Is the ketogenic diet the magic pill or is it a serious risk for your health?! The Doctors invite the director of the documentary “The Magic Pill,” Rob Tate, to debate its merits against cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn, who calls it “The low-carb, high-coffin diet!” Internal medicine physician Dr. Jason Fung also joins on the side of Rob, saying he has seen in his patients the many benefits of the keto diet.
Rob explains the ketogenic diet. This low-carb, high-fat diet switches the body from burning sugar to burning fat. When the body burns fat, it gives off ketone bodies, which become the body’s source of fuel, as opposed to glucose. When this occurs, the body is in a state of ketosis. In the film, there are claims it helped treat a child’s epilepsy as well as many other people's medical conditions.
Dr. Kahn says he was disturbed by the film because it did not mention any of the side effects of this diet. He says ketosis is an unnatural state which is the body’s backup starvation method. While it will get you thin, Dr. Kahn says it will not get you healthy in the long-term. Dr. Kahn quotes Dr. Kevin Hall from The National Institute of Health whose 2016 findings suggest that eating a high-fat, low-carb diet will cause the body to actually stop using fat as fuel.
Dr. Fung disagrees. He says he has seen the effects of the ketogenic diet in reversing type 2 diabetes in his patients. He’s seen it help people get off of insulin, off of medications, and to lose weight. Rob chimes in that this diet has been around for years and it is based on human evolution as well as a great deal of science. Rob says the “junk” they removed from the diets of people in his film span beyond what everyone knows as junk food like chips and candy bars. He says foods that are recommended by the American Heart Association, like high-fiber cereals and oatmeal, are actually raising people’s insulin levels.
Dr. Kahn rebuttals that the healthiest diets need to push fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and are not considered low-carb. He quotes Dr. Valter Longo, whom Dr. Kahn says is the most prominent nutritional researcher in the world, calling the keto diet “half pillar.” He says there is so little evidence to support this if it’s done with animal products and high-fat animal foods. Yet Rob says they’ve done three, two-year random-access trials that compared keto diets to diets Dr. Kahn previously mentioned and the keto diet came out on top! Confused yet?
ER physician Dr. Travis Stork points out that there is a lot of common, middle ground that they can all agree on. Getting rid of highly-processed foods and highly-refined foods is a good idea. Remove these “poisons” from your diet. Dr. Kahn actually does believe in going into ketosis, yet he does it for five days per month, using plant-based fats (like nuts and avocados). He says doing it this way, in this short burst of time, has been patented as a treatment to promote longevity. It is the animal fats and products that is of debate. Dr. Fung says humans have been eating these animal foods for years and “to blame ancient food for this modern epidemic is ludicrous!”
OB/GYN Dr. Nita Landry asks Rob about the people in his documentary. He says everyone who had serious illnesses was heavily medicated and along with the keto diet and doctor supervision, many of them started reducing their intakes.
Dr. Travis brings up a staple of his diet, whole grains. He fears with diets like the ketogenic one, along with eliminating carbs, people will also eliminate fiber and other nutrients. Rob says the food pyramid today suggests all we need it to eat a ton of whole grain bread all day with a few fruits and vegetables. He says that while he can see people who are generally healthy incorporating a bit of grains into their diets, “you can live life without a single whole grain in the body.”
Dr. Kahn disagrees saying there are dozens of studies that show the benefits of eating whole grains such as lowering cholesterol and reducing the risks of cancer. Dr. Fung says eating keto is a therapeutic option and if it helps people get off their medications and insulin, they will, in turn, be healthier!
Dr. Travis advises viewers to look at their diets and eliminate those poisonous foods that everyone on their panel can agree are bad for you. If anyone tries to convince you of an extreme diet that has zero flexibility, Dr. Travis says “they’re lying to you.” There are many different ways that can work for people to become healthy. This is an important reminder for anyone looking to start a diet, to consult with their physicians first.