09 Mar 2019
If you’re one who pays attention to the trends in mainstream dietary advice, and I’m certainly not recommending staying up to date with that complete trainwreck, you’ll notice that the mainstream media are rather consistent in their constant misguided warnings against low carb, ketogenic diets. It’s rather glaring that this approach to eating is a threat in some way to the established dietary dogma of the day. On the surface, it looks like just a petty back-and-forth about something as inane as diet – “veganism is the best!” “No, keto’s the best!” The average person would be forgiven for thinking the whole thing is rather stupid and ignoring it all.
But there’s more behind this than may first meet the eye, and a recent example of propaganda gracing the collective information dumpster that is the internet is quite illustrative of just how much skin in the game the diet dictocrats have, and how much they really want you to never, ever, even consider embarking on a low carbohydrate dietary regimen. This particular smear against the ketogenic diet has popped up seemingly overnight, yet has spread far and wide with a kind of traction that couldn’t possibly be organic. It’s banal, crass and would be quite funny if the implications of it weren’t rather sinister. I am of course talking about the phenomenon now known as “keto crotch” (I told you it was crass).
I’ve probably lost some readers already and believe me, I wouldn’t stoop to addressing this if it wasn’t so prevalent at the moment. All sorts of articles across multiple platforms have been conjured within the last week talking about a supposed side-effect of the ketogenic diet that causes genital itching, discharge and a change in odor. It mostly applies to women, but some articles have said it applies to men, too. How convenient. No one is safe. So we’re apparently taking a break from the ‘saturated fat causes heart disease’ myth, or the long-debunked ‘eating cholesterol will raise your cholesterol’ propaganda, or even my personal favorite, the ‘cow farts are destroying the planet’ lies. The newest reason to avoid a low carbohydrate diet is that it will make your junk stink. Welcome to “journalism” in 2019. Talk about hitting below the belt.
First let it be established that keto crotch is not real. In all the time I’ve spent doing low carb, frequenting forums, talking with fellow practitioners, I have never come across this. And believe me, some of the info shared on keto troubleshooting threads is quite intimate, so the idea that people are just too embarrassed to talk about it doesn’t hold any water. The semi-anonymity of the internet clearly makes people willing to share rather candid details of their dietary experiences without much hesitation. While genital odor is a fact of life (I honestly can’t believe I’m writing about this), there is absolutely no reason to believe it is any more prevalent in ketogenic dieters than the population at large. There is, in fact, reason to believe it is less prevalent (see the Dr. Ken Berry video below for more of an explanation for this).
And to take it out of the realm of my personal experience, we can take a look at what the experts are saying:
Dr. Jason Fung – “Interesting how I treat hundreds of people a week for 6 years and have NEVER heard of the phantom ‘Keto crotch’.”
Dominic D’Angostino – “I had like 10 people ask me about this the other day and had no idea what they were talking about until I saw it was the top keto story. It’s sad what journalists do to get more hits on their story”
Liz Lamb MD – “I see about 30 crotches per day and have seen some disturbing things but never keto crotch…..”
Dr. Ken Berry – “I don’t think keto crotch is a thing. I’ve had exactly zero complaints from women who are eating keto about any of these symptoms. Not a single woman has come to the clinic saying “since I started keto I started getting keto crotch.” I haven’t heard that a single time. And I don’t expect I will.
Here’s the entire Dr. Ken Berry video because the whole thing is quite good for debunking this crass and silly trend:
Now I wouldn’t be writing this article just to debunk this silly viral myth that’s infecting the mainstream headlines. But Twitter user John Zahorik recently went down the rabbit hole on this keto crotch business and did an incredible job of pulling together multiple threads to get a picture of what exactly is going on here. Thread starts here and it’s well worth reading in its entirety.
Fundamentally, Zahorik was setting out to answer the question of where this keto crotch thing was coming from. As he says, “28 unique ‘articles’ released between 2/25/19 and 3/4/19 (and ongoing) on all levels of media with hundreds of millions of eyeballs. Jesus, look at those headlines. Whoever did this has NO SHAME.”
The rabbit hole goes deep in Zahorik’s research, all of it pointing to the strong likelihood that the keto crotch phenomenon is a coordinated public relations campaign. He looks into “Native Advertising”, which is advertising that is made to look like news. In most cases, the reader can’t tell the difference between native advertising and the rest of the articles on the site or in print. And many, many news outlets are employing this technique, despite the fact that a 2014 study found 62% of respondents think news sites lose credibility when they publish native ads. But considering the fact that the line between Native Ads and true news content is so blurred as to be non-existent, you never really know if the origin of the article you’re reading is actual news or something completely fabricated by public relations or advertising companies.
But where the evidence starts to get more damning is where Zahorik brings in the public relations firm Edelman Digital. These guys are huge and have some notable clients like Weight Watchers (keep them in mind), Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s and 3.5€ billion pasta giant Barilla who, along with pushing a worldwide vegan agenda through influencing global nutrition policy, are not above funding ‘studies’ that tout the health and weight loss benefits of pasta. Now I’m sure all these companies would be shocked and dismayed over a coordinated campaign aimed at disparaging the ketogenic diet, a diet that eschews literally everything they have on offer, materially and ideologically, and is gaining converts by the millions.
Now check out this tweet from September of 2018:
And take a look at this from last week:
So 5 months after employing Edelman, and it gets reported by CNN that Weight Watchers is “getting crushed by keto”, its stock losing 80% of its value since last July, all of a sudden we get a phony side-effect of the keto diet plastered everywhere you look.
It makes sense that Weight Watchers would be suffering at the moment since it’s the epitome of a yo-yo diet and is, at best, a temporary fix. It’s actually rather amazing that they’ve been able to build the empire they have, given science behind their program, simplistic calorie counting, ensures that those who embark on their program will be back to their heavy selves, often even heavier, eventually. There’s a reason they go through spokespersons like toilet paper.
The ketogenic diet, on the other hand, is quick and easy for natural weight loss that can be maintained indefinitely. In the above video, Dr. Ken Berry points out that when he went to a bookstore to check out all these articles on ‘keto crotch’, he found something rather enlightening. “Each magazine that had a big story about keto crotch also had a full page ad for Weight Watchers. I found that very curious, as well – that this just came out of nowhere just as Weight Watchers profits are hitting the tank.”
Another noteworthy point from Zahorik’s thread illustrates how the nature of this phenomenon make it seem tailored rather than organic. Specifically, he talks about the use of a mnemonic device, a mental technique used to organize information so that it’s more easily remembered. “Keto crotch” would be an example of an “aliterative connection mnemonic” because of the double hard-C sound. As Zahorik points out, public relations companies are experts at using mnemonic devices to make brands stick in the minds of consumers. It’s almost like someone designed the term ‘keto crotch’ to be easily remembered and to ensure that whenever someone thinks of the term ‘keto’, they’ll inevitably associate to ‘keto crotch’.
None of this is a smoking gun, but it’s not hard to see what is more than likely going on here. Weight Watchers is tanking, largely due to the grassroots success of the ketogenic diet, hires Edelman to help crush the competition, Edelman comes up with ‘keto crotch’. And since smearing the ketogenic diet is a benefit for their other clients, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, Barilla and who knows who else, it’s a net win. Edelman are masters of this kind of manipulation and even pioneered a model called the EDELMAN CLOVERLEAF™ framework. Zahorik put an example together for keto crotch:
It’s interesting that the reactions against the ‘keto crotch’ phenomenon fit within the model itself, under the “Earned Media” quadrant. So the fact that the article you’re reading right now is a reaction to their campaign means that it fits perfectly within the campaign itself, boosting the term and giving it yet more traction. It’s fiendishly diabolical in its simplicity. Please forget you read this.
Another interesting part of the campaign, giving the story a modicum of credibility are the paid experts. These are the people who will basically give you a quote for anything you want them to say allowing you to benefit from their credentials. Doctors, dietitians, nutritional scientists, basically anyone with letters next to their name will do. Want an expert opinion on ‘keto crotch’ but no one who’s an actual expert would stoop to the level of commenting on it, other than to debunk it? Enter a paid expert:
As Zahorik says, “Keep in mind: It DOESN’T MATTER if the information is CREDIBLE or TRUE. We just need ENOUGH credibility to justify putting KETO CROTCH into the public awareness and have it REPEATED.”
The entire goal of this campaign is to try to kill keto because it’s losing people money. It would be hilarious if it weren’t for the fact that, unlike Weight Watchers, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola and Barilla, the ketogenic diet has the potential to help thousands, if not millions, of people. Not just with weight loss, but with chronic pain, dementia, seizures, cancer, behavior disorders, heart disease, diabetes… the list goes on. To think of how many people could be helped through this diet, or something similar, who may be dissuaded from ever trying it due to a PR campaign designed to embarrass and humiliate them is enraging beyond belief.
However, be assured that campaigns like this really have nothing to do with health. They’re simply a means of controlling behavior in the desired direction to make people money. They don’t care if you’re healthy or sick, as long as a significant portion of your paycheck is going into their pockets. As Tristan from Primal Edge Health said, “These aren’t public service announcements, guys. This is social engineering… These are vehicles for advertisers to push ideologies. These are vehicles for advertisers to socially engineer us.” And he’s absolutely right. Something as trivial and lowest-common-denominator as ‘keto crotch’ is hardly worth getting worked up over, but think about how much of ‘what you know’ is tailored and crafted by a PR company looking to influence your perception. Think about how much of what’s in your head, as we speak, is the result of corporate propaganda that has absolutely zero relation to reality.