One glance at social media and it’s easy to see that America is obsessed with diet and nutrition. Almost all of us have engaged in one of these restrictive diets at some point, primarily in an attempt to lose weight. In recent years, however, nothing has been as game-changing as the ketogenic diet.
After witnessing many people lose weight at an incredibly fast pace, the low-carb, high-fat diet has tempted many to jump on the bandwagon. However, what may have seemed like a blessing to many is raising eyebrows among health care professionals.
Why The Popular Keto Diet May Actually Be The Worst
Every year, U.S. News & World Report publishes an analysis of the best and worst diets for health, according to an expert panel. With 39 diets, the keto diet is tied with the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet for the second-to-last overall spot, in the 2021 report.
In terms of a quick, effective weight-loss strategy, the keto diet performed well, but in other aspects, it fared poorly. Keto, for instance, was deemed only “minimally effective” for preventing or controlling diabetes by experts. One expert went as far as to state, “It is not safe for people with diabetes.”
In terms of safety, the keto diet only scored 1.9 stars out of five. For years, the high-fat content of the diet has been controversial. Nevertheless, the panelists noted in this particular ranking that the trendy diet could be dangerous for some. One expert warned that diabetics, people with kidney disease, and people with heart disease should be especially careful.
According to the health panel, keto is considerably more difficult to follow than other diets on the 2021 list. “Following this eating plan long term is the most difficult aspect of this diet regime,” one expert noted.
Additionally, unlike the Mediterranean diet, which has been ranked the number one diet in America, the keto diet lacks a balanced nutritional approach. “People become very bored just eating fatty foods, fat, and meat.” Another expert characterized keto as “the hardest of the extremely hard!”
Compared to most diets, the keto diet is far more restrictive. So, it’s not surprising experts rated keto difficult to follow. In the nutrition category, the keto lifestyle was scored “extremely incomplete.” One panelist explained, “Any diet that recommends snacking on bacon can’t be taken seriously as a health-promoting way to eat.”
While U.S. News & World Report rated the ketogenic diet nearly last in terms of overall health, it continues to gain popularity. According to keto supporters, the proof is in the pudding. Advocates say, when followed properly, the keto diet will help you shed the extra pounds and improve your health. But, health experts aren’t yet convinced.
Keto Lacks Long-Term Data Which Causes Concern
In spite of the keto diet’s ability to aid in weight loss, its long-term effects remain unclear. Robin Foroutan, a registered nutritionist, integrative dietitian at The Morrison Center, explained to Insider that a big factor in the U.S. News rankings is the amount of research supporting various diets, which may explain keto’s low scores.
“When you get to more diets that are newer, there’s less published data and less time for prolonged studies, so they’re almost always going to rank lower because there’s not as much evidence,” Foroutan explained.
In Advantages and Disadvantages of the Ketogenic Diet: A Review Article, the review analyzes some limited data. But, the review navigates through the benefits and risks of the ketogenic diet. It found that within six to 12 months of introducing keto, blood pressure, triglycerides, and glycosylated hemoglobin decreased, HDL (“good”cholesterol) increased, and weight loss occurred.
After a year of keto, however, the effects are usually not noticeable. Further, the changes in the studies examined were not “statistically significant.” Therefore, more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of the ketogenic diet.
Despite keto’s beneficial effects on HDL-C, the concomitant rise in LDL-C and very-low-density lipoproteins may pose cardiovascular risks, according to the review.
Additionally, the small sample sizes and short duration of each keto study in the review raise questions about generalizability and validity. Consequently, it’s difficult to assess the diet’s risk or make recommendations to individuals with individual comorbidities.
Whether or not the keto diet is a sustainable way of eating is difficult to determine. In the short-term, it may be a quick alternative to other weight loss diets, but at what cost?
To Keto Or Not To Keto?
The bottom line is that there are less rigorous, safer methods of maintaining health that are possible and easier to maintain. For instance, the U.S. News rankings feature several diets with support to back-up their claims.
The Mediterranean diet is balanced, easy to follow, and scientifically backed, making it the best diet in 2021. Additionally, the Mediterranean diet promotes a healthy lifestyle that involves limiting red meat, sugar, and saturated fat. Furthermore, the top ranking diet advocates a plant-based lifestyle, rich in vitamins and minerals.
Take the path that feels less rocky when it comes to your personal health and wellness. You may not be able to find balance with an unbalanced diet.