A “keto” diet is a diet that is severely restrictive of carbohydrates. The daily carbohydrate intake can be as low as 5% carbohydrates with 75% fat, 20% protein. This is to enhance the body’s use of fat or ketones (acids produced by the liver) as fuels during calorie restriction.
Ketogenic diets were used for diabetes before the advent of insulin. It was also used to treat refractory seizures in children in the 1920’s. Nowadays the ketogenic diet is used for weight loss and to treat prediabetes and type 2diabetes. Ketogenic diet may result in weight loss in the short term, but not more than other diets in the long term. Its claims to help with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, or dementia are not scientifically substantiated.
Ketogenic diets can result in weight loss, but at what price? In the short term, sure it can be an easy way of restricting calories and getting rid of processed foods like sodas, cakes, cookies etc. In the long term, however, there isn’t enough data to show its safety. Also, in a ketogenic diet, one is cutting out many fruits and vegetables and whole grains that are important for health. There isn’t enough data to support a ketogenic diet, but there is data of increased mortality with a reduced carbohydrate diet.
In the short term, prediabetics and Type 2 diabetics may benefit from calorie restriction and weight loss from a ketogenic diet. A Whole Food Plant Based keto diet could be used for a small population where calorie restriction and weight loss are needed urgently for the health of an individual.
A standard ketogenic diet would expose individuals to increased animal-based foods which can be harmful from saturated fat from animals. This can turn on IGF-1, mTOR, elevate TMAO, which play roles in development and aging with implications in diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Over the long term, a 5 % carbohydrate diet makes it very difficult to reach optimum amounts of antioxidants and phytonutrients from the whole range of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
In the first 2 weeks or so of a ketogenic diet there are significant shifts in fluids and electrolytes that may require adjustment of medications for hypertension, heart failure, and diabetes. Therefore, it is important to inform your doctor if you are trying a ketogenic diet.
At this time there are no cardiovascular or diabetes research on plant based keto specifically. This is being studied because it has potential due to its high fiber content, low saturated fat, and high plant-based monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. So far, Dr. David Jenkins evaluated a low carbohydrate, high fat whole food plant diet as a short term research study (4 weeks) that showed improvement in weight, cholesterol and blood glucose. Dr Valter Longo’s 5 day calorie restricted plant based keto fasting mimicking diet seems to help individuals who are the most metabolically challenged with elevated cholesterol, triglycerides, IGF-1, fasting glucose, systemic inflammation.
We can look at longevity of different areas and different macronutrient profiles. Okinawa Japan: 10% fat, Ikaria Greece: 40% fat. The common thread in these blue zones is that they all eat 95-100% plant based foods with very little animal products and no processed foods.
Bottom line? Is a ketogenic diet recommended for everyone? No. There are tons of benefits with a low fat whole food plant based diet. Disclaimer…. I tried a whole food plant based ketogenic diet for 1 week so that I could give an honest opinion. What I found was that it was too restricting. I could not eat many of the foods that I usually love like bananas and whole grains that provide so much nutrition and satiety. I feel that it should not be the norm for most people. One can definitely lose weight, control high blood pressure and diabetes on a low fat whole food plant based diet without restricting foods that provide antioxidants and phytochemicals that are beneficial to the body, especially our microbiome. That being said, there is more to explore of a whole food plant based ketogenic diet in a small subset of the population that may benefit from this type of calorie restriction and macronutrient profile for a short term. As with any change in eating pattern, please consult with your physician so that appropriate changes can be made to any pertinent medications.
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