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Why the Keto Diet is Not the Best Choice for Sustainable Weight Control: Insights from Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Science


The ketogenic (keto) diet has gained immense popularity for its rapid weight loss results. However, both traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and modern science suggest that it may not be the best long-term strategy for weight control. At Karviva, we believe in a balanced approach to nutrition that combines traditional wisdom with modern medical science. Here’s why the keto diet might not be the best choice, supported by TCM principles and scientific evidence.

The Importance of Complex Carbohydrates in Traditional Chinese Medicine

In TCM, the concept of Qi (pronounced “chee”) is central to health and well-being. Qi is the vital energy that flows through the body, and maintaining its balance is crucial for overall health. TCM practitioners believe that diet plays a significant role in nourishing Qi, and complex carbohydrates are particularly important. Foods like whole grains, vegetables, and legumes provide sustained energy and support digestive health, which are key to maintaining a healthy weight.

Complex carbohydrates are seen as nourishing because they:

  • Provide Steady Energy: Unlike simple sugars, complex carbs release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, providing a steady source of energy that supports metabolic functions and physical activity.
  • Support Digestive Health: Complex carbohydrates are rich in fiber, which aids digestion and promotes regular bowel movements. A healthy digestive system is crucial for the proper absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste.
  • Balance Blood Sugar Levels: Stable blood sugar levels help prevent cravings and overeating, which are common challenges in weight management.
  • Support Healthy Microbiome: complex carbs are also the source of prebiotics, which are essential for the thrive of good bacteria living in our guts.

Modern Science on the Keto Diet

Modern science provides additional insights into why the keto diet may not be sustainable or healthy for long-term weight management:

  1. Muscle Loss and Reduced Metabolic Rate: One common mistake in weight loss practices, including the keto diet, is the significant reduction in carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates are a crucial source of energy, and when they are drastically reduced, the body compensates by using muscle protein for energy. This leads to muscle loss, which in turn lowers the basal metabolic rate (BMR). A lower BMR means your body burns fewer calories at rest, making it easier to gain weight once normal eating patterns resume. This muscle loss and reduced metabolism are key reasons why many people experience the “yo-yo” effect, where they regain more weight than they initially lost.
  2. Hormonal Imbalance and Increased Stress: Carbohydrates play a vital role in regulating hormones that control hunger and stress. When you eliminate or severely limit carbs, your body perceives it as a stressful situation, increasing the production of cortisol, a stress hormone. Initially, cortisol helps by breaking down fat and muscle to increase blood sugar levels. However, chronically high cortisol levels lead to increased fat storage, particularly around the abdomen. This is why people on long-term keto diets often notice an increase in belly fat despite their overall weight loss.
  3. Disrupted Hunger Signals and Overeating: The body’s natural mechanisms for regulating hunger and satiety can become disrupted on a keto diet. Normally, fat cells release leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, when they sense enough fat is stored. However, with a low-carb diet, the sensitivity to these signals can diminish. When normal carb consumption resumes, the body’s hunger signals may go haywire, leading to intense cravings and binge eating, particularly of sugary and processed foods. This can counteract any weight loss achieved during the diet and lead to rapid weight gain.a man sitting at the open fridge representing hunger singals and overeating due to unbalanced keto diet

Real-Life Case Example: The Pitfalls of the Keto Diet

This is a real case provided by a weight management expert, highlighting why the keto diet may not be the best choice for long-term weight control:

Client Background: A middle-aged man who was an avid gym-goer struggled with high body fat and low muscle mass despite his rigorous workout routine. He adhered to a strict keto diet, avoiding carbohydrates entirely. His meals were primarily composed of proteins and fats, with little to no intake of grains or starchy vegetables.

Issues Encountered:

  1. Muscle Loss and Reduced Metabolic Rate: Over time, the lack of carbohydrates led to significant muscle loss. The body began using muscle protein for energy, which reduced his basal metabolic rate (BMR). Despite consuming the same amount of food, his body burned fewer calories at rest, leading to weight gain.
  2. Hormonal Imbalance: The prolonged absence of carbohydrates caused chronic elevation in cortisol, the stress hormone. Initially, cortisol helped in breaking down fat and muscle to maintain blood sugar levels, but over time, it led to increased abdominal fat and overall inflammation.
  3. Disrupted Hunger Signals: The client experienced intense cravings for sugary and processed foods due to disrupted hunger hormones. This often led to binge eating episodes, particularly in the evenings, undermining his weight control efforts.

Outcome: After months of struggling, the client was advised to reintroduce complex carbohydrates into his diet. He began incorporating whole grains and starchy vegetables, which helped stabilize his blood sugar levels, reduce cravings, and support muscle growth. Remarkably, within weeks, he noticed an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in body fat, demonstrating the importance of a balanced diet.

A Balanced Approach Rooted in TCM and Modern Science

The insights from TCM and modern science underscore the importance of complex carbohydrates for nourishing Qi and supporting digestive health. Rather than adopting extreme dietary measures like the keto diet, a balanced approach that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods is more sustainable and beneficial for long-term weight control.

Incorporate the following principles for a healthier, balanced diet:

  • Include Complex Carbohydrates: Embrace whole grains, vegetables, and legumes to provide sustained energy and support digestive health.
  • Maintain Muscle Mass: Ensure adequate protein intake and engage in regular resistance training to preserve muscle mass and boost metabolism.
  • Manage Stress: Practice stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, and regular exercise to keep cortisol levels in check.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues, and avoid restrictive eating patterns that can lead to overeating.

By integrating these practices, you can achieve a healthy weight while promoting overall well-being, staying true to the principles of TCM and modern nutritional science. At Karviva, we believe in a holistic approach to health that honors traditional wisdom and is supported by scientific evidence, ensuring you achieve sustainable and balanced wellness.

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Karviva's formulations are inspired by ancient food wisdom, designed to nourish Qi (the vital energy source) and Blood (key bodily nutrients). Our drinks uniquely focus on clean, nutrient-dense ingredients and formulations that maximize food synergies, adhering to principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine. This holistic approach enhances the natural properties of each ingredient, offering unique health benefits.

Karviva Whole Plant Juices can be stored at room temperature. Once opened, they should be refrigerated and consumed within one week for optimal freshness.

Yes, daily consumption of Karviva Detox Juice, for instance, has led many customers to report health improvements after two weeks. However, individual experiences may vary.

Yes, our smoothies and coffee drinks need to be refrigerated and are best enjoyed within one to two days of opening.

Our all-natural, organic drinks are suitable for all, including pregnant women and children. We recommend checking for any personal food allergies.

Absolutely. Karviva drinks are an excellent choice for those managing blood sugar levels or reducing sugar and carb intake, thanks to their low glycemic index and beneficial ingredients like aronia berry and cinnamon.

We carefully select ingredients based on their ideal growth conditions to ensure their therapeutic benefits. Our sourcing strategy includes aronia berries from the Midwest USA, quinoa from Bolivia, oats from Sweden, black soybeans from northern China, and coffee beans from Mexico. Most fruits are sourced from Washington and California, with our sprouts grown hydroponically for quality assurance.

In line with Traditional Chinese Medicine beliefs, we understand that climate, soil, and water quality significantly affect the therapeutic powers of plants. This focus ensures the highest quality and effectiveness of our ingredients.