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Nutritionist questions Kim Kardashian's high fat low carb ketogenic diet

Get the skinny on Kim's weight loss.
Get the skinny on Kim's weight loss.
Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Numerous media headlines have proclaimed that Kim Kardashian lost 56 pounds on a high fat low carb ketogenic diet. But nutritionist Keri Glassman questioned whether Kim actually achieved nutritional ketosis and explored the pros and cons of the approach with Access Hollywood on Thursday.

Although many people think that ketogenic diets are high protein, Keri explained that instead they are high in fat, with moderate servings of protein and very low amounts of carbohydrates. "The diet restricts intake of carbs to as low as two to four percent of calories with a 4:1 ratio of fat to carbs and protein combined," she noted.

Kim publicized her decision to use the high fat low carb Atkins diet to shed weight. But Keri disagrees with reports that she was on a ketogenic plan. She says that Kim ate 60 grams of carbs per day, compared to carb intake of nine to 18 grams per day for nutritional ketosis.

However, in an exclusive interview, Atkins nutritionist Colette Heimowitz, author of "The New Atkins Made Easy: A Faster, Simpler Way to Shed Weight and Feel Great -- Starting Today," told me that the induction phase (sometimes called Primal Atkins) consists of 20 net carbohydrates daily, which come primarily from vegetables.

Subsequent phases allow more carbohydrates, and the amount that people can consume and still stay in nutritional ketosis actually varies. However, Keri expressed concern that "while ketogenic diets can be medically beneficial for some disorders as originally intended, for safe and effective weight loss, the carb reduction is way too extreme."

Author of "The Small Change Diet: 10 Steps to a Thinner, Healthier You," Keri does agree that it's all right to resist starchy carbohydrates such as bread and cereal, "as your body doesn't need these foods to be at peak performance." She emphasizes vegetables and fruit as good sources of carbs.

But do we really need carbohydrates for energy? No, Dr. Stephen Phinney told me in an exclusive interview. With an M.D. from Stanford University, PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from MIT and post-doctoral training at the University of Vermont and Harvard, he is the co-author of "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable."

"The concept that humans 'need a certain amount of dietary carbs for proper function of the body' has no basis in science," he told me. "It is a myth perpetuated by the USDA and the dietetic establishment."

And while Keri advises avoiding ketogenic diets unless you have a medical reason, Dr. Phinney feels that they are both safe and advisable for weight loss and health. "Whole cultures thrived for millennia in nutritional ketosis," says Dr. Phinney. Among them: The Inuit, the Massai and the nomadic Native Americans who hunted the buffalo."

What Keri, Colette and Dr. Phinney do agree: Your body needs healthy fats to function properly. "If blood levels of saturated fats (which is the only place where saturated fat levels have been scientifically linked to heart disease and diabetes) go down on a well-formulated ketogenic diet independent of saturated fat intake, what is there to fear about eating saturated fats?" Dr. Phinney asked rhetorically.

Kim isn't the only celebrity to use the Atkins diet for weight loss. Sharon Osbourne also embraced the ketogenic approach and lost more than 25 pounds.

"Have a burger! I’ll take one with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and bacon!" wrote Sharon in her Atkins blog recently.