Back in 2017, my husband lost 81 pounds by following a keto diet for nine months.
Keto worked. In fact, his story was one that was echoed by many back then: rapid weight loss with inflammatory markers and HbA1c measurements dropping from dangerously high to ideal in a matter of months.
Keto success stories are still there but less common nowadays. Did keto suddenly stop working? Did our bodies catch on and say, “Wait a minute, you can’t do that anymore.” In this blog post, we’ll examine what happened to keto and how you can cut through the distractions to recapture the advantage.
Keto No Longer Works – At-A-Glance
- Keto snacks have diluted keto’s effectiveness. These manipulated foods sell us on net carbs, causing us to take in too many calories and keeping us hooked on sweet foods.
- Cholesterol concerns have pushed people away from keto. LDL cholesterol can increase when you follow a keto diet. However, low-carb dieting has also been associated with 12 beneficial cardiovascular outcomes.
- Consuming carbs is unnecessary when your diet is sufficient in protein and fat. However, you do not need to go to the extreme by eliminating all carbohydrates from your diet.
- Diluting factors (i.e., keto snacks, scare tactics, extremes) caused doubts about keto, resulting in a collective mindset that lessened the perceived value of the diet.
Why Keto No Longer Works [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Previous success stories from keto diets.
- Three things that have diluted keto’s effectiveness.
- The importance of mindset.
What Happened to Keto?
There are two things that I’ve observed over the past six years that make it seem like keto no longer works. The first is the dilution of keto, from snacks to scare tactics to extremes; today’s keto is not the same as it once was. The second is a collective mindset shift, which I’ll explain.
The keto diet is not new. It originated back in the 1920s as a treatment for children with epilepsy (1).
Dr. Atkin’s work in the mid-1900s gave the concept of eating a high-fat/low-carb diet a new puff of life at the turn of this century that was then fully revived back around 2016 when the ketogenic diet found social media.
Suddenly, the Internet was flooded with success stories and before and after pictures of incredible weight loss results that came about due to nothing other than shopping for and eating different foods from the grocery store. No supplements were needed. No semaglutide “miracle drugs” were needed. In fact, the entry level was barely perceivable. You just put different foods in your grocery cart and you lost weight.
That still works. But we stopped working it.
Eating keto meant giving up things like cookies, cakes, and candies. There was no gray area. If you ate a cookie, you were kicked out of ketosis and no longer following a ketogenic diet.
Today – we eat keto cookies.
Diluting Factor #1: Keto Snacks
When net carbs became a thing, keto cookies and other keto snacks became a thing. And we were more than happy to go along with it because now – suddenly – we could eat cookies.
I like cookies. But I know they are not the secret to weight loss. I want them to be. But they’re not. They’re not today, and they won’t be tomorrow. Manipulating the ingredients so 15 total carbs magically turn into 3 net carbs offers you nothing more than an empty promise.
You will eat more calories than you need, some of those non-digestible carbs will be digested, and your cravings for more sweet treats will not quiet down.
Diluting Factor #2: Scare Tactics
Scare tactics make great headlines, and the word cholesterol can strike fear into the healthiest among us. My husband has a family history of heart disease, so I do not take the topic lightly. LDL cholesterol can increase when you follow a ketogenic diet, and as we all know, LDL carries with it the nickname “bad cholesterol.”
Dr. Paul Mason’s video raises the question: what is the evidence that high LDLs will kill you?
In his video, he points to this systematic review titled “Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and mortality in the elderly” (2).
Systematic reviews are not looking at one experimental study. Instead, they review multiple studies, looking for patterns. That makes them valuable because you now have a large population of study participants from which to draw conclusions. This review paper assessed more than 68,000 individuals and found that those with the highest LDL levels lived the longest.
Our understanding of the human body has grown dramatically over the past century. Multiple cardiovascular risk factors have been identified, from high HbA1c, triglycerides, and inflammatory markers to LDL particle size.
In fact, a paper published in 2022 shared 13 known cardiovascular disease risk factors. Low-carb dieting was shown to be beneficial for 12 of those cardiovascular outcomes, yet we continue to reduce heart health to one factor – LDLs (3).
I am not saying that LDL cholesterol is never part of the problem. It can be, especially if the particles become oxidized or you have too many of them. However, the idea of LDL cholesterol as a single causative factor needs more scrutiny.
There are companies with a vested interest in upholding this fear that high LDLs are the end-all-be-all of cardiovascular disease. I encourage you to learn more.
[Note: This post is sharing information only. Do not change your medication or treatment protocol based on this information. Talk with your doctor.]
Diluting Factor #3: Extremes
If fewer carbs are good, wouldn’t no carbs be better?
It may be surprising, but your body can run without eating carbohydrates. And this is not just conjecture. The NIH’s website shares a paper that states that “The lower limit of dietary carbohydrate compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed.” (4)
Even with this knowledge that consuming carbs is unnecessary, you do not need to eliminate all carbohydrates to follow a keto diet. Some people do. You don’t have to.
Yet, this idea that keto equals no carb may cause a friend to look at you with concern when you tell them you are starting a keto diet.
You can eat a daily salad and have a daily side dish of vegetables with a meal and maintain ketosis. If you want an easy list to refer to, see my blog post that offers a list of low-carb foods.
What these aspects of diluting keto – keto snacks, scare tactics, extremes – have done is they’ve introduced doubt. And when that gets in your head, results cannot happen.
In 2017, we were observing keto success everywhere. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, whatever was around back then was filled with before and after pictures.
Doubt is always present, but it was overridden by what you were observing with your own eyes. Those observations created motivational thoughts: “I think I can do this.” “Oh my gosh. This is different, but I like those foods.” “I can do this.”
As I said, doubt is always a thing. But back then, our focus was diverted away from doubt to success. What you focus on, you find.
Today, those diluting factors we talked about have allowed doubt to trickle back in.
“Those keto cookies are everywhere; they can’t be that bad.” “Or at least, they are a step in the right direction. Right?” “I’m going to try them.”
“I get that LDL cholesterol is not the end-all-be-all of health. But it is scary.”
“My friend is right. Life is not worth living if I can never eat carbs again!”
Our focus slowly shifted from keto works to keto doesn’t work. What you focus on, you find.
I don’t have all of the answers. I don’t know which diet is best for you, and I’m not telling you to go keto. My diet is not low enough in carbs to maintain ketosis throughout the week. However, I eat a low-carb diet and practice intermittent fasting, so my body will produce ketones when my glucose level is low and they are needed.
That is called being metabolically flexible, and it is a wonderful thing because my body efficiently shifts between running on carbs and running on fat. I am never without energy.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!
(1) Wheless, James W. “History of the ketogenic diet.” Epilepsia 49 (2008): 3-5.
(2) Ravnskov, Uffe, et al. “Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality in the elderly: a systematic review.” BMJ open 6.6 (2016): e010401.
(3) Diamond, David M., Benjamin T. Bikman, and Paul Mason. “Statin therapy is not warranted for a person with high LDL-cholesterol on a low-carbohydrate diet.” Current Opinion in Endocrinology & Diabetes and Obesity 29.5 (2022): 497-511.
(4) DiNicolantonio, James J., and Amy Berger. “Added sugars drive nutrient and energy deficit in obesity: a new paradigm.” Open Heart 3.2 (2016): e000469.