HealthONE - November 29, 2019

Fad diets, like the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet that's trending, might be briefly helpful but in the end, it isn't sustainable.

Michael Snyder, MD, FACS, FASMBS, of the Denver Center for Bariatric Surgery thinks fad diets like the keto diet as ineffective for long term weight loss and instead recommends his patients commit to the programs and resources that, with work, are proven to work.

But first, more on the Ketogenic Diet. The diet was originally developed by modern physicians in the 1920s to treat epilepsy. By mimicking the metabolism of fasting, the diet decreased seizures in children with certain types of epilepsy.

Today, people are mostly using the Keto Diet to lose weight.

Dr. Snyder's reservations and fears about the fad diet are fourfold: the diet is not sustainable, it hasn't been adequately studied, the long-term effects haven't been show to be effective and he worries about the possible lipid impact of an unrestricted high fat diet.

"If you look online, you'll find people who have done it for awhile, but the data isn't out there. The only diet that has been shown to be effective long term is a version of the Mediterranean diet with a large amount of green leafy vegetables," he said. That type of diet, beyond being healthy, is sustainable and allows people to live their lives without draconian restrictions.

"Keto sounds great … until you want a brownie," Dr. Snyder said.

Most of the people that registered dietician nutritionist Jessica Crandall Snyder work with who are doing Keto shouldn't be doing it in the first place and aren't following it correctly -- eating far more than the recommended 70 to 80 grams of protein. Clients on the Keto Diet usually lose around 30 pounds, just to turn around and gain 40 pounds back, she said.

"It's not something easily sustained as it is such a restrictive diet," she said.

She's also concerned about people missing out on vital nutrients like calcium, vitamin D and fiber, which is very important for bone and preventative health.

"These type of restrictive diets can alter the gut micro biome, and cause an impact in their ability to tolerate carbohydrates in the future," she said. "The biggest takeaway is: 'just because it's trendy' doesn't mean it's for everyone nor is it healthy for long-term success to promote health and weight management," she said.

For someone who is morbidly obese, with a BMI of greater than 35 (80 to 100 pounds overweight), "this type of fad diet is only hard on your metabolism and only causes further weight frustrations," Crandall Snyder said.

That's where bariatric surgery comes to the forefront of options, she said.

"It's a tool that will help someone to manage their weight and help promote healthier eating patterns and sustainability," she said. "The five-year results for bariatric surgery are significantly higher than the fads and trends we're seeing in dieting culture today."

One thing is for certain: The Keto Diet is not an effective, long-term strategy for weight loss.