What’s Wrong in “The keto diet, explained” on Vox

What She Says

Julia Belluz, Senior health correspondent and evidence enthusiast, wrote an article on Vox with the title “The keto diet, explained” except that nothing she wrote really explains anything right about the keto diet.

While I am not planning to write a full explanation here about the ketogenic diet (I am working on a book about that), I will set a few points she suggests straight.

  • She says: ketosis is the same as the Atkins diet.
    • The ketogenic diet is not the same as the Atkins diet. It never was and never will be. That is why one is called the Atkins Diet and the other the Ketogenic Diet. The biggest difference is in the amount of protein consumed. Atkins: lot; Ketogenic: minimal.
  • She says the ketogenic diet is a Silicon Valley obsession
    • The ketogenic diet is not a Silicon Valley obsession. This is one advancement for the better that Silicon Valley is a late-comer to and has absolutely nothing to do with!
  • She says the ketogenic diet has been used for epilepsy for over a century
    • The ketogenic diet has been used for epilepsy for since 400 BC , not a century.
    • George F. Cahill, Jr. spent years evaluating the ketogenic diet, so if you want to really learn about it, read some of his work here and here
    • There is a graph in Cahill’s paper that shows that all babies are in ketosis at birth and remain so all through nursing, and then come in and out (metabolic flexibility) all through age 10, when they come and go in and out of ketosis dependent upon when and what they eat. Here is that graph, which is found in the second paper above titled “Fuel Metabolism in Starvation” that I copy-paste here for educational purposes:
Ketosis from birth to adult

Ketosis from birth to adult

So as you can see, ketosis is nothing new–it has been with us through all of human history. It may be new to Ms. Belluz, but it certainly is not new to humanity. In fact, a nursing mother’s milk at the start is extremely ketogenic, high fat low carbs and low protein. As the baby develops and the mother’s milk matures, it reaches 55.44% fat, 38.78% carbs, and 5.79% protein–these are percentages from calorie from the USDA nutritional table here. If that baby were to eat ~1000 Calories a day, she would consume ~62 gr fat, 14.5 gr protein and ~97 gr carbs. This person, on mom’s latest mature milk is on a LCHF (Low Carbs High Fat) diet!

    • She says that people in ketosis use supplements and butter in their coffee.
      • True ketosis doesn’t need ketone supplements or butter in coffee. Real ketosis is a metabolic change from the glucose-burning metabolism to a fat-burning one. Those who take supplements or eat coconut or MCT oils are capable to show ketone bodies in their urine or blood but by no means are they in ketosis. Putting butter into coffee is by no means necessary unless someone likes the taste. The goal is not to eat weird things but to get the body to burn its own fat. While at the start people need to eat more fat in order to start the fire so to speak, once they are in ketosis and solidly fat adapted, not eating fat at all will not take them out of ketosis–this is what intermittent fasting is all about. Nothing is eaten and body fat is used for energy.
    • She says people eat a slice or two of bread equivalent per day in carbs
      • In reality, people eat as little as zero to as much as 50 grams of carbs–it is very specific to the person. And 2 slices of bread can be more like 80+ carb grams… so no.. not keto at all
    • She says that people burn extra calories AND fat
      • Actually people never burn calories. They can only burn macornutrients, of which we have 3: carbs, fat, and protein. In keto the metabolic process is fat-burning but the body burns carbs as well as protein. The body doesn’t burn calories. We don’t eat calories. Calorie is a unit of measure and not food.
    • She says that the keto diets don’t help people lose extra weight on the long run
      • She obviously has not been part of any organization that would prescribe the ketogenic diet for weight loss, nor has she met those who have lost weight years ago and are still thin (and are still on the ketogenic diet because it is a great diet). She brings up one extremely faulty research paper as her proof that such is the case. Nope. That is not the case at all.
    • At the end she has a table of what a low-carb diet looks like versus baseline (SAD–Standard American Diet)
      Nutrition Comparison by Javier Zarracina/Vox

      Nutrition Comparison by Javier Zarracina/Vox

      • The biggest mistake with the table is that people on the ketogenic diet don’t snack and usually only eat once or at most twice a day. In addition, very few people on keto eat processed foods like Kielbasa

Conclusion

I have not found a single element of correct information in her article. If you wish to start the ketogenic diet for whatever reason, the one article to not consult for sure is the one on Vox. Seek medical support for any nutritional changes! If you take medicines, you may not be able to start the ketogenic diet!

Feel free to contact me for more information.

Comments are welcomed and moderated for appropriate content.

Angela

About Angela A Stanton, Ph.D.

Angela A Stanton, PhD, is a Neuroeconomist focusing on chronic pain--migraine in particular--physiology, electrolyte homeostasis, nutrition, and genetics. She lives in Southern California. Her current research is focused on migraine cause, prevention and treatment without the use of medicine. As a forever migraineur from childhood, her discovery was helped by experimenting on herself. She found the cause of migraine to be at the ionic level, associated with disruption of the electrolyte homeostasis, resulting from genetic variations of all voltage dependent channels, gates, and pumps that modulate electrolyte mineral density and voltage in the brain. In addition, insulin and glucose transporters, and several other variants, such as MTHFR variants of B vitamin methylation process and many others that are different in the case of a migraineur from the general population. Migraineurs are glucose sensitive (carbohydrate intolerant) and should avoid eating carbs as much as possible. She is working on her hypothesis that migraine is a metabolic disease. As a result of the success of the first edition of her book and her helping over 4000 migraineurs successfully prevent their migraines world wide, all ages and both genders, and all types of migraines, she published the 2nd (extended) edition of her migraine book "Fighting The Migraine Epidemic: Complete Guide: How To Treat & Prevent Migraines Without Medications". The 2nd edition is the “holy grail” of migraine cause, development, and prevention, incorporating all there is to know. It includes a long section with for medical and research professionals. The book is full of academic citations (over 800) to authenticate the statements she makes to be followed up by those interested and to spark further research interest. It is a "Complete Guide", published on September 29, 2017. Dr. Stanton received her BSc at UCLA in Mathematics, MBA at UCR, MS in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, PhD in NeuroEconomics at Claremont Graduate University, fMRI certification at Harvard University Medical School at the Martinos Center for Neuroimaging for experimenting with neurotransmitters on human volunteers, certification in LCHF/ketogenic diet from NN (Nutrition Network), currently working on her certification in physiology, and functional medicine. Dr. Stanton is an avid sports fan, currently power weight lifting and kickboxing. For relaxation (yeah.. about a half minute each day), she paints and photographs and loves to spend time with her family of husband of 44 years, 2 sons and their wives, and 2 granddaughters. Follow her on Twitter at: @MigraineBook, LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/angelaastantonphd/ and facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DrAngelaAStanton/
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