If you’ve spent any time looking into PCOS (or diets or nutrition fads, really), you’re seeing a lot about keto, lately. And frankly, it’s freaking me out.
I know, I know. Everyone who’s on keto is losing weight like crazy. It’s the new magic bullet. It’s “tricking your body.” It’s “teaching it how to use fat.”
Except it’s not that simple.
Back in college, I took Food Science and Nutrition. We had an entire unit about ketosis and its (potentially lethal) effects on the body, and every time someone posts about how AMAZING keto is for your body, I get a little twitchy. Yes, starving your body of glucose does force it to break down stored fat, and you’ll probably lose weight. But personally, I have several problems with the whole concept:
- Is this diet sustainable? This is my biggest reality check when I look at any diet. I don’t believe in losing weight on any plan that can’t be used for the rest of, well, forever, because what happens when I go off it? Won’t I just regain the weight when I go back to eating “normally?” So: do I eat this way forever? I have a hard time imagining that. But if so, does that seem healthy? Hmm. I think maybe not.
- Reports of muscle loss/inability to gain muscle on keto. This is a pretty big deal-breaker for me. Because increased muscle mass helps to increase metabolism (and it looks good), this puts me off, a bit. While I like the idea of being able to literally burn fat, not being able to build muscle and even potentially losing muscle is a bummer.
- The diet requires eating high quantities of fat every day, including high quantities of saturated fat (lard and beef tallow are recommended foods). Over time, more than 60% of keto dieters have raised lipid levels and more than 30% have raised cholesterol. Now take into account that most women with PCOS already have high lipids and cholesterol as a result of their hormone imbalance, and that just seems unwise. It’s a recipe for heart disease, which is the #1 killer of women in America. I don’t like it.
- Ketosis isn’t too big a problem people without insulin issues. Their bodies go through adaptations, get used to using ketones instead of glucose, feel sluggish and weird for a while, and then they’re fine. People with diabetes are a whole other story. Rather than just ketosis, they’re at risk for ketoacidosis. This means their bodies don’t process the ketones correctly, their blood can turn acidic, and they can go into a diabetic coma and potentially die. I see a fair number of people with diabetes and pre-diabetes doing keto, and I have to tell you, that freaks me right out. Insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes and means my cells process blood sugar almost as badly. I have no interest in taking chances with the potential for ketoacidosis. No thanks.
- Keto can lead to kidney stones. All I read implies that the stones come from hypercalciuria, linked with leaching of bone minerals into the blood stream. Yikes. But also, guess who has chronic kidney stones, already? They really are the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced, and the thought of losing bone matter distresses me. I want them as strong as they can be, when I’m 80. The whole scenario is just a no, for me.
I’ve been thinking about this a long time, and I know a lot of my PCOS friends are trying keto. If you’ve decided it’s for you, I offer all my genuine best wishes! I’m always pleased for the success of others. It’s just absolutely, definitely 100% not for me.
What do you think of keto? Does it make you as nervous as it makes me?