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RDN’s Book Review: The Keto Reset Diet

Nutrition experts weigh in on the popular keto diet

Nutrition experts weigh in on the popular keto diet.

By: Kristal Shelden, MPH, RDN

  • Thursday, October 4, 2018
  • 3 Minute Read   

The Silicon Valley Registered Dietitian Nutritionist’s Book Club reviewed The Keto Reset Diet by Mark Sisson with Brad Kearns. The book’s primary claim is that the body’s genes can be reprogrammed with this diet, going “back to the original factory setting of being fat- and keto-adapted.”

What is Ketosis? 

For those who are not familiar with the keto concept, here are some basic facts. Carbohydrates break down into glucose after digestion and are the body’s preferred source of energy. Keto is a shorthand term for ketosis, which the authors describe as a state of metabolic efficiency where stored body fat is burned in the form of ketones, eliminating the need for high-carbohydrate meals to sustain energy levels. That is, in the absence of carbohydrates, the body will break down fat into ketones that are then used to fuel the heart, kidneys and muscles.

To put the body into ketosis, carbohydrate intake needs to be under 50 grams for the entire day. For reference, 15 French fries and one banana provide approximately 50 grams of carbohydrate. In training, dietitians learn how to plan ketogenic diets, which are a common treatment for people with epilepsy. The ketogenic diet is high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate. The book includes step-by-step guidance, daily meal plans and a recipe section with over 100 keto-friendly recipes.

Sisson’s keto reset diet is carried out in a three-step process:

  1. Readers begin with a less restrictive 21-day reset diet, which permits up to 150 grams of carbohydrate per day. This eating pattern allows more vegetables than a traditional keto diet, and even allows small quantities of dairy.
  2. The next phase of the diet is to engage in intermittent fasting
  3. After the 21-day reset diet, if readers still want to lose weight, practice with intermittent fasting and adopt the lifestyle changes (exercising, getting adequate sleep, eating whole foods versus processed foods), they are directed to launch into the traditional keto diet. During this six-week period, dieters are directed to eat no more than 50 grams of carbohydrate per day, or just 20 grams per day without exercise.

Areas of Agreement

Overall, we agree with the book’s following recommendations: 

  • Eliminate sugary foods from the diet; exercise; get adequate sleep; manage stress. 
  • Learn to cook with whole foods rather than processed foods.
  • Go for longer periods of time between eating, especially extending the hours between the last evening eating opportunity and breakfast. Simply reducing the number of eating opportunities can reduce overall calories.
  • Take a step-by-step approach to adopt a new eating pattern and lifestyle. Making small, incremental changes increases the odds of success. 

Where We Differ

  • The removal of entire food groups such as fruits and grains, and the severe restriction of dairy, sets users up for long-term nutritional shortfalls. The intent of the food grouping system is to get nutritional balance by eating foods from all groups. 
  • The claim that the keto diet is the natural, ancestral eating pattern is questionable. For more information see a previous book club blog post on the paleo diet
  • The keto diet is used to manage epilepsy, so it clearly has some impact on human biochemistry. It is not clear if there are unintended consequences for non-epileptic people. 
  • Where is the scientific evidence? There are no references in the book to back up claims that this diet will reprogram the body’s metabolism to burn fat. 

Bottom Line

Although this book contains some tasty and nutritious recipes and solid advice to cut back on sugary foods while exercising and getting adequate sleep, we cannot recommend a book that excludes multiple food groups. Very restrictive diets are difficult to follow and tend to be short-term endeavors. Additionally, the diet is not recommended for individuals with pancreatic, liver, thyroid or gallbladder diseases and conditions, and there is limited research on the long-term impact of the keto diet on kidney, liver and cardiovascular health.

To learn more from registered dietitian nutritionists on timely nutrition topics, subscribe to the Let's Eat Healthy Ask a Nutritionist video series.

What Is the Ketogenic Diet? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. https://www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/fad-diets/what-is-the-ketogenic-diet. Published May 15, 2019. Accessed October 29, 2019. 

Kristal Shelden, MPH, RDN

Kristal Shelden, MPH, RDN

Kristal Shelden is Dairy Council of CA’s advocacy manager, driving the organization’s thought leadership strategies and communications.

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