By now, advocates of the ketogenic diet, as well as those interested in keto, have likely heard about the controversial anti-ketogenic study published in Lancet Public Health Journal1, which stated that the keto diet shaves years off people’s lives. It’s no surprise that people are extremely confused about the conflicting opinions within the medical community. However, a recent article by Dr. David Harper2, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of the Fraser Valley, says that not only are the study’s findings in error, but it didn’t factor in a ketogenic diet at all.
Carbohydrate Overconsumption is the Key
Harper states, “Present guidelines, that recommend a relatively high-carbohydrate (40 to 65 percent of energy), low-fat (20 to 35 percent of calories) diet have coincided with skyrocketing rates of obesity and related chronic diseases, including diabetes.” He does not believe it’s a coincidence, but rather a direct correlation to the overconsumption of carbohydrates. Over time, the more carbohydrates we consume contributes to chronically high glucose levels in our blood. The longer this continues, the more prone we are to high insulin secretion and, eventually, insulin resistance.
Over time, this inevitably leads to pre-diabetes or, for some, full-blown diabetes. Above and beyond this though, Harper says that our epidemiology almost ensures that chronically high insulin levels lead to the development of chronic diseases. On the other hand, however, a ketogenic diet provides our body with a steady and constant supply of readily available energy. And, ultimately, one of its most alluring promises is that we start to shed fat since it’s used for fuel. Our glucose levels decrease, and we reduce our risk of chronic diseases over time.
How Was the Study in Error?
First and foremost, Harper says, “The Lancet study did not consider ketogenic diets.” There is a common misconception that assumes foods are either keto or not. This, ultimately, is false. A true ketogenic diet relies on individuals reaching a state of nutritional ketosis, and this level of carbohydrate consumption may differ between individuals and body types. The referenced study, however, called a “low carbohydrate” diet one where individuals consumed 30 to 40 percent carbs of their total calories. To reach a state of ketosis, dieters need to limit carbs to no more than 10 percent of their caloric intake. Ultimately, there is no way the individuals in the study ever reached a state of nutritional ketosis.
Beyond that, Harper states, “The low carbohydrate group in the study were typically middle-aged, obese, sedentary, and diabetic smokers.” As he attests, there is no shock that this test pool of subjects experienced a lifespan several years shorter. Finally, and perhaps most important of all, the study in question was not actually a true study. It was, in fact, what’s referred to as a meta-analysis, or a study of study findings. This means that data was mined from prior tests and simply didn’t yield any new or surprising results.
Low- to No-Carb Diets Are Nothing New
The full benefits of a ketogenic diet are still being explored, but Harper recently attended a conference on nutritional ketosis where physicians and researchers from around the world came together to explore the effects of keto on chronic diseases. It’s being sought after as a therapy for chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular ailments, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s.
While the naysayers say that keto is a “fad diet” and that it will run its course and disappear, Harper attests that humans existed without significant carbs for far more of their existence that we’ve had them. Ultimately, if you are following a ketogenic diet, do your research and trust the studies that overwhelmingly demonstrate how keto truly can increase your lifespan and overall health.
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