Dr. John Lucas III has several passions, surgery and Scouting among them. One of his latest is spreading the word about the benefits of the keto diet, especially for many diabetics and most anyone who is overweight.
More than two years ago, the Greenwood vascular surgeon got on the low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. He shed 25 pounds and has been able to keep the weight off since.
He acknowledges that not everyone in the medical and nutrition community is convinced that eating fatty cuts of meat and all the butter you desire is healthy, but Lucas says that’s because of a longstanding nutritional bias against fat.
“The information we have been given about fat being bad for you, I think, is wrong,” Lucas told the Greenwood Rotary Club Tuesday, the latest organization to hear his dietary presentation.
In a ketogenic diet, carbohydrates — bread, rice, pasta, sugary desserts — are largely forbidden. “You can lead a complete life with no carbohydrates,” Lucas said. “There are no essential carbohydrates.”
Deprived of carbohydrates, the body will instead be forced to rely primarily on fat for its fuel, including the fat that even thin people have stored around their waistlines and other parts of their body, Lucas said.
That diet-induced change in the metabolic process can be especially beneficial for Type II diabetics, whose pancreas still produces insulin but not as much as their body requires to regulate blood sugar levels. Diets high in carbohydrates can contribute to the onset of diabetes by overworking the pancreas to produce insulin to keep up. This also can lead to weight gain because when insulin levels are high, fat cannot be efficiently burned as fuel and is instead stored in the body, Lucas said.
For some Type II diabetics, religious adherence to a ketogenic diet can reduce and possibly eliminate their need for synthetic insulin and other diabetic medications, he said.
A keto diet is a dramatic transformation from what most Americans are accustomed and runs counter to most mainstream health recommendations. The National Institutes of Health, for example, recommends that carbohydrates account for 45% to 65% of a person’s daily caloric intake, Lucas said. In a strict keto diet, they account for just 4%.
It can take the body two weeks to a month to make the transition away from carbohydrates, during which time there can be side effects, such as headaches, lethargy and nausea. These can be mitigated by temporarily adding more salt to the diet, consuming more water and drinking meat- or vegetable-based broths. Once the adjustment is completed, hunger decreases and energy increases, Lucas said. Prior to getting on a ketogenic diet, the surgeon said he used to get tired most every afternoon. Now that afternoon slump in energy is gone, even while he usually skips breakfast and often lunch as well.
While the keto diet is high on fat, not all fats are OK. Butter, lard and animal fat are fine. Other oils that were not developed until the early 20th century, such as those made from soybeans, canola, corn and cottonseed, should be avoided, Lucas said.
Despite the good results from his own dietary conversion, Lucas advises those considering a similar switch do so in consultation with their physician in order to monitor any bodily changes, such as elevated cholesterol levels.
He said the keto diet is easier than most to sustain for the long term. “It’s the tasty stuff. You get to have the full-calorie salad dressing and not the low-calorie stuff. You get to put butter on whatever you want to put it on,” he said.
“Except crackers,” one member of Tuesday’s audience jokingly corrected.
- Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or email@example.com.