Like anything that so drastically alters your lifestyle, it’s important to question the safety and effectiveness of any diet you begin that is far different than what you’re used to. The ketogenic diet is no exception. Likely, you’re here reading the niKETO blogs as part of your ketogenic research (research that shouldn’t stop even once you get deep into your keto journey, by the way) and that’s absolutely the right way to make sure keto is right for you.
This list is here to assist you in your research and to help you debunk a lot of the misinformation that’s out there about keto. Here are the nine top myths about keto that are blatantly false and the proof to back it up.
KETO IS BAD FOR THE BRAIN
The myth is that your brain needs glucose to work properly and that eating a keto diet that severely limits glucose is a surefire way to starve your brain to death.
Here’s why that’s wrong: Your brain does not run exclusively on glucose, but it does need some glucose… it just doesn’t need very much. And regardless of grades you got in school, your brain is very smart: if the miniscule amount of glucose the brain needs isn’t present, the brain tells your body to process protein into glucose so it gets what it needs. It’s called glycogenesis, no carbs needed (1).
KETO LEAVES YOU NUTRIENT DEFICIENT
This myth claims that eating only high fat leaves you lacking the vitamins we are so used to getting from carb-filled veggies.
Here’s why that’s wrong: Meats provide adequate vitamins and minerals (2), and when you pair them with the keto recommended sources for your daily carbs - leafy green vegetables, nuts, berries- you get your daily recommended amounts plus some. In addition, you can take a daily multivitamin to ensure you get the extra kick you may feel you want. Just be sure to get a daily multi without iron, you get plenty of iron in your meat and don’t need any extra.
KETO CAN CAUSE MUSCLE LOSS
The myth says that losing weight on keto means losing muscle mass.
Here’s why that’s wrong: This claim comes from the moderate amount of protein one must eat on a keto diet which opposes the standard theory that you need more protein to maintain your muscle mass. But the truth is, since your body is burning stored fat and new fat, it doesn’t draw from your muscles and thus no muscular breakdown occurs. You actually retain more muscle when cutting on keto (3)!
WEIGHT LOSS ON KETO IS JUST WATER WEIGHT
This myth claims that all of the weight you drop on keto is water weight and that you never actually lose any body fat.
Here’s why that’s wrong: Keto “whoosh” weight-loss is the first 5-10 pounds you lose almost immediately on keto, that is water weight because keto is a diuretic. But after that, you are burning stored fat because fat becomes the ketones that now fuel your body. You HAVE to burn fat, it’s a scientific certainty. The niKETO site is full of photographic evidence. If you think keto’s weight loss is all water, take a look at these testimonial before and after photos and see for yourself that it’s fat that comes off, not just water.
KETOSIS CAN DEVELOP INTO LIFE THREATENING KETOACIDOSIS
This myth states that ketosis can turn into ketoacidosis which can starve you to death.
Here’s why that’s wrong: This myth seems to have come about because the words ketosis and ketoacidosis both begin with keto. In actuality, if you have a normal, functioning pancreas it’s impossible to get ketoacidosis. And since the keto diet doesn’t affect the function of your pancreas, ketosis cannot become ketoacidosis (4). Ketoacidosis is a complication of type 1 diabetes where the body doesn’t produce the blood insulin a body needs which can lead to fatal consequences. Here is an article explaining the difference further.
KETO RAISES CHOLESTEROL AND INCREASE THE CHANCES OF HEART DISEASE
This myth claims that the high fat diet and the amounts of saturated fat consumed on keto are responsible for elevated cholesterol levels and heart problems.
Here’s why that’s wrong: Cholesterol isn’t bad and the cholesterol we eat has very little impact on our body’s cholesterol levels (5). Heart disease comes from too many LDL cholesterol particles in the blood stream (6). These particles don’t come from the cholesterol in saturated fats, they come from triglycerides. So, what foods do you need to avoid in order to lower triglycerides: starchy veggies, sugary foods and drinks, simple carbs, beans, alcohol, pastas & cereals, and syrups. Also beware of oils and butters that use trans fats and overly processed meats like low quality bacon, sausage and ham.
KETO CAUSES SEVERE DEHYDRATION AND ELECTROLYTE DEFICIENCY
The myth here is that being on keto will dehydrate you and rob you of key electrolytes to the point of death.
Here’s why that’s wrong: Yes, keto is a diuretic and you will need to urinate more often since it has the effect of flushing your system, taking electrolytes with it (7). The simple solution is to drink enough water and get enough salt, magnesium, and potassium. Eating the right keto foods will insure you get the replacement electrolytes you need and drinking the recommended 2.7 - 3.7 liters of water a day will keep you more than hydrated. This myth is a strange one since it’s like saying, “starting your car will lead to running out of gas and getting stranded on the side of the road.” That’s true if you don’t refuel your car. Drink enough water, consume your electrolytes and dismiss this myth.
KETO’S HIGH FAT INTAKE CAUSES GALLSTONES
The myth here states that eating a diet high in animal fat leads to the development of stones in the gallbladder.
Here’s why that’s wrong: The gallbladder exists to assist your liver in breaking down fats for digestion and absorption. The gallbladder produces bile that is fantastic at separating fat into its usable parts. Fats are the gallbladder’s reason for being (8). But it’s become a popular myth that keto creates stones in the gallbladder, leading to what many call the worst pain of their lives (including giving birth). But the stones aren’t caused by keto, they existed in the gallbladder prior to keto as they are the byproduct of a high sugar, high starch diet (9). The reason keto is blamed is that with keto you eat more fat, giving the gallbladder more to do, which causes upset with the stones that have been sitting in there since they were created by the high sugar/starch diet. Fats give the gallbladder something to do and keep it active. Eating fat is what helps your gallbladder avoid the creation of stones by keeping it pumping and giving it purpose (10, 11).
THOSE DOCTOR SHOWS ON T.V. SAY KETO IS UNTESTED AND THEREFORE UNSAFE
The myth here is more about talk-show docs speaking badly about keto because they don’t understand it. As medical professionals, they don’t recommend keto.
Here’s why they’re wrong: The talk show doctors are legitimate doctors: surgeons, osteopaths, podiatrists… real doctors. But, few of them are nutrition doctors and it’s easier for them to “not recommend” a diet they don’t understand than to educate people on something they don’t have any expertise in.
We as a society need to remember that these talk show docs are personalities, they are entertainers and their entertainment agenda is set by the network they’re on and by the sponsors willing to pay their salaries. Many of these entertainment doctors have been called out on their practices of hocking “miracle drugs” and “magic pills” (12, 13) Yes, those are quotation marks because these are actual quotes used by Dr. Oz, who incidentally told his viewers not to try keto after experimenting with it himself for only 24 hours. Unable to monetize the keto diet, he trashed it in favor of the magic-pill-of-the-week only to do a 180 on keto after he found out there was money in promoting it. And lets’ not forget Dr. Oz’s hearing in front of a senate sub-committee for unfounded and unscientific claims and the petition to have him removed from his seat at Columbia’s school of medicine for his unscientific approach to medicine and his rash claims of miracle drugs sponsored by the highest bidder. Both of these tight spots he got out of by claiming to be an entertainer while on t.v. and not acting as a doctor dispensing real health advice.
The point here being, do your own research. Don’t rely on others to tell you what to think. As a matter of fact, you should question everything this article claims and look these issues up on your own. Then, because you are different than every other person on the planet, experiment with what works for you until you find the success you’re looking for.
1. Berg, J. M., Tymoczko, J. L., & Stryer, L. (2002). Glucose can be synthesized from noncarbohydrate precursors. Biochemistry. 5th Edition. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22591/.
2. Corleone, J. (2017, October 3). Vitamins & minerals that meats give us. Retrieved August 30, 2018, from https://www.livestrong.com/article/388351-vitamins-minerals-that-meats-give-us/.
3. Rauch, J. T., Silva, J. E., Lowery, R. P., McCleary, S. A., Shields, K. A., Ormes, J. A., … Wilson, J. M. (2014). The effects of ketogenic dieting on skeletal muscle and fat mass. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(1), P40. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-11-S1-P40.
4. Westphal, S. A. (1996). The occurrence of diabetic ketoacidosis in non-insulin-dependent diabetes and newly diagnosed diabetic adults. The American Journal of Medicine, 101(1), 19–24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8686710.
5. Cleveland Clinic. (2015, February 19). Why you should no longer worry about cholesterol in food. Retrieved August 30, 2018, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-you-should-no-longer-worry-about-cholesterol-in-food/.
6. Packard, C., Caslake, M., & Shepherd, J. (2000). The role of small, dense low density lipoprotein (Ldl): a new look. International Journal of Cardiology, 74, S17–S22. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0167-5273(99)00107-2.
7. Last, A. R., & Wilson, S. F. (2006). Low-carbohydrate diets. American Family Physician, 73(11), 1942–1948. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16770923.
8. Informed Health Online. (2016). How does the gallbladder work? PubMed Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072570/.
9. Njeze, G. E. (2013). Gallstones. Nigerian Journal of Surgery : Official Publication of the Nigerian Surgical Research Society, 19(2), 49–55. https://doi.org/10.4103/1117-6806.119236.
10. NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2017). Eating, diet, & nutrition for gallstones. Retrieved August 31, 2018, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gallstones/eating-diet-nutrition.
11. Stokes, C. S., Gluud, L. L., Casper, M., & Lammert, F. (2014). Ursodeoxycholic acid and diets higher in fat prevent gallbladder stones during weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 12(7), 1090–1100.e2. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2013.11.031.
12. Korownyk, C., Kolber, M. R., McCormack, J., Lam, V., Overbo, K., Cotton, C., … Allan, G. M. (2014). Televised medical talk shows—what they recommend and the evidence to support their recommendations: a prospective observational study. BMJ, 349, g7346. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7346.
13. Gholipour, B. (2014, June 18). Dr. Oz’s “miracle” diet pills: 5 controversial supplements. Retrieved August 31, 2018, from https://www.livescience.com/46397-science-of-dr-oz-miracle-diet-pills.html.