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Evils of the Keto Diet

Updated on April 7, 2019
Carolyn M Fields profile image

I have followed the Weight Watchers program for years, from exchanges up to the Wellness Wins program.


Why I Know So Much

My very first effort to lose weight was in Elementary School. Apparently I liked fried chicken and cookies just a little too much. I was put on skim milk, and told to “not eat so much.” And so began a lifetime of watching what I ate, and almost always having a “weight problem.”

Over the years (okay, decades), I’ve either been on or researched just about every diet plan that has ever been conceived. Yes, I’ve tried them all, including some of my own invention. I’ve counted calories, fasted for a day, had nothing but liquids, and so on and so forth.

Now that I’ve gained a little perspective and maturity, I’m an advocate of WW (Wellness Wins, or Weight Watchers). It teaches you how to eat, gently encourages you to be more active, and provides much needed emotional and psychological support. And weigh-ins are private. But before I landed here, I did my turn on a low-carb diet.

The Stillman Diet

Dr. Stillman introduced a low-carb, high protein diet back in the late 1960’s. It was also low fat as well, so it wasn’t completely like the Keto diet of today. The Stillman Diet included every kind of meat you might think of, plus eggs, non-fat cottage cheese, and a few condiments. You could also drink all the black coffee, tea, or diet soda that you wanted.

I remember eating cottage cheese with black coffee for breakfast, hotdogs with catsup and American cheese for lunch, and a big serving of hamburger for dinner. I snacked on boiled eggs. I also drank a freakish amount of diet soft drinks back then (I’ve since seen the error of that). The weight would fall off of my body, just about as fast as my energy level dropped.

The Atkins Diet

Stillman was the precursor to Atkins, which lives on to this day. Again, carbohydrates are the enemy. You concentrate on food selection, as opposed to calorie counting. They claim that you will have more energy on the Atkins diet, and a high metabolism. That’s different than the Stillman diet, which left me feeling sluggish after only one day. They also have an entire product line of pre-packaged foods, so it’s theoretically easy to follow. Lastly, there is a concept called “net carbs,” which frankly doesn’t sound that easy to me.

The Keto Diet

The Ketogenic or “Keto” diet is similar to Atkins, except that there are specific targets for carbs and protein. Carb intake allowance is 5 - 10% of your daily diet, and protein should be around 10 - 20% of your calories. The remaining 70 – 80% comes from fat. This builds up ketones in the bloodstream rather rapidly, which can lead to several undesirable side effects, including:

  • Headaches
  • Mental fatigue
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Nausea
  • Vitamins and mineral deficiencies
  • Increased kidney stone risk


What happens when you take keto a bit too far? Eat nothing but meat, low fat cheese, and tea for days? Most likely you will develop ketoacidosis, which is a serious (and even possibly life-threatening) condition. Ketones are produced by your liver, when your body oxidizes (breaks down) fat. Since that’s your primary source of fuel on the Keto diet, you’re going to have an abnormally high amount of ketones building up in your blood.

Your body normally uses carbs (specifically glucose) as fuel, but you’ve essentially cut those out of your diet. When you use fat for fuel, acidic ketones will build up. People on the keto diet check for these ketones, to make sure that they’ve begun breaking down fat to trigger weight loss. What they don’t tell you is that the state of ketoacidosis is actually quite dangerous. For people with diabetes, it can actually be fatal.

Let's Talk More About Health

With the Keto diet plan, you must increase your fat intake to roughly 75% of your total calories. This often means adding highly saturated animal fats and red meat, which are not generally thought of as “healthy” sources of nutrition.

Most dietary guidance will emphasize including a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Since the Keto diet severely restricts these items, it’s not a good plan for the long term.

Finally, if you have any sort of liver problems, kidney condition, heart disease, and/or diabetes, the Keto diet may be especially harsh. You’ll always see the phrase “seek your physician’s advice before starting a diet plan.” It’s doubly important for the Keto plan.

Bottom Line

If you follow the Keto diet to the letter, there is no denying that you will take off weight. This is especially true at the start of the diet, when your body sheds water as it adjusts to the extreme reduction in the number of carbohydrates you are eating. Unfortunately, when you reintroduce carbs into your diet, the water weight is likely to return. Of course, you could restrict your carb use for the rest of your life, but I doubt that’s anyone’s idea of a great diet plan.

Here is my advice: if you need to drop a “quick” five pounds to fit into that special dress or pair of pants for an upcoming event, then Keto can be your (temporary) friend. But just like house guests, three days is the limit. After that, it’s time to move on.

Are you interested in using the Keto Diet?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Carolyn Fields


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