Dr. McDougall’s Health and Medical Center
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the position on ketosis from one of the most outspoken proponents of a vegan diet (as well as a vehement opponent of the Atkins and other low-carb diets), Dr. John McDougall. I interviewed Dr. McDougall on Episode 686 of The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show with Jimmy Moore podcast in 2013. Google it and listen in for one of the most entertaining examples of what dietary dogma looks like. According to his website, Dr. McDougall believes that carbohydrate is the “body’s primary fuel” and that the production of “acidic substances called ketones” will zap your appetite, resulting in a decrease in calorie consumption, nausea and fatigue, and lowered blood pressure. He says this is the same thing that happens to someone during starvation, which is why he describes ketosis as “the make-yourself-sick diet.”
During periods of starvation or fasting, the human brain can very easily switch over to using ketones as an alternative to glucose. As we age, we tend to use less glucose and switch over to alternative fuels in the brain. If we are on a high-carbohydrate diet, which suppresses ketone production, and have no other dietary source of ketones, we cannot expect that our brains will function as well. So many people have at least some degree of insulin resistance, and ketones could provide alternative fuel to cells that are not taking in glucose well, allowing for better cell function and ultimately healthier organs, including the brain.
– Dr. Mary Newport
American Diabetes Association (ADA)
As the leading advocacy group for diabetics in the United States, the ADA certainly has a thing or two to say about ketosis. They describe ketones as “a chemical produced when there is a shortage of insulin in the blood and the body breaks down body fat for energy.” That’s a true statement. But then they note that “high levels of ketones” can lead to “diabetic ketoacidosis and coma.” They leave out the most important factor: that high levels of ketones alone can’t result in ketoacidosis; it only occurs when very high blood sugar and very high levels of ketones happen simultaneously. And with no distinction about who exactly this would happen to (as we’ve already noted, mostly type 1 diabetics who have no insulin production), this kind of statement can only cause fear and panic about getting into a state of ketosis. In fact, in their definition of ketosis, the ADA describes it as “a ketone buildup in the body that may lead to diabetic ketoacidosis,” with warning signs of “nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain.”
Worse, the ADA’s recommended treatment for diabetes is to eat carbs and just cover up their effects with insulin. There’s nothing wrong with taking insulin if it’s truly needed, of course, but even diabetics will experience all the problems that come from eating carbs that everyone else does (with far worse effects than those experienced by nondiabetics). And the ADA makes no mention of the therapeutic use of ketogenic diets in controlling blood sugar and improving health—including for the millions of people with type 2 diabetes who stand to benefit from a ketogenic diet (we’ll tell you more about that in chapter 16). It’s all just gloom and doom.
Given that their audience is composed of the people most at risk for ketoacidosis, the ADA’s concern is understandable. But as long as their blood sugar stays low, diabetics have nothing to fear from ketosis—and since research shows that it can be hugely beneficial in controlling diabetes (again, more on that in chapter 16), they may actually have a lot to gain.
|Our studies suggest that the major protective effect of ketosis is a significant reduction in glucose metabolism. This is the opposite of diabetes.|
– Dr. Charles Mobbs
Just as all these highly regarded organizations—each considered a major authority on health—have formed a united front on cholesterol as the cause of heart disease, (as we shared in Cholesterol Clarity), so too have they ganged up on ketosis, describing it as something that is both undesirable and dangerous. These messages from doctors, dietitians, and know-it-all gurus are totally bogus. That’s why we decided to write this book: to present the arguments for ketosis that are nearly the exact opposite of what all these health groups are saying.
A ketogenic diet has been shown to produce certain therapeutic effects that have led many doctors and other health professionals to recognize it as even more beneficial than the most advanced medications on the market today. In the next chapter, we’ll learn more about medical practitioners whose patients are following low-carb, high-fat, ketogenic diets, with some rather stunning results.
Key Keto Clarity Concepts
- Mainstream health organizations often use hyperbolic rhetoric to describe ketosis.
- Most information we hear about ketosis is incorrect.
- Confusion about the difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis is a major issue.
- Major health authorities are united in their opposition to ketosis.