What Separates Keto from Other Low-Carb Diets?

By Liz McGehee

Atkins, paleo, ketosis – what do these diets have in common?  They’re all low carb of course.  But many people struggle to grasp the nuances of each diet.  The ketogenic diet, which aims to keep the body in a state of ketosis for as long as possible, is surpassing paleo as the most popular low-carb regimen.

Modern Atkins now mimics the ketogenic diet.  Carbs are replaced by fat while protein remains the same.  This causes the body to go into ketosis, the fat-burning state you enter when glucose isn’t readily available.  Keto is more appealing than other low-carb options for its rapid weight loss, blood sugar stability and other health benefits related to cognitive function.

According to a study from the Epilepsy Research Section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the keto diet has been in clinical use for over 80 years to treat epilepsy.  The study also states that it can provide symptomatic and disease-modifying activity in a broad range of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and may also be protective in traumatic brain injury and stroke.

However, keto remains somewhat controversial in the healthy living community as a long-term diet.  Some believe that eliminating carbs long-term can lower T3 thyroid hormone levels, increase cortisol, cause fatigue, inhibit muscle building, force the body to burn muscle and even cause permanent damage to vital organs.  Others point out that this diet simply isn’t sustainable over time, and maybe there is some truth to this. 

The reality is that everyone is different.  Those suffering with diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, seizures, obesity, inflammation, grain allergies and Alzheimer’s disease are among those most likely to benefit from long-term ketosis.  For those looking to lose weight and improve health in a hurry, this diet certainly helps, but you should consider whether or not it is sustainable; otherwise, weight regain is inevitable. 

There are several versions of the ketogenic diet to accommodate different needs:

  • Standard – 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein and five percent carbohydrates
  • Cyclical – periods of high-carb loading, like five days on and two days off
  • Targeted – eat carbs around workouts
  • High-Protein – 60 percent fat, 35 percent protein and five percent carbs
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