Keto, Science, and Fact: An Introduction for Jaclyn London

Dear Ms London

I would have loved to have commented on your article on the Good Housekeeping website, Ketogenic Diets Are B.S. for Weight Loss — Here’s Why, but I note with some disappointment that responses are not welcome there. You will understand my having opted for an external platform.

While it’s generally not likely that I would take the time to register my thoughts on an article such as this, your credulous screed is just such an odd juxtaposition of apparently good intent and factual void that it’s difficult not to try and reconcile the two.

From the writing style, I assumed I’d be addressing a junior intern, but, when scrolling back up to the top of the article to see who authored the piece, I find it even more anomalous that someone who proudly displays a train of acronyms after her name could possibly be so sloppy about basic fact-gathering.

I worry that such a display of ignorance will live forever on the internet, always associated with your name, and that perhaps a modest rational intervention could make even a tiny difference in righting your brand’s ship.

It would be best to tackle each misguided assertion, one by one:

“Keto could potentially hurt your health” – well, “could” and “potentially” are a bit redundant together, which suggests that someone was exercising quite a reach for that tagline. Crossing the road “could” “potentially” hurt my health. You “could” “potentially” be struck by lightning while typing your next article in your sleep, but you won’t find those possibilities in any headlines.

“…use fat for energy instead of the body’s preferred source, sugar” – I’m not sure how you define “preferred,” but, if you mean the way the body immediately sets out to burn ingested sugar and/or shunt it into your fat cells as fast as is naturally possible in order to remove this toxic substance from the blood stream, then yes, it is the fuel we prefer to burn first. If you mean that the body loves to live in a chronic state of inflammation, secreting a sinful amount of insulin around the clock to combat the biological emergency that is high blood glucose, resulting in the insulin resistance that’s a precursor to Type II diabetes, then I would suggest that this is hardly a “preferred” state of affairs.

(Goodness, we have only just finished Paragraph 1.)

“Fans of the low-calorie, high-fat diet…” – See, now this is where taking 8 seconds for a cursory Google search would have helped you so much more than that “MS, RD, CDN” you’ve got going on there. As someone with such an alphabet soup after your name, you should be aware that carbohydrate has 4 calories per gram, and, likewise, protein has 4 calories per gram, while fat packs a whopping 9 calories per gram (did someone say “preferred source of energy?”). Yes, in fact, not only is “low-calorie, high-fat” an oxymoron to compete with the best of morons, but the slightest attempt at any research would have brought to your self-assured attention that LCHF stands for “low-CARB, high-fat.”

(Alright, we’ve addressed Paragraph 2, and I feel we can get through this.)

“But when I first heard that the next weight-loss ‘trend’ was the ketogenic diet, I laughed out loud. ‘Absolutely not — no way! That’s IMPOSSIBLE!’ I was caught saying one year ago.” – Are you a millennial, or from another generation but just coincidentally happen to believe that things do not exist until you find out about them? The “trend” of which you speak was identified as successful well over a hundred years ago, long before its name joined mainstream parlance in the 1920s. While it is quite possible that you may laugh out loud, remember that the ketogenic diet existed before your existence made it possible for you to enjoy the comforting privilege of laughing out loud at things you don’t understand.

“That’s because my intro to this seemingly new plan was when I worked in a hospital, where … It was used as an absolute last resort for families who felt otherwise hopeless in the face of a neurological disease” – The thing about opting for something that works—when all else fails—is that it is your last resort by your choice. And, since it works, there is no other further last resort to resort to lastly. Sure, the pharmaceutical companies aren’t getting rich from your highly volatile intervention of eating natural whole foods, and not all the time, but your 58 first resorts were clearly ineffective, and now you’ve narrowed it down to what works. God forbid.

“…under strict medical supervision.” – Imagine having medical supervision in a hospital tending to the violently ill?

“…especially ultra low-calorie versions” – You mean the ultra low-calorie version of the “low-calorie, high-fat” diet? Wow, that’s like low-squared-calorie-squared. Do tell again how you wish to achieve ultra-low calorie intake by ingesting mainly high-calorie fat for months on end?

“But is it suitable for long-term, sustainable weight loss and improved health? The jury’s still out on that.” – Translation: Nobody knows. I have no idea either. Why am I writing this?

“Since our bodies preferentially use carbs for energy” – well, no. See above about having to burn it or store it as fat, STAT! It’s great when you’re running sprints and need that hot-burning kindling to fire up your 88 MPH train, but, when you’re sitting at your computer crafting Good Housekeeping click bait, your body would far rather be making use of our natural source of slow-burning, sustainable stored energy: body fat.

The obvious bits about the initial loss of unnecessary water retention and the nonsense about saturated fats being harmful aside, you end the paragraph with the strange example of someone living on “mainly coconut oil and butter for months on end.” This probably comes as some surprise to adherents of the diet, who collectively look up from their steaks and take another sip of their cabernet sauvignon, spinach and cauliflower perched precariously on the end of their forks, while they ponder what kind of Polynesian concentration camp would have such a limited variety of naturally occurring plant food, and yet import dairy products for their prisoners’ enjoyment. What dream world have you concocted in which people exist “mainly” on these two arbitrarily-selected staples? In such a world, do they also bathe mainly in marbles and commute to work mainly on unicycles, while the rain falls mainly on the plains?

“Contrary to what social media hashtags would have you believe” – Ah, I am starting to see where the discrepancy in world views lies. I feel that any good person of science worth their salt should probably not base their system of belief on social media hashtags.

“Science simply doesn’t support the notion…” – Indeed, science is not simple, especially nutrition science, which has its own incredible challenges. If you are looking for the simple support of any notion, you’d probably be better off becoming a mathematician or an engineer. However, if one is less fickle, and takes the time to look beyond the simple, there are reams of “evidence-backed” empirical data supporting the assertion that humans thrive on the diet they evolved to live on. Strange that.

You see, two million years ago on the African plains, fresh mangoes were in short supply. Bread was quite impossible to come by, even if you were on the Savannah Bakery waiting list. And rice? Forget about it. One might have come across occasional acrid and tart berries, but grass was not something we were well-equipped to digest. Do you know what was well-equipped to thrive on lots of grass? Yes, our food. Our food loved grass.

Now, social media hashtags might have convinced you that lean meats are our zen food, but actually, like other predators, we were smart enough to know then that the most nutritionally-dense cuts come from the organ meat. So much so that some tribes consider it taboo to handle a fresh liver using anything else but the tip of their spears. You see, all of that saturated fat-laden bounty of nature could sate you and provide you with a long-term, slow-release form of energy that did not require the biological catastrophe of exploding insulin levels to clean highly-inflammatory glucose from the blood stream, leaving you shaky and hungry from the internal civil war three hours later.

Once the fat is stored on your hips, it is available for use when you need it in times of scarcity, when you’ll be able to function normally while you set about finding more food. In fact, one might say body fat is the “preferred” source of energy for our physiology.

Have you ever seen a lion pounce on a gazelle, killing it, and then beginning the feast by tearing asunder anything but the belly? Granted, on the savannah, we are not lions… but we are also not grass eaters.

“…water and dietary fiber, it’s crucial to consider both the immediate side effects (constipation)…” – as one knows how difficult lions find it to visit the little cubs’ room.

“it’s difficult to say with certainty that other problems (like an increase in LDL “bad” cholesterol) won’t arise as well.” – Well, since you have no evidence to suggest that other problems *will* arise, I’m sure you will find that it is always difficult to say with certainty what won’t happen. I cannot say for certain that the moon will not turn into a giant liver paté at the stroke of midnight, but I’d hazard a guess that the probability is rather low. However, if I were writing a vapid missive to society in the hopes of sounding alarm bells for the purpose of generating clicks, I too would probably assert that it is difficult to say that all kinds of bad things won’t arise as well.

“Any diet that’s as extreme as keto…” – yes, I can see how meat, vegetables, and leafy greens are extremely extremist extremes. Especially in a deadly cocktail alongside nuts, berries, seeds, butter and water, with maybe a bit of black coffee or a merlot.

“…to the point where it’s often implemented under the supervision of an entire medical team” – How often is “often?” Are all those social media hashtags an indication of the explosion in popularity that justifies the use of the term “often?” Or, do you mean “a bunch of times that I can’t be bothered to quantify, but I know I can make it sound impressive with a word like ‘often?'” I mean, I often sing badly in the shower. You often write tedious, unresearched articles for Good Housekeeping. That doesn’t mean either is necessary or well-advised.

“Keto diets rely on an extreme technique…” – Yes, that extreme technique employed by our remote ancestors for millions upon millions of years – living in ketosis. How ridiculously extreme to stay away from the modern über-glycaemic cheap and nasty ultracarbs!

“…eliminates all joy associated with eating real food” – You mean real food like meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouts, cruciferous… Oh, wait, I think we already covered that. I’d be very curious to know what you define as “real” food, if not that which we are designed to thrive on.

“100% whole grains” – because, as a parting shot, it is important to consider how we were so famous at milling and baking artisinal breads 20 000 years ago.

2 thoughts on “Keto, Science, and Fact: An Introduction for Jaclyn London

  1. […] disingenuous,” and even straight-up “terrible.” One reader even devoted a whole blog post to dissecting the information […]

  2. […] disingenuous,” and even straight-up “terrible.” One reader even devoted a whole blog post to dissecting the information […]

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