The ketogenic diet might be winning every popularity contest, but not everyone thinks it’s all it’s cracked up to be. (Jillian Michaels, for one, is not a fan.)
Still, the diet has plenty going for it: It requires you to fill the majority of your plate with high-fat foods (focusing on the good kinds of fat). And, in many cases, it leads to major weight loss. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the keto food pyramid gives delicious foods like bacon and butter a place toward the bottom-aka large quantities. (Related: The Keto Meal Plan for Beginners)
On the other hand, there are also significant health risks involved. Stomach pain and diarrhea, decreased muscle mass, and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes have all been linked to this way of eating. Dieters often experience keto flu symptoms for their first few weeks on the diet as their body adapts. And recent research published in The Lancet suggests that eating extremely low carb could negatively impact your health in the long term. Researchers found that people who ate low-carb had a higher mortality than people who ate a moderate amount of carbs. (Related: The Healthy Woman’s Guide to Eating Carbs That Doesn’t Involve Cutting Them)
Researchers looked at reports from 15,000 U.S. adults who tracked their diets, as well as data from seven previous studies. They found a U-shaped association between the number of carbs they ate and mortality, meaning the people who ate really high carb or really low carb had the most deaths. Eating 50 to 55 percent of total calories from carbs was the sweet spot with the lowest mortality. ~Balance.~ The study results also suggested that a plant-based low-carb diet beats diets that include a lot of animal protein like keto. Subjects who cut carbs and ate more animal products had a higher mortality rate than people who ate more plant-based, including non-keto foods like peanut butter and whole-grain bread in their diets.
Even given the popularity of the keto diet and other low-carb nutrition plans, the results make total nutrition sense. Carbs help your body function properly and help keep your energy levels up. And in general, nutrition experts tend to favor plant-heavy diets that are unrestrictive. If you decide to go on the keto diet, you can take measures to incorporate more plants. (Start with these keto-friendly vegetarian recipes.) But this study suggests that health-wise, eating a moderate amount of carbs is your best bet. Gone keto and want to wean yourself off? Find out how to safely and effectively come off the keto diet.