Keto and paleo diets score low on nutrition quality and sustainability, study finds

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A study from Tulane University has raised concerns about the nutritional quality and environmental impact of popular diets, particularly the ketogenic (keto) and paleolithic (paleo) diets.

The research found these diets to have some of the lowest nutritional quality and highest carbon footprints among dietary regimes.

Details of the Study

The keto diet aims to put the body in a state of ketosis by severely limiting carbohydrate intake, while the paleo diet seeks to replicate the eating habits of our ancient ancestors by emphasizing whole foods and eliminating processed foods and grains.

Both diets have been praised for potential health benefits but also raise concerns about their sustainability and nutritional adequacy.

Researchers assigned point values to individual diets based on the federal Healthy Eating Index and averaged the scores for each diet type.

The keto diet was estimated to generate nearly 3 kg of carbon dioxide per 1,000 calories consumed, and the paleo diet, which avoids grains and beans, scored second lowest for nutrition and had a high carbon footprint.

In contrast, the vegan diet had the least climate impact, producing 0.7 kg of carbon dioxide per 1,000 calories, and the pescatarian diet scored highest for nutritional quality.

The study also suggests that shifting from an omnivorous diet to a vegetarian diet could significantly reduce carbon footprints and improve health.

Implications and Future Directions

These findings align with a 2021 United Nations-backed study indicating that food systems are responsible for 34% of greenhouse gas emissions.

The production of beef was found to emit 8-10 times more emissions than chicken and over 20 times more than nut and legume production.

The keto and paleo diets, while having potential health benefits, present sustainability challenges due to their high reliance on animal products, linked to significant environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions and water usage.

Moreover, these diets, if not properly planned, can lead to nutrient deficiencies and can be difficult to maintain long-term.

The decision to follow diets like keto should be based on individual health goals, lifestyle, and preferences.

It is worth noting that, although the keto diet has shown potential benefits for conditions like epilepsy and type 2 diabetes, it may not be suitable for everyone due to its high-fat content and very low carbohydrate intake.

The research, conducted by Diego Rose et al, is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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