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Low-fat diets could lower the risk of dying of breast cancer. That may be bad news for keto fans.

Low-fat diets could lower the risk of dying of breast cancer. That may be bad news for keto fans.

Eating a low-fat diet could help prevent risk of death from breast cancer.

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Eating a low-fat diet could help prevent risk of death from breast cancer.
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Melia Robinson/Business Insider
  • Eating fewer fatty foods and more fruits, vegetables, and grains could decrease a person’s risk of dying from breast cancer, according to a new study.
  • These findings differ from the trendy keto diet. which suggests people eat high amounts of fat and few carbohydrates.
  • While it may decrease the risk of death, a low-fat diet wasn’t found to decrease the risk of developing breast cancer in the first place.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

The trendy ketogenic diet, a high-fat low-carbohydrate eating plan, has gained loyal followers who say the diet has helped them lose weight quickly, but a new study suggests eating too much fat may not be the best idea when dealing with breast cancer

Researchers have found that a diet that’s low in fat and high in fresh produce and grains may be helpful for preventing risk of death from breast cancer. The study, which will be presented in late May at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) annual meeting, looked at the diets of 48,835 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 who had no previous history of breast cancer. These women were all part of the Women’s Health Initiative clinical trial.

Between 1993 and 1998, the researchers followed the women. They had 60% of the participants continue their normal diets for around 20 years, when they had a checkup with the researchers. The other 40% were asked to follow a low-fat diet during the clinical trial.

Fat accounted for 32% or more of daily calories for the women who ate their regular diets, while only 20% of daily calories came from fat for those on the low-fat diet. Vegetables, fruits, and grains accounted for 40% of their daily calories.

Researchers found that women who ate the low-fat diets had a 21% less risk of death from breast cancer than women who continued the normal diets they had before the trial. The low-fat diet didn’t lower the risk of developing breast cancer in the first place.

The changes researchers observed were insignificant in the early years of the trial, but as they neared the two-decade mark, they noticed the low-fat diet greatly decreased breast cancer death risk when compared to the women on their normal diets.

Keto dieters eat lots of fat in the form of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.

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Keto dieters eat lots of fat in the form of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.
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Shutterstock

“Postmenopausal women who take the time to think about and plan their diets will be taking an important step toward prevention and improving their health,” said Dr. Lidia Schapira, an ASCO breast cancer expert.

These findings go against some of the tenets of the keto diet, which suggests eating large amounts of fat in the form of meat, eggs, fish, and dairy, on a daily basis. Doing so while staying away from carbohydrate-heavy foods (including some fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) allows keto dieters to burn fat for energy and lose weight.

Read more: An exercise scientist says Silicon Valley’s favorite diet is a scary ‘experiment that the population is doing on itself’

People who stand by the keto diet believe it has helped them shed hard-to-lose pounds quickly, lower blood sugar levels, and boost natural energy, but nutrition experts are wary of the diet’s highly restrictive nature.

“[The keto diet] shuns many healthy, whole plant foods – beans, legumes, certain fruits and vegetables, whole grains and pseudograins,” nutritionist Andy Bellatti previously told INSIDER. “All these foods contribute fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that offer many health benefits.”

Preliminary research has suggested the keto diet does have real health benefits. A July 2018 study done on mice found that a keto diet made cancer treatment more effective in the rodents. Ketogenic diets have also been shown to help control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes and reduce epileptic seizures in children.

Still, the new study’s results suggest there’s yet another reason keto dieters should be wary of their decision to fill up on fat if they don’t have specific health issues that warrant using the trendy diet.

10 of the biggest downsides of the keto diet

10 of the biggest downsides of the keto diet

Keto is a booming health trend but it can have some drawbacks.

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Keto is a booming health trend but it can have some drawbacks.
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Shutterstock
  • From bad breath to serious fatigue, the keto diet can cause a range of uncomfortable and annoying side effects.
  • INSIDER reached out to Sarah Marjoram, MS, RDN, LD to better understand the issues people may encounter when following the ketogenic diet.
  • Many people who follow the ketogenic diet report achieving successful weight loss goals.
  • However many people struggle to stick with the diet for various reasons.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

If you don’t know at least one person doing keto in 2019, consider yourself an exception. The ketogenic diet plan has been one of the biggest health trends over the past few years, and the number of loyal followers only seems to be going strong.

Although there are some variations, the popular ketogenic diet plan usually requires a person to modify their diet to consist of 5% carbs, 20% protein, and 75% fat. Proponents of the extremely low-carb regiment claim that strict adherence to the plan helps them feel more energized and curb their sugar cravings. And of course, there’s the added benefit of supposed rapid weight loss.But it’s important to remember not everyone who follows the diet has such a pleasant experience. Take a look at any #ketoproblems hashtag on social media, and you’ll find lots of people commiserating over various keto-related struggles. From the limited food options to physical side effects, there are several factors that can make committing to the keto plan a challenge.INSIDER did some research and reached out to Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Sarah Marjoram to learn more about the common issues people can encounter while following the trendy diet.

As a general reminder, always consult a registered dietitian or your physician before starting any diet plan.


Issue #1: The keto diet can make you feel sick.

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The “keto flu” can be a big problem.
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iStock

“People [who follow keto] often complain of flu-like symptoms when they first start the diet,” said Marjoram. “They can experience headaches, nausea and feel lethargic. Some also complain of irritability, dizziness, and difficulty focusing.” To better understand why this happens, we have to consider the science behind why the keto diet works. Normally, the body gets most of its energy from the carbohydrates in the food we eat, said Marjoram.

However, during the keto diet, a person drastically reduces their carbohydrate intake, while increasing their fat consumption. The depleted levels of carbohydrates can force the body to use fat cells to produce compounds called ketones, which become the new source of energy. When this process happens, people can lose weight.However since most people aren’t used to their diet consisting of only 5% carbs, this can immediately have a negative impact on energy levels.

Marjoram told INSIDER “When you make a cut [in your diet] that drastic, there’s a transition that happens in your body. You don’t start immediately start breaking down fat. It first has to use up the stored carbohydrates before it turns to fat for energy.”

It’s during the transition period that people experience “keto flu” because of all the unpleasant symptoms it produces. Your body is being shocked into this new way of processing energy, and it can be a lot to handle.Generally, these symptoms last anywhere from two to five days while the body adapts to the carbohydrate restriction, she said. However, if these problems persist for weeks, you may want to consult your physician.


Issue #2: While following keto, you may have trouble getting through your normal gym routine.

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It may be beneficial to slow things down for a bit.
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Flickr/Dr. Abdullah Naser

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself struggling to finish your treadmill routine while on keto.

Typically the body turns to carbohydrates to keep you going during your workout. But during the keto diet, you’re depriving the body of that form of fuel. While some people who follow keto may be able to easily exercise at their normal pace, research suggests that this isn’t the case for everyone.

A study conducted at Saint Louis University found that a low-carbohydrate diet can actually have negative effects on a person’s athletic performance by lowering their overall endurance. Other research has shown that depleted carbohydrate stores can make a person more susceptible to muscle damage during exercise and cause them to feel fatigued much faster.

Does this mean you should skip on exercising entirely? Absolutely not. But to be safe, you should consider reducing the intensity of your workouts while your body adjusts to ketosis.


Issue #3: Following the keto diet can make you feel pretty “backed up.”

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Your fiber intake may be low.
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Sarah Schmalbruch/INSIDER

Although keto can cause your weight to come off rapidly, it can also cause other bodily processes to slow down — particularly, digestion.

This occurs because people who follow the diet rarely enough dietary fiber, said Marjoram. She told INSIDER, “One thing dietitians worry about [when people follow keto] is that they are eating little to no fiber [because] carbohydrates are the primary sources of fiber.”According to Mayo Clinic, fiber is an essential nutrient that helps the body maintain regular bowel movements. Generally, you can get your daily recommended amount of fiber by eating foods like whole grains, beans, and fruits.The problem is the keto diet restricts how much of these foods you can eat because they contain a lot of carbohydrates. (For reference one banana has 22 grams of carbs, and most keto plans don’t allow more than 20 to 50 grams of net carbs for the entire day.) On top of that, the plan encourages you to eat a high level of fat, which can cause you to feel even more constipated.


Issue #4: Your ketosis may also give you halitosis.

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The risk of bad breath is real.
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hammett79/iStock

If you started keto recently, you may have noticed an unusual stench coming from your mouth. While this is a pretty embarrassing side effect, rest assured you’re not alone.When the body experiences ketosis, it means the liver is using fat cells to produce organic compounds called ketones. These include acetoacetic acid, acetone, and beta-hydroxybutyric acid. And while this is all happening at the cellular level, these byproducts have a tendency to show up in your breath.”When your body starts to break down fat for energy, gases called ketones are produced, ” said Marjoram. “The body [then] releases those ketones [through exhalation and urination.]”As a result, during the first week or two of the keto diet, people may complain that their breath has unpleasant, or even ammonia-like smell. Some people even report that their mouths smelling distinctly like nail polish remover because if you recall, acetone is an ingredient found in that beauty product.

On the bright side, this stench can signal that your keto diet is effective because it usually means the body has achieved fat-burning that ketosis state.

In the meantime, if you’re concerned, it’s can be a good idea to drink more water and be extra mindful of your oral hygiene.


Issue #5: Keto can make you exceptionally thirsty.

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Make sure you have plenty of water on hand.
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iStock

Normally, when you something like a piece of toast, the body converts the carbs from that toast into glucose. This stimulates the pancreas to start making a hormone called insulin, which carries some of that glucose to your cells for energy while it stores the rest as glycogen. According to Healthline, this glycogen acts a special reserve for energy that the body uses to keep you going in between meals. Meanwhile, the elevated insulin levels that made this possible cause your kidneys to retain sodium.

But when you’re not eating that many carbohydrates, your body isn’t going to be producing that same amount of insulin.

Instead, the elevated levels of ketones disrupts your overall electrolyte levels. This causes the kidneys to release water and salt, which leads to frequent urination and consequently, a loss of fluids.

When this happens, you’re likely to experience a dry mouth a lot faster than you normally would, especially if you’re not drinking enough water.


Issue #6 : Ketosis can seriously lower your alcohol tolerance.

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It may be best to cut back on the drinks.
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iStock

If you’re currently on the keto diet, you may have noticed that you feel tipsy a lot faster when sipping your favorite adult beverage. You also may have noticed that you suddenly experience some pretty gnarly hangovers, too.

This is because when you’re not eating a lot of carbs, your body can be more susceptible to alcohol’s effects.Remember those glycogen stores mentioned before? Normally these energy reserves help to absorb the alcohol that goes into the bloodstream. But when you’re on keto, your body doesn’t have as much glycogen as usual, which means there are fewer places for the alcohol to go once it enters your digestive system. Instead, the alcohol moves to the liver where it becomes rapidly metabolized. Cue your blood alcohol concentration rising and you feeling drunk.

For this reason, keto followers should take extra precaution before deciding to ingest any liquor. Plus, tons of alcoholic drinks contain carbs, so it’s tough to drink on plan anyway.

Of course, it’s a good idea to limit your alcohol consumption regardless of whether you’re on keto or not. But if you want to minimize your chance of experiencing a severe hangover, you may want to lay off the drinking entirely while in ketosis.


Issue #7: It can be challenging to sustain the keto diet long-term because of how restrictive it is.

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It can be pretty restrictive.
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Shutterstock

Given the physical effects ketosis can have on the body, adopting a keto lifestyle for the long haul may not be the right choice for everyone.

For one, there’s the fact that it’s very restrictive. Following the keto diet eliminates most fruits and many starchy vegetables because of their high carbohydrate content. This seriously limits the variety in the types of meals a person can enjoy. Although little research has been done into how the keto diet specifically affects the body on a long-term basis, Marjoram said following any diet plan that eliminates or severely limits entire food groups is generally not advised for optimal health. Consider that while many vegetables have high levels of carbs, they also contain some essential vitamins and nutrients the body needs to be healthy. Even though following a low-carb diet may help you lose weight, skipping out on these foods in lieu of less nutrient-dense foods can lead to deficiencies down the road.


Issue #8: It’s possible for the weight you lose during keto to come back rapidly once you stop the diet.

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It’s hard to keep off the weight after you stop.
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Piyada Jaiaree/Shutterstock

Marjoram told INSIDER, A lot of people may lose weight in the short term, but as soon as they reintroduce carbohydrates and get back to a normal way of eating, the weight comes right back.”This is because unlike other diets, keto relies on the very specific process of ketosis in order for it to be effective. As a result, once the body is no longer in that state, it can be easy for a person to pack on the pounds if they aren’t careful of how much they’re eating.

Marjoram added, “That’s the science of how metabolism works. Your body is not meant to be in ketosis [for an extended period of time].”You can avoid potentially regaining weight after stopping keto by transitioning to a more balanced, plant-based diet.


Issue #9: And despite your efforts, you might not lose any weight at all.

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Just like any other diet, it may not work for you.
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iStock

It turns out getting into ketosis and maintaining isn’t exactly as easy as cutting out bread. Even if you successfully keep your carbohydrate intake below a certain level for a few days, it can be easy to send your body out of ketosis by simply eating a few extra grams of carbs. Marjoram added, “[On the keto diet] You’re forcing this physiological state by eliminating carbohydrates. Once you start eating carbs again, you’re right back out of ketosis.”Moreover, some research suggests that because keto is not necessarily a high-protein diet, it can be challenging to feel satiated from your meals. You may be compensating for your hunger by adding extra fat, like butter to your meals. But keep in mind that doing this also means you’re increasing the number of calories you’re eating, too. You can, however, help alleviate this by eating high protein and keto.While keto isn’t necessarily a calorie-restrictive diet, it’s still possible to overeat while following the plan. Instead, try incorporating more non-starchy vegetables into your low-carb regiment, like spinach. You can eat three full cups of spinach for only three grams of carbs per serving and less than 50 calories overall.


Issue #10: Some believe keto may mess with your cholesterol levels and affect your overall health.

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More research is needed.
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Thomson Reuters

Although many people enjoy that keto allows them the freedom to eat tasty foods like burgers and bacon, it turns out this perk may be too good to be true. In fact, this may even be detrimental to your overall health.

Marjoram told INSIDER, “Research shows a high-fat diet, particularly one [that contains] saturated fat and trans fat negatively impacts your blood cholesterol level.”Unlike other low-carb diets, keto relies on high fat consumption more than high protein to be effective. If you’re not careful about the kinds of fats you’re eating, it’s likely that you’ll see an increase in LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, aka the “bad cholesterol.”

It is worth noting that other studies have found that people on keto saw a decrease in LDL cholesterol, so it’s possible the reverse is true but more research is needed. In addition, Marjoram said it’s also possible for the keto diet to raise your risk of developing kidney stones, which can be painful. This is linked to increased protein consumption, which causes an overwhelming amount of acid to impact the kidneys. Although keto encourages people to eat a higher ratio of fat than protein, it’s still possible to overindulge on animal proteins, like hamburgers, while following the plan. Still, Marjoram notes that further research is needed to better understand the long term effects of the keto diet on healthy individuals.

Jillian Michaels warns people to avoid the keto diet: ‘Why would anyone think this is a good idea?’

Jillian Michaels warns people to avoid the keto diet: ‘Why would anyone think this is a good idea?’

Jillian Michaels has said multiple times that she doesn't support the keto diet.

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Jillian Michaels has said multiple times that she doesn’t support the keto diet.
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Jerritt Clark/Getty Images

The keto diet has garnered a lot of attention for its storied weight-loss results and strange food requirements. It’s so popular that a number of celebrities have credited keto for their famous figures. There is one celebrity, however, who rejects this trending diet as nothing more than a “fad.”

Fitness guru Jillian Michaels recently said the keto diet is a “terrible, terrible idea” on an episode of the #Adulting podcast.

“Your cells, your macromolecules, are literally made up of protein, fat, carbohydrates, nucleic acids. When you do not eat one of the three macronutrients – those three things I just mentioned – you’re starving yourselves,” Michaels said about the keto diet’s restrictive parameters.

Michaels previously told Women’s Health that the keto diet is a “bad plan.” In a video for the publication, the former “Biggest Loser” trainer was asked her opinion about a number of health-related topics, including the high fat, low-carb diet.

“I don’t understand. Like, why would anyone think this is a good idea?” Michaels said, adding the diet is a “bad plan for a million reasons.”

Read more: 5 scary things that could happen to your body on the keto diet

She also bashed the diet in May 2018 when she told People that keto is not a good idea for the average person.

“Do not go keto,” she said. “Just work out, eat clean, and don’t overeat. I promise you, balanced diet. It’s that simple.”

The problem with the keto diet is its lack of nutrients, according to Jillian Michaels

Michaels’ main issue with the keto diet is that it deprives your body of essential nutrients.

The keto diet allows foods like bacon and butter that would typically be shunned by dieters.

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The keto diet allows foods like bacon and butter that would typically be shunned by dieters.
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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Other experts agree with her’ concerns about the diet.

In September 2018, Sara Seidelmann, a cardiologist and nutrition researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, published a study that evaluated the eating patterns of more than 447,000 people. She discovered that banning entire food groups (as dieters do in keto) can help you lose weight in the short term, but could also send you to an early grave.

There are some benefits to following keto, but the diet isn’t sustainable in the long term

The keto diet forces your body to burn fat because there are no longer carbs for it to break down and turn into energy. Additionally, it can help you lose water weight and make insulin levels drop – a perk for people with health conditions associated with high insulin levels, like polycystic ovary syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, and infertility.

Read more: 10 ways the keto diet can affect your skin – for better or for worse

Despite these benefits, keto is not designed to be a permanent way of eating. For the meal plan to have any effect, your diet must be made up of 60% to 80% fat and less than 10% carbs. That’s fairly unsustainable for most people.

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“To make a very long story short: avoid the keto diet,” Michaels said. “Common sense. Balanced diet is key.”
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Hollis Johnson/INSIDER

Additionally, as Michaels told People in May 2018, the keto diet might trick people into thinking they “can eat whatever” and however much food they want.

Michaels encourages people to eat a well-rounded diet

So what should people do if they’re looking to get healthier? Michaels says it’s not that complicated.

“You don’t eat processed sugar, you don’t eat processed grains, and to make a very long story short: avoid the keto diet,” she said. “Common sense. Balanced diet is key.”

Leah Rocketto contributed to an earlier version of this story.

3 huge new studies of more than half a million people are casting major doubts on the keto diet

3 huge new studies of more than half a million people are casting major doubts on the keto diet

Nutritionists are zeroing in on healthy, whole foods that come mainly from plants, not animals, as the secret to a longer life.

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Nutritionists are zeroing in on healthy, whole foods that come mainly from plants, not animals, as the secret to a longer life.
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with wind/Flickr
  • Low-carb diets like the ketogenic diet are popular strategies for rapid weight loss and appetite control.
  • Keto diets require eaters to essentially forgo all carbohydrates and fuel up on fats and limited amounts of proteins instead.
  • Because sugar is a carb, many keto dieters drastically reduce their sugar intake – but they eliminate healthier carbs too.
  • Nutritionists are starting to notice that people who live the longest tend to incorporate more plant-based foods, including some fiber-rich carbs, into their diets.
  • It’s another reminder that focusing on healthy, plant-based, whole foods is a better long-term strategy than dieting.

Scientists and dietitians are starting to agree on a recipe for a long, healthy life. It’s not sexy, and it doesn’t involve fancy pills or pricey diet potions.

Fill your plate with plants. Include vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and legumes. Don’t include a lot of meat, milk, or highly processed foods that a gardener or farmer wouldn’t recognize.

“There’s absolutely nothing more important for our health than what we eat each and every day,” Sara Seidelmann, a cardiologist and nutrition researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told Business Insider.

Seidelmann recently published a massive, blockbuster global study of the eating patterns of more than 447,000 people around the world. What she discovered – and what is probably not a huge surprise – is that no matter where you live or what your daily diet is like, banning entire food groups and thinking you can cheat your way into good health might work for a while, but it could also send you into an early grave.

The popular ketogenic diet, which involves strictly limiting carbs to less than 50 grams a day (that’s no more than two apples’ worth) and subsisting primarily on high-fat foods, is one of those restrictive diets that could have harmful long-term consequences.

Other low-carb weight-loss diets that fall into this category include paleo, Atkins, Dukan, and Whole 30. Nutrition experts say that besides their potential for harm, these popular diets are really hard to follow.

[Read More: The keto diet could make certain cancer treatments more effective in mice, a study found – and a human trial is moving forward]

Some benefits of going keto are difficult to dispute. Following a high-fat, low-carb diet can be a solid strategy for rapid weight loss and blood-sugar control. The keto diet can also be great for children with tough-to-control epileptic seizures. For decades, people have seen stellar results managing those conditions on a keto diet with the help and guidance of professionals.

But there’s some limited evidence that going low-carb might also lead people to become less tolerant of glucose and develop diabetes, though more research is needed.

What we do know, based on carefully conducted laboratory testing of overweight men, is that going keto probably doesn’t help burn more body fat than a regular regimen. Instead, it forces people to dramatically curb their sugar intake (remember, sugar is 100% carbohydrate) and kick processed foods to the curb. Those are both good habits for overall health and blood-sugar levels, and they can help reduce your likelihood of developing cancer.

But like taking aspirin, eating a special high-fat, low-carb diet probably shouldn’t be an everyday habit for otherwise healthy people. Our bodies simply aren’t designed to fuel up on fats, unless we’re literally starving. Even Josh Axe, a keto evangelist, has said it’s not a diet that should be followed for more than a few months at a time.

Finally, low-carb diets make it easy to neglect key nutrients like magnesium, calcium, and potassium that can be plentiful on less restrictive diets with fresh, high-carb foods like beans, bananas, and oats.

More studies suggest that people who eat whole, nutrient-rich foods live the longest and have a lower risk of cancer

Quinoa

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Flickr/Rusvaplauke

More research that backs up Seidelmann’s was presented in August at the European Society of Cardiology Congress.

Researchers who presented at that conference studied the self-reported eating patterns of nearly 25,000 people in the US and compared their results with studies involving more than 447,500 people. Again, they found that those who ate a moderate amount of carbohydrates were more likely to live longer than either low-carb or high-carb dieters.

“Our study suggests that in the long-term, [low-carb diets] are linked with an increased risk of death from any cause, and deaths due to cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer,” Maciej Banach, a professor at the Medical University of Lodz in Poland who helped write the study, said in a release.

A third study published this week in the journal PLOS Medicine that surveyed the eating habits of 471,495 Europeans over 22 years found that people whose diets had lower “nutritional quality” (i.e., fewer fresh vegetables, legumes, and nuts) were more likely to develop some of the most common and deadliest forms of cancer, including colon, stomach, lung, liver, and breast cancers.

[Read More: Silicon Valley’s favorite diet can lead to kidney trouble – here’s how to go keto without getting sick]

Basically, we’re learning there’s no shortcut to healthy eating

It can be tricky calculating the precise kind of diet that leads to a long life. Part of the problem is that (thankfully) we don’t live our lives in highly controlled laboratory conditions. Until that terrifying day arrives and we all become well-studied lab rats, we have to rely on long-term observational data, usually in the form of surveys, to know more about which diets are the best long-term plans.

In study after study, survey data from around the world has shown that people who stick to limited amounts of meats, dairy, and processed foods while fueling up on fiber-rich plant-based foods including vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and, yes, even carb-heavy beans have some of the best health outcomes. Seidelmann describes their diets as being rich in “whole foods.”

“They were not processed,” she said of the diets of people in her study who lived the longest. These people would consume whole-grain rice, not white varieties. They’d eat plants like fruits and vegetables, not more-processed versions like fruit juice or smoothies.

“You have the intact fiber; you have a lot more nutrients,” Seidelmann said.

Fiber isn’t just good for keeping your gut moving – scientists feeding diets rich in fiber to mice are discovering that the carbs, which can’t be absorbed by the body, can help protect aging brains from some of the damaging chemicals associated with Alzheimer’s and reduce inflammation in the gut. They’re confident that the health benefits of eating more fiber extend to humans too.

But a plant-based regimen with lots of fiber can be tricky to maintain on a low-carb diet, because some of the highest-fiber foods are also high in carbs, such as savory beans, crunchy peas, and sweet fruits.

“It is not a common pattern to eat very low-carb, strictly plant-based,” Seidelmann said. “At least in the Western world, it tends to be more animal-based. That just is what it is.”

People on low-carb diets often turn to more butter and meat for sustenance, which can increase blood pressure and, in the case of processed meats, contribute to cancer. Meat and dairy can also contribute to inflammation in the body, which can help cancerous tumors form and grow.

The new scientific findings all support what parents, trainers, and coaches have been saying for years: eat less junk, and continue to be skeptical of the latest miracle diet, be it keto or any other passing fad.

Another look at the keto diet

Another look at the keto diet

In a recent column, I stated, “Even if we entirely avoided all carbohydrates, our bodies would use protein in an alternate recipe to make glucose (sugar) to fuel our cells.”

However, someone responded: “According to Dr Jason Fung, author of The Obesity Code, if one eats a diet of 65% healthy fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbohydrate, the body will be in ketosis and will burn fat, not protein, to make glucose to fuel our cells.

“Only when the body reaches the level of 4% fat will protein be used to make glucose.”

He then goes on to describe his success with this diet under his doctor’s supervision.

“I have lost a pound a week for 15 weeks and feel very good after the initial few days of sugar withdrawal. My regime of full fat yoghurt and milk, unsweetened whipped cream in my coffee, olive and avocado oils, limited fruit, no root vegetables, no flour, beans or pulses, satisfies my hunger as no other diet has. Have you looked into the ketogenic diet? I believe it is revolutionary.”

I applaud this person’s progress. And yes, I have looked into the research on ketogenic diets. Here are my thoughts:

Glucose – the primary fuel for our brain, muscle and other body functions – is easily provided by carbohydrates (sugars and starches in most plant-based foods).

In the absence of carbohydrates, our amazing bodies can make glucose from fat and protein.

Ketogenic diets severely restrict carbohydrates to force the body to manufacture glucose from these alternate sources.

This causes acids (ketones) to build up in the blood – a condition called ketosis. In times of starvation or low carb dieting, take your pick, our brains and muscles can survive on ketone bodies.

The ketogenic diet is extremely popular and controversial. Like you, many of its followers report less hunger and more weight loss compared to other diets.

Yet, experts argue its long term effectiveness and safety.

These diets eliminate or severely restrict any type of sugar or starch including grains, fruit (natural fruit sugar, fructose), potatoes and other starchy vegetables, beans, legumes and milk (natural milk sugar, lactose).

On the plus side, ketogenic diets have been used successfully to treat epileptic seizures in children.

And many people who adopt this eating plan eat more vegetables and less added sugar. Studies over the past 15 years show that animals and humans tend to lose weight faster on ketogenic diets. Their effectiveness over the long term does not seem to be any better than other weight loss plans, however.

On the down side, ketosis means that our bodies must deal with the production of acids, including acetone, that build up in our blood. This, say biochemists, disturbs the body’s natural acid-base balance.

People with diabetes are at risk of ketoacidosis – an extreme form of ketosis that is life-threatening.

While promoters of the keto diet say this is not a risk for healthy people, I personally do not prefer to chronically feed my brain and muscles this way.

My opinion also is that carbohydrates are not evil monsters. They are quite literally the energy from the sun transformed by plants into fuel (sugars and starches). This energy is transferred to me when I eat plant-based foods.

If I severely restrict these foods, I also eliminate some pretty important nutrients and substances that reduce inflammation – a major trigger for obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

A recent study by the US Agricultural Research Service, for example, found that participants who ate whole grains (instead of refined grains) lost weight while boosting beneficial bacteria in their guts that fight off inflammation and harmful gut microbes.

Any strategy that helps us avoid empty calories from excess sugars is a good step. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater, however. – The Monterey County Herald/Tribune News Service

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