Diet Slam of the Week: Can Going Ketogenic Magically Make You Skinny and Cancer-Free?

Want to lose weight, get happier and fight cancer? The answer is here, and its really charming, roll-off-your-tongue name? The ketogenic diet.

This low-carb, high-protein nutrition plan seeks to send your body into a state of fat-burning "ketosis." And this bodily process sounds nothing short of magical in stories like this newly trending piece: "Low carb ketogenic diet combats depression & bipolar disorder, aids weight loss." (Wow, does it make you richer and better in bed, too?) Or this: "Ketogenic Diet May be Key to Cancer Recovery." Or this: "10 Proven Health Benefits of Low-Carb and Ketogenic Diets."

Claims have been made about the diet helping to combat bipolar disorder, epilepsy, cancer and general moodiness...all while abetting in significant weight loss.

It's the magic bullet to all of life's problems! Even better than the cookie diet! Or is it? Let's dig in to the facts.

Will the Diet Cure Disease?
There is indeed some evidence that a ketogenic diet can help with bipolar symptoms. But the most significant, reputable research on this centered on just two (as in: one, two) case studies where a link was found—not exactly a robust consensus.

The fact that the diet can aid in treating bipolar disorder implies it could also help with moods in general. But this too is a pretty tenuous connection. The abstract summary of the bipolar research summed up the case studies like this:

They also support the hypothesis that acidic plasma may stabilize mood, perhaps by reducing intracellular sodium and calcium.

So to be clear: it "may" "perhaps" help stabilize moods—a far cry from claims that it "combats depression."

As for epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, the diet has been proven to help mostly children with the disease, and only those with some specific conditions.

Finally, the cancer link has been pretty much singlehandedly pushed by one doctor, Dr. Mercola. There is no definitive research to back him up, and other doctors have questioned Mercola's conveniently clickable claims.

Will the Diet Make You Skinny?
As for the weight-loss stuff, the diet is quite limiting: it demands, for instance, that carbs be cut down to less than 20 grams a day, which means even two slices of whole wheat bread will push you over the edge. In its assessment of the diet, the Epilepsy Foundation notes that while the diet could work for some, it "is usually not recommended for adults, mostly because the restricted food choices make it hard to follow."

So basically, while this isn't the worst diet out there by any stretch of the imagination, it also won't cure your every ill. Sorry, folks, but nothing will. (Except maybe this.)

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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