Monday, November 19, 2018

Keto Diet vs. Plant-Based Diet

As I mentioned previously, I did a Keto diet for seven months in 2017. I used to think it was a fairly healthy diet, and there may be some unique situations for which it could help. After all, it was originally developed as a treatment for epilepsy. It is used today for treatment when nothing else will work, mostly in younger kids.

It may be helpful to describe what a ketogenic diet is, so we are all on the same page. There are two predominate types of fuel your body can run on: glucose and fat. Your body's default "gas" is glucose. A simple sugar. That fuels the engine of your body as it is designed to operate by default. However, when ever the glucose runs out, your body can start to use the energy stored in your fat cells. The one catch is that your brain can only run on either glucose, or what are known as "ketones". Ketones are converted by your liver from fat, and used throughout your body as energy. They are able to pass the blood brain barrier to fuel the brain.

Therefore, to get that energy, you essentially have to starve your body of its default energy, glucose. So, the traditional breakdown you need for most people to get into what is known as ketosis--the state of producing ketones--is around 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. To trick your body into thinking it is in starvation mode, you are required to track the food you eat to attain that breakdown of those variables, because there is the danger of going into ketoacidosis. That is when your carbs are so low that too much ketones are made, turning your blood acidic. It is a life-threatening condition.

To ensure we were in ketosis, and not going into ketoacidosis, we would generally test our ketones in our body using urine strips, which can easily be bought at the grocery store. Later, we bought a breath machine that we could blow into and it would tell us how much into ketosis we were.

Now, the "evil" of those who follow a ketogenic diet is carbs. You have to avoid most all carbs except for those essential, but no more than about 5 to 10% of your food. Obviously, if you want to run on ketones, you have to make your body think you can't get carbs. Only in that way, can you make your body think that it needs to start processing fat to make ketones.

However, for some reason, those who follow the ketogenic diet have begun to demonize carbs. Carbs are not simply something to avoid to get into ketosis, but that ketones are so far superior as a fuel that carbs are made out to be evil. It is a mindset where carbs began to not be seen as simply an alternate form of fuel, but an evil alternate form of fuel.

When one first starts a keto diet, they will tell you that initially you'll go through a stage of low energy until you start producing ketones. Then everything will be fine. The reason for this is it takes a few days until your stores of carb energy become depleted, and for the ketones to kick in. If you've ever done a period of fasting, you know this. For a few days, you really feel the hunger, Then when your body starts converting over to using ketones, your fat, you feel great for a while.

That is, until you start to run out of fat stores. Then it starts to burn protein, that is, muscle. That is why one also has to watch their protein levels to make sure they don't get too high as well. If you did, your body could start burning protein instead of fat.

So, what are the problems with a keto diet? One of the problems I wondered about right away was if ketosis was such an ideal state to be in, why did it require all these gymnastics to get there? If carbs were so bad, why did my body default to burning carbs? Why did I have to trick my body into starvation mode to burn this "ideal" energy? This made no sense biologically.

Another issue involved history. As a Christian, were God and Jesus so wrong when they said, "Man cannot live by bread alone, but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." and "I am the bread of life"? Those statements reflected the reality that bread, carbs, were the staple of everyone's life back in Jesus' day. That people literally lived on bread. In other words, there were not a bunch of people going into ketosis back then, not unless they were actually starving.

Throughout history, carbs have been the enablers of civilized society, as Dr. McDougall points out. Historically, man has lived on carbohydrates, not fat or protein. Yes, there is need for some fat and protein, but not nearly the amounts that people think they need of either. When was the last time you heard of anyone having a protein or fat deficiency?

That was my main concern with the diet, that it was so unnatural of a process to burn ketones. When one looks at it objectively, why would starvation be the route to a superior way to burn fuel for your body?

After all, it can and does overtax your liver, which has to turn all that fat into ketones. So this isn't good for someone with a weak liver or with liver disease. And being that it is designed to be a temporary state, it isn't good for long-term energy supply. That's probably why we've seen unhealthy people, like Atkin's himself, die of problems associated with too much fat.

Now, most of the concern of people who are against keto diets center around all the saturated and other fats you are getting. Dr. McDougall calls them "empty calories." Well, they obviously aren't empty since people can and do live on them. And I believe that the reason my blood pressure became so good despite all the saturated fat I was eating at the time was because I was burning it all off. It didn't have time to go running around in my system, causing havoc. That is also because I was so active. I went to they gym at the time. I did Zumba 4x a week, Aqua Zumba once a week, Body Pump once a week, Body Step once a week, and I played pickle ball for around 3 hours for 3 days a week. I was burning a lot of calories, around 3000 a day. So I ate a lot of fat during that time.

There have been studies done showing that people on the keto diet were not as healthy. I wondered how they knew whether those people were all in ketosis and if they were, did they make sure their oil/calorie intake was the same as what they were burning in a day? My wife, who did the diet with me, did it to lose weight. And she did lose weight, one of her most successful methods to date. Mainly, as she says, she didn't cheat on it because staying in ketosis was so important . . . she didn't want to lose what she had fought so hard to obtain. But because she was losing weight, it was apparent that she was burning all the fat calories she was taking in.

However, it would be easy for someone who claims to be on a keto diet to not be in ketosis. Or to be taking in more calories than they could burn, which in either case they would have excess fat floating around in their blood stream, gumming up the works and causing heart disease and cancer that is evident with anyone who takes in saturated and other fats to excess.

But that all points to the dangers of the keto diet. You have to really pay attention for it to work as planned. You have to ensure you're in ketosis every day through constant testing and ensuring you are eating the right ratio of carbs/protein/fat. You have to make sure you are burning all the fat you take in because you don't want excess fat floating around in your system. In other words, you always have to make sure you stay in a delicate balance to make the Keto diet work as advertised. If you don't, it will have serious consequences in developing either chronic conditions and/or ketoacidosis.

Compare that to burning carbs as your primary fuel. Because that is what your body naturally operates on, you don't have to do all that analysis of what you eat and testing to make sure you are not being harmed by it. You know that if you eat starches, that you are safe and that you are getting all the fuel your body needs, without worrying about getting too much. Plants provide more than enough protein and fat for your needs, if you eat the right ones.

Which is what I'll come back to talk about, next time.

No comments:

Post a Comment