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For the third consecutive year, the annual U.S. News and World Report ranked the exceeding popular keto diet as one of the worst possible diets to follow. The ranking is culled from medical journals and government data, plus input from a panel of health and nutrition experts; since at least 2018, this review process has placed keto at or just above the very bottom of the list. Yet people continue to follow this diet, shoveling heaps of protein and fats into their mouths and eating so few carbs it makes them physically ill.
The core notion within keto (short for ketogenic) is that it forces the body into “ketosis,” where it preferentially burns fat because there is no carbohydrate-derived fuel to use. (Never mind that your body can absolutely burn fat without being in this state of forced stress.) To achieve ketosis, the keto diet advises getting most of your calories from fat, eating moderate amounts of protein, and eating fewer carbs per day than are in an apple. Studies have shown that sort of diet to be helpful for children with epilepsy and people with diabetes, but in an otherwise healthy person, it’s routinely discouraged.As the old adage goes, third time’s the charm!!!!! Even though doctors and scientists have been hollering about this for years, it seems the idea that keto is Bad may finally be working its way into the grander ether. A recent CNN report (published on “National Keto Day,” a thing made up by Vitamin Shoppe) poses the obvious question: how has a diet so despised by health experts remained so popular? “Experts say it's because its legions of fans are focusing on the short-term benefits of fast weight loss, without factoring in possible long-term risks,” CNN reports. And in a recent keto explainer in the New York Times, Whitney Linsenmeyer, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, chalked the diet’s popularity up to America being in “a state of carbophobia;” additional experts warned against the long-term effects (like increased risk of cardiovascular disease) keto might have on the body.
Keto can seem like a fun, flirty diet compared to other, even more rigorous options: you can eat cheese, steaks, even hamburger patties. That’s fun! But eating fewer than 20 grams of carbs per day, as the diet advises, is unhealthy and unsustainable, as David Katz, founding director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, told CNN. (The average recommended range, for comparison, is between 225–325 grams of carbs per day.) Eating so few carbs even sends many new keto-ers into something called the “keto flu,” a sure sign your body is extremely pissed off at what you’re doing to it.VICE has routinely (rightfully) admonished keto for some time, and now it finally seems, with this third slap on the wrist, many others are catching on. Thank god, and god speed.Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.Follow Hannah Smothers on Twitter.