidney stones, breast tissue calcification and heel spurs)
• Fiber (a low fiber diet is linked to almost every disease including stroke and breast cancer). Note: There is NO fiber in animal flesh.
• Phytochemicals (there are probably 50,000 phytochemicals that provide the phytonutrients that protect against disease. They all come from plant-based foods. An example of this is allicin, in garlic.
While the ketogenic diet does not provide enough of the listed nutrients, it does provide heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons—chemicals formed by cooking animal flesh.
These chemicals are toxic to the blood and include harmane—a neurotoxic compound linked to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
The Ketogenic crowd frequently loves to use the term “nutritional ketosis” but anyone who is intellectually honest can clearly see this diet is anything but high in nutrition.
The Ketogenic diet is also inherently high in Glutamine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Tyrosine and Asparagine, all of which researchers remark in multiple studies, that cancer has an absolute dependency on and addictions to these amino acids.
In fact, a 2015 Oncoscience journal article recently stated that cancer patients may be successfully treated with a protein-free diet which echoes many other journals studying various amino acid restriction strategies.8
These [meat-centric] diets also contain dozens of heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are chemicals formed when muscle meat, including beef, pork, fish, or poultry, is cooked using high-temperature methods.
If we simply took PhiP, Harmane, and TMAO’s as a short list of amines to examine, we would be furnished with more than ample reasons to be avoiding these foods.
In fact, Dr. Kim Williams, M.D. President of the American College of Cardiology, reported that TMAO itself was enough reason to “vigorously avoid consuming animal based foods.” He also went on to state that there are only two kinds of cardiologists: “vegans, and those who haven’t read the data.”
This short list of toxic compounds has not yet touched on the known inflammatory compound Neu5Gc found exclusively in animal flesh foods.
Claims of ancestral diets from the “Paleo” crowd have all been disproven by brave anthropologists Sussman, Walker, Copeland etc. Claims of “bio-Individuality” [as claims that some people should eat a lot of meat] hold no weight, given for all practical purposes, we are identical from a GI anatomy standpoint. And like every other species on the planet, that anatomy is conducive to a species-appropriate diet.
Much like our closest anatomical relatives, the chimpanzees and bonobos, we are clearly designed for a raw food, plant driven, low fat, high-carbohydrate diet.
Countless Pubmed studies begin with statements to the effect of “…to counteract the known damages of a high fat diet we are testing xyz substance…” for a reason and that is because we are designed for a low-fat diet irrespective of the source.
To ascribe to the tenets of the “ketogenic” diet is to believe that bacon, lard and processed oils are literally preferential to apples, bananas and figs, which is not only absurd, it is wholly unscientific and irrational.
The only way for any study to confer benefits of the ketogenic diet is to take a page from the recent documentary titled The Magic Pill and compare the health status of lard, bacon and processed oils vs. Twinkies, Goldfish and Doritos, and for anyone willing to buy that, I have oceanfront property in Switzerland I’d love to sell you!
Slick marketing from the meat and dairy industry who are hemorrhaging financially is the driving force behind the Atkins 2.0 push we see now, which has given rise to authors cashing in on telling people chocolate-covered bacon is healthy.
Anatomy, not observations of cultural customs in some far off land, is the first principle and criterion, and nothing supersedes it, to determine what we are optimally designed to thrive on and that answer will always remain, fruits and vegetables.
Terry Tillaart, PhD is a national speaker, coach and educator. He graduated in Natural Medicine from Kingdom College of Natural Health certified by Texas Chiropractic College Division of Postgraduate Studies. He offers several programs including ones regarding cancer, extreme pain resolution, rapid immunity and weight loss.
The ketogenic diet will continue to make some marketers rich, for a while. However, they will be doing harm to their audience. You can lose weight in many ways. Why do it in a way that massively increases your disease risk?
You can throw all the rotten tomatoes you want, at me, if you lost weight on “keto” and are therefore emotionally committed to it–you won’t be the first–but thousands of studies prove that high animal-fat diets are a terrible idea.
Far from a cancer cure, as some are promoting it to be, they are cancer causing. (And will harm your cardiovascular health too.)
I predicted from at least 100 live stages from 2009 to 2013 that the protein-obsessed “Paleo” fad would be replaced by an obsession with fats.
(And here we are. Enter “keto.”)
I have a new prediction. Trust me, you don’t have to be very smart to predict this.
Because Atkins already did it, with his very similar, and equally lousy, animal-products-obsessed diet.
And an avalanche of data proved that Dr. Atkins’ diet adherents didn’t just have no energy, bad breath, and constipation (just like “keto” followers)–they also ended up with much higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and colorectal cancers.
So what did he do? As more scientists pointed out the nutritional deficits of the dietary practices he taught, Atkins prescribed and sold people 67 different supplement pills to compensate for his nutrient-deficient, unlimited-burgers-and-cheese diet.
So. My prediction: Keto marketers will start selling loads of isolated-nutrient supplements that people need in their nutrition-starved state.
It’s a ridiculous fad. It’s not for smart people. It’s for sheeple.
Keto people scream at me, “BUT I EAT SALAD!”
Yes, as you should. That’s great. But, most of the calories of the ketogenic diet, if you follow the program, is 60-80 percent animal fats and protein.
That’s massively higher amounts of animal products than every good nutrition study has shown to be disease preventative.
No wonder that in January 2018, U.S. News and World Report ranked it as tied for dead last in their review of 40 diets.
Robyn Openshaw, MSW, is the author of 15 titles and the founder of GreenSmoothieGirl.com. She spoke in 450 cities, in 6 years, and brings together research and clinical experts on her blog and her popular podcast, Vibe, on iTunes and Stitcher. Her most recent book, 2017’s Vibe, was a #1 Amazon and USA Today bestseller. Other titles include The Green Smoothies Diet, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, and she has a free video masterclass on how to detox twice a year for optimal health even in a toxic world.
Every successful nutritional plan for exceptional health and longevity is rooted in easily digestible, highly hydrating, fiber-rich, antioxidant-loaded, and nutrient-dense foods that are very antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, antifungal, and antimicrobial.
The keto diet, unfortunately, fails in each of these areas.
First of all, favoring animal protein and fats as 80 to 90 percent of your diet puts excessive pressure on the kidneys, liver, and gallbladder.
This excessive protein harms the kidney’s ability to filter the blood of wastes, hampers the liver’s ability to neutralize and eliminate toxins, and over taxes the gallbladder in its role to efficiently digest fats. In a world full of kidney, liver, gallbladder, and digestive issues, this is a major concern.
Secondly, a keto diet is generally devoid of enzymes, prebiotics, probiotics, and fiber, due to the massive elimination of fruits, grains, legumes, and most vegetables from the diet.
These four key nutrient classes ensure efficiency of the digestive process, including healthy bowel movements (daily), as well as efficient absorption of vitamins and minerals. In a society dealing with bowel issues (e.g. constipation) and nutritional deficiencies, the keto diet again fails miserably at properly addressing these problems.
Thirdly, since the body is comprised of up to 75% water, it’s very important to consume a diet that is highly hydrating. With only 5-10% of the keto diet including fruits and vegetables (the most hydrating foods of all), the body is in a constant state of thirst that has to be met with copious amounts of clean, mineral rich water (a rare commodity these days).
Lastly, staying healthy in today’s world of biological warfare requires a consistent approach to consuming foods that are highly anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-microbial.
Some of the richest sources of these immune protective properties are fruits, vegetables, and herbs, which are largely eliminated [in the keto diet] in favor of animal protein and fats, which contain little to none of these properties.
In the last 5 years of teaching people to overcome a wide variety of chronic health issues and enabling them to sustain it for the long-term, I can confidently state that the keto diet is ill conceived, with little to no hope for the individual to sustain it in the medium to long term.
This makes it another fad diet, with inevitable negative health consequences.
Derek Henry, Founder of Healing the Body and the THRIVE Online Health Program, used nutrition, natural remedies, and a holistic lifestyle to naturally unravel 13 chronic disease conditions that conventional or alternative medical professionals couldn’t help him resolve.
Dr. John McDougall, M.D.
All large, successful populations of people throughout all verifiable human history have obtained the bulk of their calories from starch.
Remember, Aztecs and Mayans, the people of the corn. Potatoes, for the people of the Incas. Rice for the Asians. I mean, good grief. If these weren’t good, healthy foods, productive foods, we wouldn’t have fought World War II or the Vietnam conflict. We almost lost World War II to rice eaters and we lost the Vietnam conflict to rice eaters. People have it so mixed up.
There was just an article out last week where they fed individual components of food–carbs, fat, protein–to lab animals, and they found it was only the fat, that made them fat. So the fat you eat is the fat you wear. So you avoid [most] fats and oils unless you want to wear them.
The body’s going to burn carbohydrates for activity. It’s going to use a tiny little bit of protein to repair and build a few things, but it’s gonna save that oil and fat for the day when there’s no food available, so you can get through the famine.
Now, if you eat a diet that excludes essentially all carbohydrate, which your body needs for fuel, then you’ll lose weight. Yeah, you’ll lose weight because you’ll get sick. What happens with the Ketogenic Diet, is the body has to resort to burning fat.
So it burns fat that you eat, and it burns fat in your body fat. And it produces the byproduct, ketones. And ketones create a state called ketosis which suppresses your appetite.
So initially you lose weight on these ketogenic diets because they’re also a diuretic. They cause you to lose six, eight, ten pounds of water. But then what happens is you get so sick from being in ketosis. You don’t eat, so you lose weight.
As far as grains are concerned, well, grains are terrible, right? That’s what people are saying these days. And that’s why there are probably ten billion Asians over the last hundred years who’ve lived on grains.
Grains are terrible. That’s why the Conquerors, the athletes, the workers of Central America, the Mayans and the Aztecs lived on a grain: corn. If it’s so terrible, how would they have ever survived? Well, their civilization survived 1300 years. And I could go from country to country to country–and we’ll find thousands of countries where billions of people lived on grains.
Wheat, barley and rye are great foods, except for people that have celiac disease. And then they must stay away from them.
But you can’t generalize from these few people to an entire population. Today there are billions of people on this planet and still in Asia, there are about 2 billion people and about half of them still live on a starch-based diet.
I think that the more unrealistic the dietary program, the faster it becomes popular. People are looking for weird. They’re looking for something that they might’ve missed. The magic secret that’s going to give them the health they deserve.
And so you could find a diet made up of almost anything out there. The ketogenic diets, they’re easy, they have a real low learning curve. You just go to the fast food restaurant, you order your meal, you throw away the bun, scrape off the ketchup and pickles, and then you’re on a ketogenic diet.
If you look at the advocates of these no carbohydrate diets, personally, look at them! Loren Cordain: Obese and sick. Barry Sears: Obese. Sally Fallon: Obese and sick. Just look. Those are the results you get on that diet.
Look at people who follow the program that I recommend or one similar [plant based]. Neal Barnard, Caldwell Esselstyn, Colin Campbell, myself, and on and on, we are trim and healthy looking.
John McDougall, M.D. is a physician and nutrition expert who teaches better health through vegetarian cuisine. He is the founder and director of the nationally renowned 10-day residential McDougall Program. He is the author of several nationally bestselling books including The McDougall Program, The McDougall Quick and Easy Cookbook, and Digestive Tune-up.
Dr. Eric Zielinski
Think going keto is harmless? Think again!
Studies in children using the ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy and other neurological conditions have uncovered that, even though the frequency of seizures may tend to decrease, it came at a significant cost. These children were significantly more likely to suffer from an increase in kidney stones, osteoporosis, hyperlipidemia, and even impaired growth.9, 10
Remember, the ketogenic diet was designed nearly a century ago to help children with epilepsy. Why people think that this lifestyle can be helpful and sustainable for relatively healthy adults in an effort to lose weight is counterintuitive.
The truth is, we really do not know what happens to adults when they adopt a low-carb / high-fat lifestyle for more than 6-12 months, because that’s as long as the clinical trials last that we have on record. We’re desperately in need of longitudinal studies to evaluate the long-term ramifications to what obviously appears to be an aberrant restriction of the God-given fruits, legumes, and whole grains that our ancestors enjoyed.
It is, without question, true that humans thrive on a predominantly plant-based diet. Research has shown us that diets low in phytochemicals (plant-based compounds) will ultimately lead to subpar health. The European Journal of Nutrition published an article in 2013 that put it this way: “Whereas the absence of essential nutrients from the diet results in overt deficiency, often times, with moderate to severe physiological decrements, the absence of [phytochemicals] from the diet results in suboptimal health.”11
This is particularly important in light of the recent spike in interest surrounding carbohydrate starvation fad diets that promote heavy meat and animal fat consumption. Now, this is not to say that people will get sick and die young if they regularly eat meat, though studies have alluded to this as a possibility with increased risk of heart disease as one major threat.12
It is to say, however, that research strongly suggests that someone’s chances of enjoying optimal health is greatly diminished if their diet consists mostly of animal fat and protein.
The reason is that low-carb / high-fat fad diets focus on “essential nutrition” and ignore plant-based phyto-compounds from a wide variety of sources (including fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes), which are responsible for robust health.
Dieters need to choose. Enjoy “suboptimal health” to shed some quick pounds. Or, follow a more time-tested approach, rich in plant-based nutrition.
Dr. Eric Zielinski (otherwise known as Dr. Z.) has pioneered natural living and Biblical health education since 2003. He is trained as an aromatherapist, public health researcher, and chiropractor. Dr. Z is the author of the national bestseller, The Healing Power of Essential Oils.
Dr. John Douillard, D.C.
From my podcast interview with Dr. Douillard, Episode 46:
The science shows wheat–whole wheat, not refined or processed wheat–lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s by 53% in the Mediterranean diet, 54% in the Mayan diet, which is three servings of whole wheat or whole grains per day, and lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes in study after study after study.13
There was a 30-year study of over almost 200,000 people and they found that people who ate the most gluten had the lowest rates of type 2 diabetes, and people who ate the least amount of gluten had the highest rates of type 2 diabetes.14
And this is a really interesting phenomenon no one’s really talking about. Is it okay that we just take a food group that we’ve been eating for three and a half to four million years, and there’s science to back that up, right out of our diet?
There was one study…that Kamut has twice the amount of gluten as some of the modern strands. But that grain, with twice the amount of gluten, had twice the reduction of inflammation. It actually reduced the risk of diabetes, and also reduced cholesterol.
There are studies that show that when people eat a gluten-free diet, versus people who don’t eat a gluten-free diet, have four times as much mercury in their blood when they eat “gluten-free” than when they eat wheat.15
They have significantly less good bacteria, and more bad bacteria, than people who eat wheat. In one more study, they found that people eating gluten-free have significantly fewer killer T-cells, a measure of immunity, than people who eat wheat.
And when you eat a whole grain, it lowers the risk of obesity, arthritis, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, and type 2 diabetes in study after study, over 600 references in my book, because I was blown away by the amount of science that says that wheat is actually okay.
And they found evidence of gluten in the teeth of ancient humans from four million years ago. In fact, a study at the University of Utah showed that the ancient humans, three and a half million years ago, would gather enough wheat berries in two hours to feed them for an entire day.
And it’s so funny, we were talking about this earlier, how everybody can’t digest grains anymore because their digestion’s been broken down from the processed food diet.
And everyone is going to a “Paleo” diet, which is meat three times a day. And there’s no paleolithic person on the planet, living in the Paleolithic Era, [who] ever ate meat three times a day, it simply didn’t happen.
And they absolutely did eat grain, because they could pick them off the wheat berry. And when they originally started to hybridize the wheat, around 12,000 years ago, growers wanted the wheat to be bigger. They wanted the berry to be bigger, because it was easier to find, and pick. Otherwise, they’re needle-sized, you can lose them in the dirt.
So, what they did, they sort of selected for bigger grain. When they selected for bigger grain, guess what they were selecting for? Less gluten, and more sugar.
The original hybridization of wheat had nothing to do with increasing gluten content. It had everything to do with increasing sugar content. The problem has been sugar from the very beginning and it still is sugar today. It’s not a “Wheat Belly” issue, it’s a sugar-belly issue.
If you ask any anthropologist what the paleolithic people ate, they will tell you in short order, they ate nothing that is recommended in the Paleo diet.
I mean they ate meat, but they ate meat like they would kill a rabbit and scavenge a little here, a little there. They’d feast on a wooly mammoth and then famine for a period of time.
They ate grains, they ate tubers, they ate nuts and seeds and a combination of many, many things. But it wasn’t meat three meals a day, guaranteed.
It was much, much, less meat, and it was many, many more starches.
John Douillard, D.C. is a globally recognized leader in the fields of natural health, Ayurveda, and sports medicine. He directs LifeSpa, a holistic wellness center in Boulder, CO, and is the creator of LifeSpa.com, a web-based Ayurvedic health and wellness resource. He is the bestselling author of seven health books including The 3-Season Diet, Eat Wheat, and Body, Mind and Sport.
From my podcast interview with John, Episode 42:
When we eat plants, instead of animals, basically–or mostly plants and few animals–then our health improves. We live longer lives, higher quality lives. I think there’s a higher frequency, then, in our energy or to our vibration, to our quality of life.
Also, our ecological footprint and our carbon footprint are lessened. We are lighter on the earth. To me, that is a big thing.
Now, food, I’ll come back to that, what do I eat? I don’t eat genetically engineered foods, ever. I eat as much organic as I can. I’m veganesque! For 30-something years I was a vegan exclusively, and hardcore at it. On the last few years, I feel better eating some wild fish–in particular salmon–but with that exception, I’m vegan.
But you can be vegan and eat an unhealthy diet. I did, at one point, but I’ve grown out of that, and I eat a lot of plants. I eat a lot of vegetables. I eat a lot of fresh fruits. I eat some whole grains, but they are low glycemic ones, quinoa and buckwheat primarily.
The only breads I eat are made from organic sprouted grains. I don’t eat flour. I don’t eat added sugar, because there are sugars naturally inherent in all foods really, in many fruits. I do enjoy fresh fruit.
I buy tons and tons of kale and collards and arugula and broccoli, and mustard greens, and all kinds of dark green leafy vegetables, because I love them and I eat them every day.
I have smoothies most mornings where I blend kale leaves or collard leaves and maybe an apple and maybe a carrot and a cucumber.
I also grind, in a little coffee grinder that I have set aside for this purpose, flax seeds and chia seeds. I grind them up and put them in the smoothie, along with the fresh veggies, and sometimes an apple, and water, and blend it up.
Then, throughout the day, I eat salads and steamed veggies. I’m a vegetarian who eats vegetables. I really am a vegetabletarian.
John Robbins is an international bestselling author and president of the Food Revolution Network. His many books include Diet for a New America, The Food Revolution, and Healthy at 100. He is an adamant spokesperson for healthy, environmentally sound, sustainable choices and is the recipient of the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, and the Peace Abbey’s Courage of Conscience Award.
From my podcast interview with Ben, Episode 75:
[On his years as a body builder:] So, I did it all by eating copious amounts of protein, I mean a lot of protein. Like I don’t know how many grams I was at per day, but well above that 200 gram-ish amount where you begin to get like ammonia toxicity and a whole bunch of nitrogenous waste.
I was consuming a lot of protein, but bad protein. I mean, just like what happened to be on sale from the frozen steak section of the grocery store, or four to five cans of tuna at night.
I was sponsored by ABB Bodybuilding Shakes, which is kind of like number one “doctor’s recommendation” Ensure, which is like maltodextrin and soy protein isolate and vegetable oil and a bunch of crap in a can.
So, it was a high, high, high protein, low fat, low carb diet that I followed while living in the gym. Yeah, I was pretty unhealthy. I looked really good but, again, very low testosterone. A lot of gut issues. That really messed up my gut for a long time.
Yeah, like you mentioned, I did look good and I got kind of sort of strong, not like function, you don’t even get that functionally strong when you’re doing that type of stuff.
I don’t think there is a right diet. I think that people need to eat based on what they’re genetically hardwired to eat. There are people who are Sub-Saharan African or Southeast Asian. Or people with familial hypercholesterolemia, for example, who have very high levels of saturated-fat sensitivity and might produce inflammation or extremely high, high cholesterol or high particle count in response to, let’s say, one of these trendy, high fat, low carb or ketogenic diets.
Ben Greenfield attained his master’s degree in exercise physiology and biomechanics before partnering with physicians and opening a series of personal training studios and gyms. He is the author of 13 books including the New York Times bestseller, Beyond Training. He is the founder and CEO of Kion, a company dedicated to creating and delivering products, information, coaching and consulting to those wanting to experience the pinnacle of health, performance, and longevity.
Dr. Steven Lin
From my podcast interview with Dr. Lin, Episode 71:
I have drawn up a food pyramid in [my book] The Dental Diet, and what it looks like is, the base of it is plants. That really tells us that, for the vast majority of what we eat, it should be coming from a variety of plants.
We’ve actually changed our plant intake. It’s something like seven species we’ve now reduced our intake of vegetables to. [We really need] a variety, and all these different fibers are what create microbial diversity. That’s a huge part of understanding how to create a healthy oral environment, because you have diverse, ecologically stable bacteria that then go on to your gut.
Stephen Lin, DMD is a functional dentist and author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller, The Dental Diet. His practice is based on the belief that food, not drills and needles, is the key to healthy teeth and gums, and that orthodontic braces can be prevented with nutrition.
Dr. Steven Masley, M.D.
From my podcast interview with Dr. Masley, Episode 60:
When someone needs energy and eats [something] like a granola bar or cereal or bread, insulin’s the hormone that tells your cells to store that energy. When you eat a refined carb, your sugar levels spike, you get a message, insulin’s the hormone that says, “Push that energy into the cell and store it.”
Every time you eat refined carbs, you get this insulin spike. Now, if we do that regularly, here’s the challenge: Your cells start saying, “Hey, I don’t have any more room to store. That cell is full. I can’t store any more. I’m going to stop listening to you. I’m going to be resistant to your storage message.”
When you reach insulin resistance, that’s when we’re gaining weight around our waistline, but at the same time, here’s the weird thing, brain cells, when they feel like, “Okay, I’m going to resist insulin’s message,” they become unable to use energy at all, and they become dysfunctional. It’d be like if someone put the wrong type of gas in your car, the engine wouldn’t run.
When you consume out-of-control carbs and you get this insulin resistance message going on, your brain cells are unable to use the sugar in your blood, and they can’t use the sugar properly that’s in their cells. Their motor won’t run and you get brain fog or forgetful or unfocused. Those are the signs.
Robyn: I noticed that you mentioned refined carbs, and I’m glad to hear you say that because there’s so much debate about carbs, as if all carbohydrates are bad.
Can you tell me what the difference is between refined carbs and maybe simple sugars found in whole foods like fruit. Is there a difference?
Steven: Oh, it’s a huge difference, and you explain this really nicely in a lot of your material. When we eat unprocessed carbs, like an apple or a cup of broccoli, that has a lot of fiber in it, the fiber binds to your sugar so your sugar doesn’t jump up high and spike. It comes out slowly and gently over time and provides us with a steady flow of energy.
Now, here’s what many people don’t appreciate, that when they have whole wheat, when you take flour, a grain, and process it into flour, it has the same response as table sugar. Whether it’s table sugar, or white flour, or whole wheat flour, they all act the same way in your blood and have that sugar spike effect.
What we want is carbs that don’t cause your blood sugar to jump high, so low-glycemic carbs would be like blueberries and cherries and watermelon and an apple, or any of the vegetables except for a potato, basically. Nuts and beans have a very low glycemic load.
What has a high glycemic load would be anything made with flour or crackers or chips, bread, granola, processed cereal, and obviously sugar itself.
All those things wreak havoc on our brain function and our health overall so it’s really an important distinction between eating carbs that have a low glycemic but have lots of nutrients, phytonutrients, and then those that are just kind of empty and sugar-releasing.
Stephen Masley, M.D. is author of several bestselling books including The Better Brain Solution. He created the #1 health program for public television called 30 Days to a Younger Heart. His research focuses on the impact of lifestyle choices on brain function, heart disease, and aging.
Learn more about how to make the journey painless, from the nutrient-scarce Standard American Diet, to a whole-foods diet, in her free video masterclass 12 Steps to Whole Foods.
Disclosure: This post may contain Affiliate links that help support the GSG mission without costing you extra. I recommend only companies and products that I use myself.
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