Keto revealed

Is the keto diet a good thing?

You probably know plenty of friends who are trying the keto diet - that extremely low-carbohydrate, very high-fat diet (think all-you-can-eat prime rib and bacon, but never a piece of toast). It's similar to the previously popular Atkins, but much stricter. 

A recent U.S. News & World Report ranked it as the worst diet to go on. 

Here's why: 

The ketogenic diet originated as a treatment for pediatric epilepsy. It's grown up to be the darling of athletes and "Biggest Loser" wannabes. Those on the keto diet are supposed to consume fewer than 35 grams (140 calories) of carbohydrates daily but not necessarily consume a lot of protein -- it's all about the fat. 

The diet wants the body to be forced into ketosis, a metabolic state where fat is the primary source of fuel, in the form of ketones, according to a recent analysis of the diet in Environmental Nutrition. 

Typically, our bodies use carbohydrates as the primary source of energy. However, during ketosis, stored body fat is burned. So you eat fat to burn fat. Sounds weird. And it is. It's tough to really reach ketosis because of the low amount of carbs consumed. 

Any diet that limits important nutrients -- such as carbs -- is harmful. In the case of the keto diet, all grains, pastas, breads, beans, sugar, sweeteners, starchy vegetables and fruit are eliminated. Only avocados and small amounts of berries are allowed. On the other hand, meats, full-fat dairy, eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds and oils are encouraged. 

Besides limiting nearly all carbs, there is limited research on the long-term effect of the keto diet. In addition, adherence is difficult, especially when eating out. There is also concern that a high fat diet can lead to chronic diseases. Side effects may include digestive problems, muscle cramps and nutrient deficiencies. 

Here's the bottom line -- skip the keto. Go the for tried and true healthy eating plan of My Plate -- half your plate fruits and vegetables, a quarter whole grains, a quarter lean protein and low-fat dairy. Make moderation, balance and variety your motto. 

Q and A 

Q: Is coffee really healthy? 

A: A large "umbrella" review of 218 studies on coffee and health found that people who drink 3 to 4 cups a day are at lower risk of a range of diseases and conditions, according to a study in the BMJ. The umbrella review combined the results of 218 meta-analyses, each of which combined findings from multiple studies. These "studies of studies" included 17 with randomized clinical trials, which compared to observational studies, produce stronger evidence that coffee may directly reduce the risk of certain disease. The umbrella review found that coffee drinking is associated with lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease or death form any cause. That's consistent with two large observational studies published in August 2017 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The latest review identified some potential harms associated with drinking 3 to 4 cups a day, namely small increased risks for low birth weight, premature birth and miscarriage, as well as a slightly higher risk of fracture in women. Collectively, research has shown that coffee consumption is more likely to benefit health than harm. -- Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. 

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