David S Ludwig
For >50 y, dietary guidelines in the United States have focused on reducing intakes of saturated and total fat. However, rates of obesity and diabetes rose markedly throughout this period, with potentially catastrophic implications for public health and the economy. Recently, ketogenic diets have received substantial attention from the general public and nutrition research community. These very-low-carbohydrate diets, with fat comprising >70% of calories, have been dismissed as fads. However, they have a long history in clinical medicine and human evolution. Ketogenic diets appear to be more effective than low-fat diets for treatment of obesity and diabetes. In addition to the reductions in blood glucose and insulin achievable through carbohydrate restriction, chronic ketosis might confer unique metabolic benefits of relevance to cancer, neurodegenerative conditions, and other diseases associated with insulin resistance. Based on available evidence, a well-formulated ketogenic diet does not appear to have major safety concerns for the general public and can be considered a first-line approach for obesity and diabetes. High-quality clinical trials of ketogenic diets will be needed to assess important questions about their long-term effects and full potential in clinical medicine.