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Beyond Bacon and Butter: The Hidden Dangers of a High-Fat Keto Diet

Updated: Sep 17, 2023


As some of you may know, I recently attended the International Nutrition in Medicine Conference sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC.


Whew…what a mouthful, right?


Speaking of mouthfuls, the food at the conference was delicious. It was an entirely whole food, plant-based menu with options such as…


Baked Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins

Summer Squash Oatmeal Coffee Cake

Tofu Scramble with Lemon and Herbs

Mexican Sweet Potato and Pinto Bean Hash

Rainbow Crunch Salad with Tri Colored Quinoa and Chickpea Croutons

Steamed Vegetables with Spiced Lentils

Massaged Tuscan Kale with Granny Smith Apples, Avocado, Quinoa and Lemon

Stir Fry Vegetable Medley with Ancient Grains

Spiced Chickpea Patty with Mushroom Gravy

Tuscan Cannellini Bean Salad with Ripe Tomatoes, Red Onion, and Lemon

Vegan Lemon Bars

No-Bake Chocolate Coconut Bars

Triple Berry Sorbet

And let me tell you. Vegans can be vicious (especially when they're hungry). We had a “tasting menu” for lunch on day one of the conference. So, we all moved in a relatively peaceful queue up the escalator to the next floor up, walked into the tasting room with long tables arranged around the room with tapas (or small plates that give you just a little taste of the food) and all havoc broke loose. There were people everywhere. As soon as the smartly dressed wait staff brought trays of food to the serving tables, they were scooped up by the many people attending the conference. So, you had to be bold and step forward with fork in hand to have any chance of scoring a full meal. Or follow the wait staff when the trays were brought out like a lost little puppy. Both options did not appeal to me.


The whole scene reminded me of when you chum the waters for sharks or feed koi. So many people “swimming around” waiting to pounce on any morsel of food to be found. I was not that bold that day (since I am whole-heartedly an introvert, especially in crowds) and only managed to procure a small piece of flatbread, a scoop of yellow-rice and black beans, and 2 vegan cookies, which was still enough to keep me satisfied until the end of the conference.


I learned my lesson by day two. Two words. Full. Plate.


Anyway, I digress. So, the point of this conference was to discuss the purpose of nutrition in medicine and the evidence by the many clinical trials that have been conducted that show some interesting things. Yes, we have all heard we need to eat our vegetables, but the evidence I was presented with was very compelling for WHY we need to eat primarily (or rather exclusively) a whole-food plant-based diet. I will be posting more about this in the future.


Now, the Keto Diet has been the rage in recent years. I, myself, partook in the Keto frenzy and felt really great! I lost weight…like 50 pounds. I lost systemic inflammation - my joints felt great and I was no longer winded walking up a flight of stairs or going for a hike! I even used this site to promote keto as healthy and not as bad as your doctor might think. I discussed how keto affects your cholesterol levels and not to worry when the LDL goes up astronomically.


I would like to apologize. I was wrong.


As Maya Angelou says,


“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”


I recently learned that the evidence shows the Keto Diet helps you lose weight from sources other than your fat stores, like water and muscle. I mean, the premise is that you will teach your body to use up those fat stores, but the opposite seems to be true. You actually start to lose the lean muscle mass in your body.


You need that lean muscle mass to move, for your heart to pump, as well as run your metabolism. You have mitochondria in your cells, but when you build your lean muscle mass, the metabolism revs up and burns…you guessed it…FAT. Those on the keto diet long-term actually slow their metabolism and no longer burn fat. When you come off of keto, you gain weight back so much faster than you lost it. AND, if you do “dirty keto” (like we sometimes partook in), eating lots of bacon, eggs, and other saturated fats, you increase your risk for colon cancer and heart disease.


According to a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, people who ate red or processed meat four or more times a week had a 20% higher risk of colorectal cancer than those who indulged less than twice a week. Risk of colorectal cancer rose 19% for every daily 25-gram serving of processed meat, which is equivalent to a slice of ham. And for every 50-gram-a-day serving of red meat — equal to a thick piece of roast beef — risk of colorectal cancer rose by 18%.


I don’t know about you, but I want to lose the spare tire around my stomach. I want to lose the fat that may be surrounding my internal organs, like my liver and my heart. I don’t want to end up with colorectal cancer or other types of cancer. I don’t want my metabolism to slow down. I need it to speed up. So, while Keto might help you lose a lot of weight quickly, there is another way.


A WHOLE-FOOD, PLANT-BASED DIET


I know…some of you might be thinking: Really?!? Going VEGAN? I can’t give up meat. Besides, I heard that you can’t get enough protein from plants. Or I heard you can get complete proteins from plants. I heard that if you choose a plant-based diet you have to supplement with vitamin B12.


Yes. Eating a whole-food, plant-based diet has shown many health benefits:


  • Lower cancer rates

  • Reverse or reduce risk of diabetes

  • Improved heart health

  • Reduce pain and inflammation

  • Create a healthy gut microbiome

  • Maintain a healthy body weight


Myth: You can’t get enough protein from plants.


I’m just going to borrow this image from Dr. Christopher Gardner’s presentation Enough Protein: All the Ways of Getting There. This image shows the different amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and the amounts per type of food. If you see, even plants can give you enough of the essential amino acids needed by our bodies.


Dr. Gardner is a nutrition scientist at Stanford University, and according to his research (and others), our Standard American Diet or Westernized Diet gives us entirely too much protein compared to what our body requires. The rest cannot be stored as protein, so it is converted to carbohydrates, then stored as fat. So, other than a diet of just raspberries, if you eat a variety of plant-based foods, you can get enough protein in your diet.


Vitamin B12 - Yes, this one IS true. If you choose a whole-food plant-based eating pattern, I do recommend supplementing with B12. If you have read some of my other posts, I usually recommend the methylated form in case you are one of the many with a change in your genetics that does not allow your body to change cyanocobalamin to its active form. So, look for methylcobalamin.


Start your journey to a healthy, more balanced life.


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