Are the USDA’s Guidelines a Fad Diet?
Kaiser tells its customers to avoid elimination diets while eliminating the most important foods from its own recommendations
I I get my insurance through Kaiser Permanente, which sends me emails sometimes with health advice.
Usually, whatever they say, I do the opposite.
My diet is basically an inverted version of the USDA food pyramid*, so I was curious to learn what Kaiser thinks “you need to know about the keto diet.”
I don’t quite follow a ketogenic diet, but I think that eating high-fat is the easiest way to maintain a healthy weight and energy level — if you are eating the right fats, including saturated fats.
The linked article gives some interesting history about the discovery of ketogenic diets in the 1920s as a cure for epilepsy (which was later forgotten when drug companies figured out they could profit by selling people a pill instead).
Then it describes the diet:
“The basis of the keto diet is to drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake by cutting out foods like bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, and even beans and lentils. You’re then encouraged to eat foods that are naturally high in fat — like cheese, oils, eggs, coconut, nuts, and bacon. When the diet is followed, your body will enter into a state of ketosis, which is a metabolic state where our bodies use fat as a source of energy. This can result in weight loss.”
So far, so good.
Then the article goes astray by labelling keto a fad diet because it eliminates entire food groups, namely carbs — especially processed carbs:
“Cutting out an entire food group, promises of rapid weight loss, and potential negative side-effects are all part of the keto diet. They’re also warning signs of a fad diet.”
But judging the standard dietary advice by Kaiser’s own warning signs indicates that USDA’s guidelines might be promoting a fad diet. Granted, MyPlate.gov doesn’t recommend completely eliminating the small amount of fat you might get from lean meats, nuts, and eggs, and you could get enough fat from coconut or olive oil, but the general anti-fat bias will lead most people to eliminate necessary nutrients.
The article also cites two potential negative side effects of keto — kidney stones and decrease in calcium balance — but the associated footnote refers to a paper called “Effect of Low-Carbohydrate High-Protein Diets on Acid-Base Balance, Stone-Forming Propensity, and Calcium Metabolism.”
Keto is explicitly not a high-protein diet; it is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet. The fact that many people who attempt ketogenic diets overdo protein consumption is an argument for better education, not misinformation. There is even a growing literature on how to do plant-based keto.
The article ends with the usual boilerplate language about “talking to your doctor,” and consulting Kaiser’s other resources on healthy diet, which are based on the same advice that is slowly starving people of critical fat nutrients their bodies need.
I’m calling it — the USDA guidelines are a fad diet.
Get more post-paleo perspective here.
*I don’t want to be hyperbolic — the guidelines are correct in telling people to limit sugars and eat vegetables. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.