3 Reasons Paleo Is Dead and The Ketogenic Diet Is The Future of Weight Loss Fads In 2018

3 Reasons Paleo Is Dead and The Ketogenic Diet Is The Future of Weight Loss Fads In 2018

[Last updated 14th August, 2018]

Remember when the paleo diet smothered your news feed?

Celebrities were raving about the “caveman lifestyle”, while researchers and dietitians were saying it was just a fad…

Well, we were right.

I’m looking at why the paleo diet is all but dead, and why the ketogenic diet will replace it going forward in 2018.

3 Reasons Paleo Is Dead

Here are 3 reasons why the paleo diet is done and dusted:

1. Nobody Searches It Anymore

If something is popular, Google knows.

This is because people are searching for it.

This chart shows the popularity of the search term ‘paleo diet’ on Google between 2010 and the end of 2017.

Google search trends- paleo diet

From Google: A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. Likewise a score of 0 means the term was less than 1% as popular as the peak. Click to enlarge.

You can see that ‘paleo diet’ peaked in 2013 and 2014, but is now less than 27% as popular as it once was.

Aside from the small spike in interest every January, that trend line will continue to decline.

You can’t argue with the hard data.

2. Paleo Enthusiasts Sold Themselves Out

Paleo was once about revolutionizing people’s health and way of living.

Now it’s about influencers and companies selling ready-meals, cookies and other “paleo” junk disguised as healthy.

paleo choc chip cookie

This 1.5 oz (42 gram) chocolate chip paleo cookie is 220 calories, 16 grams of fat and 13 grams of sugar.

An equal amount of oreo cookies is only 198 calories, 8 grams of fat and 17 grams of sugar (1).

The oreos are genuinely the better choice if you’re trying to lose weight as you’d save 22 calories each time.*

(*edit: this is all other factors being equal. Of course oreos are not healthy… neither type of cookie is good for you if you want to lose weight.)

Paleo junk food is still junk food… Not to mention our paleolithic ancestors were not eating cookies.

Packaged Paleo Meals

It’s not only paleo junk food that’s an issue, but ready-made meals too.

Television chef Pete Evans, known as Paleo Pete, has released a range of packaged ready-made meals for those trying to “fit in meals between looking after the kids” (his words).

paleo pete ready meals

Packaged foods are, of course, the polar opposite of the paleo premise… Especially Pete’s approach to paleo, which was all about cooking with fresh, local food and involving the kids as well.

Cooking with “love and light” as he described it.

To add further irony, cooking instructions for these meals include a microwave option, which Pete believes is a health hazard.

He also says wifi is dangerous and that dairy ruins your bone health (a claim I debunked in this video).

3. It Was Historically Inaccurate and Near Impossible to Follow

The entire premise of paleo was flawed from the start.

Firstly, the types and quantities of fruits, vegetables and meat we eat today bare little resemblance to our paleolithic ancestors.

In fact, broccoli, cauliflower and kale didn’t even exist then, yet are permitted. Meanwhile, dairy and grains are not permitted because they didn’t exist (although grains actually did).

Secondly, famine was common for our ancestors, and there was little to no variety in their diet. Meanwhile, today we can get any food we like, in and out of season, and from all over the world.

Couple these facts with the realization that it’s fun to eat cake on your birthday, drink at a wedding, and make gingerbread at Christmas, and people stopped following it.

It’s the reason these days you’ll hear people say they eat “mostly paleo” or “paleo-ish”.

In other words, they eat healthier, but NOT paleo.

Summary: The paleo diet is all but dead. Search traffic has fallen 73% since 2014, advocates sold-out by creating paleo-branded processed and packaged foods, and nobody actually follows the diet properly.

The Ketogenic Diet Is The Future Of Weight Loss Fads

The ketogenic diet (keto diet for short) is a very low-carb, high-fat eating pattern.

The aim is to replace the vast majority of carbs in your diet with fat, which puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.

When this happens, your body becomes more efficient at burning fat for energy. Your liver also produces ketones, which can supply the brain with energy.

The standard ketogenic diet (SKD) typically contains 75% of calories from fat, 20% from protein and only 5% from carbs.

ketogenic diet is a weight loss fad

This means the average woman – requiring 2000 calories per day – must eat fewer than 25 grams of carbs each day, every day.

So eating a sandwich or one boiled potato will max out your daily carbohydrate allowance. Exceeding that will likely put you out of ketosis.

Note that protein intake must also be limited to around 100 grams per day, as a higher intake will also affect ketosis. It’s a high fat diet, not high protein.

Watch my short videos on the ketogenic diet and ketosis if you want to learn about its potential health effects.

Keto Diets Are The Next Paleo

The paleo diet was popular because it had a powerful narrative.

It was the standard “eat real food and less junk food” health message, just gift wrapped by strong cavemen.

The keto diet builds on that narrative but includes additional and seductive promises. Enthusiasts claim it can:

  • Adapt your body to burn fat 24/7
  • Jumpstart your metabolism
  • Boost brain function

… among many other things.

Sounds amazing right? If only it were true.

Unsurprisingly, the trend line for the search term ‘keto diet’ spiked sharply through 2017.

Google search trends- keto dietClick to enlarge.

It’s already more than twice as popular as this time in 2017, and will only see a big jump when January’s data is added.

Basically, according to the data, the keto diet is literally replacing the paleo diet.

Marketers know this of course (this is data for them) so I expect a big swing from paleo-branded to keto-branded products this coming year… with a premium price tag of course.

Summary: The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat eating pattern that allows only 25 grams of carbohydrate per day. Google data indicates our interest is shifting rapidly from the paleo diet to the keto diet.

Why Is The Keto Diet A Weight Loss Fad?

A weight loss fad diet is any eating pattern that requires dramatic and/or unnecessary food restrictions to achieve weight loss.

As a result, the average person is unable to maintain that diet for longer than one or two months.

Soon enough they revert back to their previous eating habits, and any weight lost is regained. The biggest loser contestants are a prime example of this phenomenon in action.

The ketogenic diet is basically the definition of a fad diet.

Consistently eating fewer than 25 grams of carbs means you can’t eat more than one banana or one small yogurt on any given day.

Eat them together and you’ve doubled your maximum carbs for the day.

  • Forget about potatoes or corn.
  • Forget about bread, pasta and rice.
  • Forget about beans and legumes.
  • Forget about eating a regular meal with your family
  • Forget about social events or parties with your friends, you can’t enjoy any snacks, treats or drinks.

And unlike paleo or other diets, there’s no cheating. A day of carb indulgence will put you out of ketosis.

It’s no wonder the dropout rate is enormous for those on a ketogenic diet, even when it’s for a serious medical reason (2).

Even “Mr Ketosis” Doesn’t Follow It Anymore

Dr. Peter Attia (“Mr. Ketosis”) – whom I greatly respect – was one of the early online ketogenic diet enthusiasts.

Even he no longer follows it after being “at the far end of the [diet] spectrum” (his words) for many years.

In a more recent update Dr. Attia said, “I’m still carb-restricted by the standards of most Americans, but nowhere near the ketogenic lines of 2011, 2012, and 2013.”

He concluded, “These days I’m eating about as freely as I have in 7 years.”

Need I say anything more?

Summary: The ketogenic diet is a fad diet because it’s unsustainable and you can’t cheat. Even one of the earliest influencers no longer follows the diet because it’s too restrictive.

But The Keto Diet Has Started Working For Me!

I know what comes next.

Personal anecdotes in capital letters.

“If the ketogenic diet is just an extreme fad, WHY AM I LOSING WEIGHT, mate?”

Three words: It cuts calories.

The vast majority of us eat poorly. Too few fruits and vegetables and frequent calorie-dense foods leads to weight gain and metabolic health problems over time.

The keto diet, paleo, or just about any diet for that matter forces you to remove the largest source of your calories… junk food and drinks.

That calorie deficit is responsible for your weight loss… That’s it.

It’s not because ketosis sky-rockets your metabolism, nor is it because carbs automatically make you fat. It’s because you’ve began to eat fewer calories than you used to, day to day.

Of my favorite nutrition memes, this one illustrates it perfectly:

All Diets Work In The Exact Same Way- They Cut Your Calorie Intake

Credit Myolean Fitness

Nevertheless, when people begin to lose weight and it subsequently improves their heart health markers, they mistakenly attribute those effects to ketosis and the ketogenic diet.

For the record, you can be in ketosis and still gain weight if your calorie intake is excessive.

You’ve Lost Water, Not Fat

Additionally, there’s also the loss of water that occurs within 24-48 hours of dramatic carb restriction (3).

This leads to instant weight loss of several pounds… but it’s from water and not fat.

As soon as you eat carbs again the water will return.

In the end, studies consistently show us that the most effective weight loss diet is the one you can stick to (and want to stick to) long term…

I hope now you realize it won’t be the ketogenic diet.

Summary: The keto diet will help you lose weight initially because it forces you to cut excess calories that you used to eat from junk food. It’s not because of ketosis itself. You’ll also lose a noticeable amount of water weight.

Who Should Use A Low Carb Approach

For the record I’m definitely not a low fat diet advocate.

In fact, I’m for whatever diet suits you best.

For most looking to lose weight its usually a non-extreme low carb approach. More on that in a moment.

Firstly, know that a ketogenic diet can be a sustainable eating pattern if your goal is far more urgent than weight loss.

For example, it’s a proven treatment for severe epilepsy in children. You can make it work long term if there is a medical need and it’s medically supervised (4).

There’s also a case for those with extremely poor diabetes control (HbA1c of 10% or more). But even then it requires direct medical supervision (especially if diabetes medications are used) and would serve best as a short-term intervention for quick improvements.

In saying that, if the keto diet was positioned as a temporary eating pattern with guidance post-diet – much like the FODMAP diet for food intolerance – then it could be applicable for the wider population.

Certainly for those with pre-diabetes or a large amount of weight to lose.

A Non-Extreme Low Carb Approach

I prefer a more modest lower carb, higher protein eating pattern.

For example, a daily carb intake of 150 grams is far less extreme than the 25 grams (or even 50 grams) allowed on the ketogenic diet.

Yet it can still be game-changing for anyone who has unsuccessfully lost weight and kept it off previously. Especially if you already have type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance.

It works because cutting carbs to around 150 grams per day automatically leads to an increase in protein and/or fat as a percentage of your overall calorie intake.

STANDARD DIET vs LOWER CARB HIGHER PROTEIN DIET

This shift in macronutrient ratio – particularly if you bump up your protein – will help you cut your calorie consumption.

Research indicates a diet higher in protein keeps you feeling full and curbs appetite. This helps you reduce your overall calorie intake, without relying on willpower (5, 6).

If your fat loss plateaus with that eating pattern and you still have a lot more to lose, it can even be combined with an intermittent fasting protocol (which is not a weight loss fad).

Of course, cutting carbs is just one of many weight loss strategies that work.

To see them all in one place, see the most comprehensive list on the internet.

 

3 Reasons Paleo Is Dead and The Ketogenic Diet Is The Future of Weight Loss Fads In 2018

About Joe Leech, Dietitian (MSc Nutrition & Dietetics)

Joe Leech is a university-qualified dietitian from Australia.

He graduated with a Bachelor's degree in exercise science, followed by a Master's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2011.

Learn more about him on the About page

Comments

  1. BODYBUILDER says:

    The ketogenic diet is extreme.
    I was 2 years on it its work verry good in muscle retaining and lose body fat but is it have price to pay.
    I have multiply kidney stones and and also shoulder bursitis and heel bursitis from it ita mess up your body.Atm i am 1 year in normal and helthy diet and almost recover from this diet.
    DONT DO THIS DIET AND VERY BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH!!!

    • Your kidney stones are not from the keto diet. There are different kinds of kidney stones, the most common being calcium oxalate stones which develop from eating too much oxalate rich foods. Yes many of these foods feature in the keto diet, but they also feature in every single other diet out there!!! My husband has calcium oxalate stones – he is on keto but we sub out the high oxalate food choices for him and he’s never been healthier. In fact his kidney specialist wants to send his file, which includes his diet, to the top kidney specialist in the country because the results have been so incredible.

    • Can you explain the mechanism that caused your keto diet to cause heel bursitis? Thanks

    • Interesting, I can find no bilogical reason ketosis would induce kidney stones… maybe you are googling ketoacidosis and misconstruing the two, and then presenting this as an anecdote.

  2. The most sensible and truthful article I have ever read regarding weight loss.

    Thankyou.

  3. Hi Joe,

    I quietly follow your writings with great interest while continuing to figure out what works for me.
    I’d be interested in your take on Dr Jason Fung. Between sensible fasting, having a main meal midday and eliminating as much sugar and flour as possible, I’ve found a formula that is easy to follow, gets great results and most of all is very sustainable.
    I’m most interested to hear your thoughts on the importance of insulin as the controlling factor in weight loss or gain, vs calorie intake.
    What struck a chord with me about Dr Fung is the difference eating 1 pound of lettuce vs 1 pound of sugar. Conversely 8700kj of vegetables and protein vs 8700kj of sugary, glucose rich food. It’s the first time anything has ever made sense about the way our bodies process different foods.
    It’s a kind of no-brainer and yet everyone keeps focusing and talking about calories.

    • Excellent observations. I think you’re into something big

    • Joe Leech, Dietitian says:

      Hi Shane, my opinion on Dr Fung is that intermittent fasting is useful because it helps people reduce calories not because of the way it effects insulin. The latest low carb vs low fat study showed it doesn’t make a difference which one you do.
      1 pound of lettuce would be basically calorie free whereas 1 pound of sugar certainly would not be.
      In terms of 8700kj of whole unprocessed foods vs 8700kj of sugary, processed foods, the issue is that the VOLUME would be much higher in the unprocessed food version, allowing you to feel full and energised. Not to mention the micronutrients it would contain that are essential to your health and proper functioning. Similar calories made up of processed foods is likely to be of low volume, low satiety (doesn’t make you feel full) and lets not forget that too much of anything is bad for you. It is for all these reasons that whole food is recommended as opposed to processed foods, even if calories are matched. NOT because “sugar is bad”.

  4. Ketogenic diet works for me with lots of vegetable, also berries, are allowed.
    Low insulin is the only way to stimulate Growth hormone, which will help burning fat, and rejuvenate the body. This is the best diet for loosing weight.

    • whyteball26 says:

      No it’s not the best. The best has been proven for years and years, Keto hasn’t. Masses upon masses of people worldwide thrive, lean healthy, disease free on carb dense lifestyles.

  5. keto in NO WAY restricts calories STOP LYING

    people on keto can eat as much fat as they want which has over 2x the calories per gram compared to carbs

    we are in the middle of a worldwide diabetes and obesity epidemic and keto is the ONLY thing that works for these people giving them back their health and taking them off the meds…..that’s not a fad that’s a health revolution

    • whyteball26 says:

      Only?? Yeh right. Dr Atkins was a fad, Keto is a fad, it’s not a lifestyle. There aren’t enough people who have lived off Keto for years and years disease free, drug free and disability free the way masses of people have successfully lived off carb dense lifestyles. Try doing dome homework again.

    • yes absolutely.. i am sure he has not even tried keto. i started with paleo but loved keto more. my lipid profile, skin, menstrual cycle has improved tremendously just in 4 mnts. ofcourse weight loss is an added advantage. it feel great.. but yes, i hv a cheat meal per week ( basically rice).. and i am in keto the very next day. i hated fasting earlier, but keto has made fasting so easy and pleasant.. my body mass calculator weighing machine shows a reduction of viceral fat by 2 points and these people keep telling it is only water weight. SKD may be difficult but CKD, TKD and lazy keto are more sustainable diets

  6. whyteball26 says:

    Thank you for common sense. Keto will die off for sure in the same way Atkins did. What makes me laugh is how the religious Keto freaks believe they have found ‘Hallelujah! They obviously have never heard of the masses of people globally who have successfully eaten largely carb dense plant based their entire lives PLUS live a complete healthy lifestyle – just a fraction different than the Keto amateurs who are still only learning how to eat and exercise, but think they are experts.

  7. It’s not the calorie but the type of calories. Sugar and overly processed carbs are processed by the liver much differently. It doesn’t matter what they name it. It is still just eating real food.

  8. On the Keto diet you still consume the same caloric intake, you are fundamentally misunderstanding this diet. Your body does not store signifigant amounts of fat in a ketogenic state. And it you do cut calories even slightly, the body will burn its fat reserves for energy as it is already in ketosis. Not to mention the the benfira of the now well studied neuroproetective and glucose-resistance-reducing effects of the diet… You misunderstanding the basic metabolic principles involved.

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