If you've heard of the ketogenic diet but aren't really sure what it involves, you might want to check out documentary The Magic Pill. Released in 2017 and recently released on Netflix, it provides background to the controversial diet and shows case studies of people going on to it.
What is the ketogenic diet?
The keto diet, as it's commonly called, is a low-carb, high-fat diet. The aim is to eliminate diary, grains and legumes, as well as processed foods, and in their place eat whole and organic foods, free-range animals and wild caught seafood. Bad fats like vegetable oils are also replaced with healthy fats like olive and coconut oil, avocados, eggs and animal fats.
As a result, instead of our bodies being powered by glucose (which is produced by a diet high in carbs), we get our energy from the production and burning of ketones, which arise when the liver breaks down fats.
What does it claim to cure?
Lots of things. Proponents suggest that a keto diet will help with weight loss; controlling blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure; increasing mental focus and energy; lowering insulin levels; controlling epilepsy and more.
What is this show about?
The Magic Pill looks at eating habits throughout history, focussing on the major health problems in the world today and suggesting that the root cause of many of the chronic diseases facing humans is the shift away from a low-carb, high-fat diet. In an attempt to prove their argument, a number of case studies are undertaken with people put onto a strict keto diet in place of their regular food intake.
What do the critics say?
When The Magic Pill was released, those who disagree with the keto diet were vocal in their condemnation of the film. “Elements of the discussion are just plain hurtful, harmful and mean,” Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon said. "There’s no question that lean meat, eggs and fish are superfoods ... but exclusion diets never work.”