A Dr. Snee Special Report: The Keto Diet

T-shirt Idea: “Nutritionists take it by the pound!”
T-shirt Idea: “Nutritionists take it by the pound!”

As an online doctor,* I get a lot of questions about diet, especially this time of year when everyone’s trying to lose weight in time for wearing wedding formal wear and swimsuits. Which diet works best, which one’s healthiest for you, which one requires the least math, which one lets me eat the same s**t that made me fat in the first place, etc.

So, rather than answer every single letter, I’m going to devote the next several Dr. Snee columns to reviewing fad diets. Together, we (but mostly I) will explore a trendy diet:

  • What it claims to do.
  • What it really does.
  • How you’re probably being mislead with — what we call in the medial community — bullshit.

This week’s fancy diet is the Keto Diet.

Before we begin, let me just say outright that you can pretty much lose weight on any diet, so long as you have either consumed fewer calories than required for daily sustenance or burned enough calories to meet that threshold through exercise. Case in point: the guy who lost 27 pounds by eating nothing but junk food just by controlling how much he ate.

Not pictured: health
Not pictured: health

The real question is whether your diet is just a means to lose weight or if you’re changing your eating habits to become healthier. And believe it or not, those two criteria can be different goals. Yes, healthier people generally aren’t overweight, but not being overweight doesn’t mean you’re healthy.

So, if your goal is to lose weight, then congratulations: chances are that, if you follow your trendy diet and somehow reduced your caloric intake, then your trendy diet worked. But if you think your trendy diet also makes you healthier than a boring old diet from Health class? Then it’s time to evaluate what you’re really eating, in today’s case, as part of a balanced keto diet.

What is the Keto Diet?

Technically, it is nutrition, in that it provides some of the necessary food material to support life.
Technically, it is nutrition, in that it provides some of the necessary food material to support life.

The ketogenic or, when there aren’t enough carbs in your system to power through the whole word, keto diet is an actual medical diet … that manages epileptic seizures.

Basically, you eat a high fat, adequate protein and low carb diet, which causes the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates. Normally, you need carbs to produce glucose, which is what the brain uses for energy. The lack of carbs on this diet forces your liver to work with what it’s given, producing fatty acids and ketone bodies (the namesake of the diet) to fuel the brain instead. And when you have enough ketone bodies in your blood, you’ve achieved ketosis, which is a state where science demonstrates you will have fewer seizures.

Also, one of the side effects just happens to be weight loss.

Why the keto diet is bullshit

Don’t kid yourself. You’re this guy.
Don’t kid yourself. You’re this guy.

It’s the Atkins diet, wrapped in low-carb science-y justification. Anyone who says otherwise is just embarrassed to admit they’re on Atkins, and it isn’t 2002.

That’s not to say it doesn’t work. The Atkins diet works, just as almost any other diet works, too, when it comes to weight loss. But, since the weight loss is a side effect of ketosis, then it’s probably not good for you.

You see, scientists discovered the keto diet in the 1920s while trying to figure out why fasting seemed to prevent or reduce seizures in epileptics. Once medications were invented, they stopped using the diet because it caused retarded growth, bone fractures and kidney stones in kids — the ones most likely to be on the diet in the first place. Oh, and they have a 60 percent higher concentration of lipids in their blood and 30 percent higher cholesterol. In other words, it turns kids into Season 8 Dan from Roseanne.

It’s the most difficult job in the world … other than spending a lifetime learning medicine so as not to kill people.
It’s the most difficult job in the world … other than spending a lifetime learning medicine so as not to kill people.

The diet only came back because, later in 1994, anticonvulsant drugs weren’t working on a Hollywood producer’s kid. He discovered a reference to keto in a medical guide for parents, and found the only hospital in America still using it: Johns Hopkins. The diet worked, and the whole affair became a Meryl Streep movie called … First Do No Harm because, if there’s anything Lifetime Movie of the Week viewers love, it’s to be proven smarter than doctors just by being moms.

While most of those side effects don’t affect adults who are done growing, there’s still the factor of higher blood lipids and cholesterol, along with constipation and — get ready to cross your legs — kidney stones. That’s right: you’re losing weight despite the calcifications amassing in your urinary tract, getting ready to be birthed into the world through a hole that’s about one-third of an inch wide. And hardened poop.

Verdict

It’s a hard diet to maintain even for epileptics because people keep sticking high carb pencils in their mouths every seizure. (Seriously, though, don’t do that.)
It’s a hard diet to maintain even for epileptics because people keep sticking high carb pencils in their mouths every seizure. (Seriously, though, don’t do that.)

Unlike other low carb diets, the keto diet is pretty difficult to maintain. The daily carb counts are so low that it requires massive substitution with cheese- and meat-based products. And those just contribute more to the negative side effects. (Along with some pretty ripe body odor and farts so dense that they wear hats at the dinner table.)

In fact, the actual diet is so bad for you that, when done properly and not off of some web site with questionable before and after pictures, it requires the assistance of a dietician, a neurologist and a registered nurse to make sure it works properly and doesn’t kill you.

Again, the keto diet works when it comes to weight loss. But, Jesus, man: at what cost? Even the people who actually need to be on a ketogenic diet are only doing it because they don’t have any working alternatives. There are other diets. Maybe try any of those.


*Rick Snee is not, in any way, a licensed medical professional or an actor that plays one on television. His only qualifications are high school and college biology (101 and 102), reading Men’s Health (2001-2003), and a systematic exposure to almost all health hazards (1981-present), but no medical training whatsoever. He’s just really opinionated, which is good enough for blogging. To submit yer own questions to Dr. Snee, Guynecologist, post comments below or email the good doctor.

A Dr. Snee Special Report: The Paleo Diet

Unlike those so-called “nutritionists,” I’m not going to just hand you a bowl of dick-and-ball-shaped fruits and call it a day.
Unlike those so-called “nutritionists,” I’m not going to just hand you a bowl of dick-and-ball-shaped fruits and call it a day.

As an online doctor,* I get a lot of questions about diet, especially this time of year when everyone’s trying to lose weight in time for wearing wedding formal wear and swimsuits. Which diet works best, which one’s healthiest for you, which one requires the least math, which one lets me eat the same shit that made me fat in the first place, etc.

So, rather than answer every single letter, I’m going to devote the next several Dr. Snee columns to reviewing fad diets. Together, we (but mostly I) will explore a trendy diet:

  • What it claims to do.
  • What it really does.
  • How you’re probably being mislead with — what we call in the medial community — bullshit.

This week’s fancy diet is the Paleo Diet.

Before we begin, let me just say outright that you can pretty much lose weight on any diet, so long as you have either consumed fewer calories than required for daily sustenance or burned enough calories to meet that threshold through exercise. Case in point: the guy who lost 27 pounds by eating nothing but junk food just by controlling how much he ate.

Not pictured: health
Not pictured: health

The real question is whether your diet is just a means to lose weight or if you’re changing your eating habits to become healthier. And believe it or not, those two criteria can be different goals. Yes, healthier people generally aren’t overweight, but not being overweight doesn’t mean you’re healthy.

So, if your goal is to lose weight, then congratulations: chances are that, if you follow your trendy diet and somehow reduced your caloric intake, then your trendy diet worked. But if you think your trendy diet also makes you healthier than a boring old Health-class diet? Then it’s time to evaluate what you’re really eating, in today’s case, as part of a balanced Paleo diet.

What is the Paleo Diet?

“Did you read my WOD status on every single social media app that hasn’t flagged me for spam?!”
“Did you read my WOD status on every single social media app that hasn’t flagged me for spam?!”

If you know somebody training for a Tough Mudder, then you’ve probably endured countless lectures about how everything we eat and do is wrong based on what humans ate and did 10,000 years ago.

Short for “paleolithic” (you’ll find that most diet names are shortened, probably because the advocate’s blood pressure is too low to say whole words), this diet focuses on eating and exercising as our hunter-gatherer ancestors did. That means you can’t eat anything that’s been processed in an agrarian sense or even grain-fed animals. Also, you have to work out like everything in existence is trying to kill you from all angles.

The Paleo diet is kind of a diet family, in that — like vegetarianism — there are many variations on it depending on which other diet trends you happen to believe in. So, there are high- and low-carb Paleo diets where, in the high-carb version, you can eat some of root vegetables like potatoes. There are also those who prescribe to a raw version where even changing a food’s chemistry with cooking is considered too new for your ancient mammalian digestive system.

Of all the diets, this one is probably the most accessible, provided you can find stores that stock meat from grass-fed livestock. But, it can’t hurt to only eat all natural foods, right?

Why the Paleo Diet is Bullshit

As soon as a diet bases its health claims on cave art and museum mannequins, you know you’re diving into the shallow end of nutrition.

1. The idea that hunter-gatherers had this long healthy life-thing figured out is pretty ridiculous when you consider that the average life span was 33 years old. Even in modern hunter-gatherer societies, you can make it to 54 … so long as you survive to 15 first. You know what we say at people’s funerals when they die at 54 of natural causes? “Well, at least they outlived John Candy by 10 years.”

The other difference is that we all miss John Candy.
The other difference is that we all miss John Candy.

2. Early hominids did get cancer. So did dinosaurs, and they didn’t even have fire to inhale smoke from.

Technically, eating shaved vag isn’t Paleo.
Technically, eating shaved vag isn’t Paleo.

3. As for deciding what is original Human Chow and what isn’t, choosing the Paleolithic era as the cutoff, while understandable, is still arbitrary. Considering that we aren’t the same animals we were 10,000 years ago (and neither are the plants and animals that we eat), why not go back to an earlier ancestor? Why not the mostly-plant based diet of our pre-hunting ancestors? Probably because being a gatherer-gatherer isn’t as sexy as wearing animal skins and running obstacle courses.

4a. We have no evidence that there weren’t fat cavepeople, anyway. While the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum has many great and educational exhibits, focusing on the models is probably the only way to walk through it without learning anything useful. Besides, who did we get our fat genes from?

Even if they were skinny, some of them definitely had thunder thighs.
Even if they were skinny, some of them definitely had thunder thighs.

4b. As for cave paintings, you know how we hate it when magazines airbrush muffin tops off of our favorite actresses and models? That’s not a new trend.

The Greeks loved the idealized human form so much that they even gave their male models smaller baby dicks because those was more aesthetically pleasing than old man veiny cocks with bristly pubes. (And the classically-obsessed Renaissance artists brought it back.)

If anything, the idea of not editorializing the human form in art is a relatively new idea that, when practiced, has hardly won any fans because it turns out we’re not that into ourselves. It’s kind of the basis to all cosmetics and self-improvement.

So, for a diet that’s supposed to be rooted in science and human history, it’s mostly the kind of science and history you hear when your drunk racist uncle starts working out in his garage again.

The other problem is that the Paleo diet is very high in meat (65 percent) and low on everything else (35 percent). So, if you fall off the workout wagon, you will die of congestive heart failure by, oh, 54 years old. But, at least you’re not eating Twinkies or hamburgers.

Or, the Paleo diet in a nutshell. Provided the nutshell isn’t a that of a peanut.
Or, the Paleo diet in a nutshell. Provided the nutshell isn’t a that of a peanut.

Oh, and did I mention that you’re not supposed to drink alcohol? I guess could have skipped all of that previous analysis, because that alone makes this whole lifestyle bullshit.

Verdict

This guy may be an asshole, but he’s closer to being a hunter-gatherer than you will ever be. And he doesn’t even do burpees.
This guy may be an asshole, but he’s closer to being a hunter-gatherer than you will ever be. And he doesn’t even do burpees.

The Paleo Diet is a new idea masquerading as an old idea. It’s part and parcel of the latest white-people-getting-back-to-their-roots fitness craze along with running barefoot, eating only organically-grown food and pretending that breeding plants isn’t genetic modification.

As a weight loss plan, this diet is probably the most likely to keep you fat because its entire focus is on what you eat, not how much. And while certain foods are healthier than others, believing that one of them will make you skinny is like believing in magic. Hey, just like our ancient, inbred, slave-keeping ancestors!

But, health-wise? Because it focuses on eating natural foods, it’s probably the most nutritious of all the latest dietary fads. So, while the Crossfit program it comes with is a cult, it’s a cult full of toned sexy people with stupid ideas about evolution. And that never goes poorly, right?


*Rick Snee is not, in any way, a licensed medical professional or an actor that plays one on television. His only qualifications are high school and college biology (101 and 102), reading Men’s Health (2001-2003), and a systematic exposure to almost all health hazards (1981-present), but no medical training whatsoever. He’s just really opinionated, which is good enough for blogging. To submit yer own questions to Dr. Snee, Guynecologist, post comments below or email the good doctor.