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The Paleo Diet Digest: Where Does the Keto Diet Fit In?

By The Paleo Diet Team
December 21, 2019
The Paleo Diet Digest: Where Does the Keto Diet Fit In? image

Every January, The Metabolic Health Symposium takes place over three days in Los Angeles. Originally the symposium was focused on The Paleo Diet®—both the current science and how to live a Paleo lifestyle.

But a few years back, a new concept started making a showing at the symposium: the ketogenic diet. It was exciting! More and more people were talking about it, and by 2019 the Metabolic Health Symposium had gone full keto.

It wasn’t that The Paleo Diet had been upended or replaced. Many of the people on the stage advocating for the keto diet had been big names in the Paleo-sphere just a few years earlier. And many still were. They just saw the ketogenic diet as the next evolution—or refinement—of The Paleo Diet.

This has led to some confusion, and we frequently get asked the same questions: Is the ketogenic diet Paleo? Is it healthy? And, simply, what is the ketogenic diet?

Let’s start with that last question. A ketogenic diet is one that is very low in carbohydrates—in the neighborhood of 50 grams or fewer per day. This essentially starves the brain, which normally fuels itself exclusively on glucose. Since our brains need to be fuelled, our bodies look for alternate fuel sources. The solution? The body converts abundant fatty acids to ketones which the brain can use instead of glucose. This is what someone is talking about when they say, “they’ve gone into ketosis.”

Certainly, in Paleolithic times, our ancestors would necessarily have gone into ketosis at certain points of the year. Back then, the only sources of carbohydrates were vegetables, fruits, and sometimes syrup and honey. At certain times of the year—particularly the winter months for some northern hunter-gatherer societies—all of these sources of carbohydrates could be hard to find. In fact, Native Americans were known to make a snack of protein and fat, called pemmican, that they could eat all year.

But, while some hunter-gatherers were forced into ketosis for short periods, it was never a permanent or long-term lifestyle. This is why, as you’ll discover in the articles below, ketosis can have short-term health benefits, but as a long-term strategy it simply isn’t Paleo. Nor is it truly healthy.

If you’re interested in learning more about the keto diet, and The Paleo Diet’s stance on ketosis, check out our collection of articles below.


— The Paleo Diet Team

The Paleo Diet Digest: Where Does the Keto Diet Fit In? image

Ketogenic Diets: Long-Term Nutritional and Metabolic Deficiencies

By Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Dr. Cordain, the originator of The Paleo Diet, weighs in on the benefits and detriments of the ketogenic diet in this article. Using simple dietary software, he demonstrates very clearly why the ketogenic diet has nutritional deficiencies that can lead to serious health consequences over time—things like osteoporosis and heart disease. More importantly, many of the short-term benefits of the keto diet can be achieved on a Paleo Diet, but without the health consequences.

Paleo vs. Keto: Choosing the Diet for You

By the Paleo Diet Team

If Dr. Cordain’s article goes a little too deep into the “scientific weeds” for you, this summary, written by our editorial board, explains the key differences between the two diets, and can help you choose which one you’d prefer.

The Ketogenic Diet. Is it Paleo?

By Christopher James Clark, BB.A.

There are many misconceptions about ketogenic diets, and the media often doesn’t help people to understand the truth about what it is and isn’t. We get asked this question all the time: Is the ketogenic diet Paleo? To answer that question, Christopher J. Clark delves into the physiology of the ketogenic diet, giving a full primer on what it is, why it has the effects it does on our bodies, and whether it’s something you want to consider.

Diet Wins a Battle with Alzheimer’s

By David Whiteside

While we don’t recommend it as a long-term solution, the Keto diet does have clear short-term benefits, particularly when it comes to some chronic conditions. This article, written by David Whiteside, explains how ketones have been able to help patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Can the ketogenic diet improve cancer therapy?

By Christopher James Clark, BB.A.

Christopher James Clark, one of our top science writers, goes into detail about how being in a state of ketosis can help fight cancer. It’s a fascinating story, but be ready for some deep science such as an explanation of the Warburg effect. Ultimately, while a Keto diet can help fight cancer, it is certainly not a cure on its own.

Does a ketogenic diet extend life span?

By Casey Thaler, B.A. NASM-CPT, FNS

Extending longevity and helping to treat cancer are some of the most recent and exciting claims from the ketogenic diet community, and novel new research is exploring these claims. Writer Casey Thaler explores the theory that periodic ketosis can extend your life, and whether the science backs these claims. Want to live a little longer? Then this may not be one to miss.

How to achieve ketogenic gains with a Paleo Diet

By Marc Bubbs, ND, CISSN, CSCS

If you do decide you want to dive in and give a ketogenic approach a try, well, it’s not as simple as cutting back on your carbohydrates. Dr. Bubbs shares his tips on how to transition. More importantly, he explains how to put your body into a ketogenic state in a way that’s healthier and still true to your Paleo lifestyle.

More Digests to Come...

We hope you’ve been enjoying these digests we’ve put together for you this holiday season on common topics you have told us you are interested in. The ketogenic diet has certainly been popular, but we have more digests coming out over the next few weeks including our most popular recipes, tips on how to lose weight in healthy ways, and FAQs about The Paleo Diet.

If you enjoyed this digest and are interested in our upcoming themes, keep checking our website every few days—there are more to come.

As always, our team appreciates your support for The Paleo Diet. We look forward to and encourage your feedback on our website and Facebook

Thank you,
- The Paleo Diet Team

Even More Articles For You

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Are Whole Grains Healthy?
While whole grains aren’t Paleo, it helps to understand the difference between whole and refined grains, and how each impacts your health differently.
By Bill Manci
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If you tend to eat the same few recipes all the time, switch things up with this week’s diverse meal plan.
By Aimee McNew
Paleo Leadership
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Dr. Loren Cordain’s final graduate student, Trevor Connor, M.S., brings more than a decade of nutrition and physiology expertise to spearhead the new Paleo Diet team.

Mark J Smith
Dr. Mark J. Smith

One of the original members of the Paleo movement, Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the benefits of Paleo nutrition.

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Nell Stephenson

Ironman athlete, mom, author, and nutrition blogger Nell Stephenson has been an influential member of the Paleo movement for over a decade.

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Dr. Loren Cordain

As a professor at Colorado State University, Dr. Loren Cordain developed The Paleo Diet® through decades of research and collaboration with fellow scientists around the world.