Research: Keto Diet May Have Long-Term Health Risks

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Key results

  • New research shows that the risks associated with a ketogenic diet may outweigh the benefits, such as faster weight loss.
  • Researchers say that following the ketogenic diet is especially risky before or during pregnancy and for people with chronic kidney disease.
  • One of the main problems with this restrictive diet is that many people tend to eat too much red meat and processed foods with too little fruits and vegetables.

The popular ketogenic diet, also known as keto, can create long-term health risks that outweigh the short-term benefits, according to new research published in Frontiers in Nutrition.

Analyzing the available ketogenic literature, the researchers found that the diet was particularly unsafe for pregnant women, people who could become pregnant, and people with kidney disease. They concluded that the ketogenic diet can also lead to long-term health complications like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's for most people.

The ketogenic diet is generally very low in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and high in fat. This diet includes foods such as meat, fish, nuts, and fibrous vegetables, while excluding most fruits, grains, beans, starchy vegetables, and sweets.

Your goal is to achieve ketosis, a state in which the body uses fat for fuel. Otherwise, glucose is the main source of energy from carbohydrates. By limiting carbohydrate intake, the ketogenic diet forces the body to break down fat into ketones as an alternative source of energy.

"The idea for people on this diet is that if you burn fat, you can also burn fat," said Shivam Joshi, MD , nephrologist, clinical assistant professor in the School of Medicine. Grossman of New York University and a co-author of the study. reports Get drug information.

Keto has historically been used to treat intractable epilepsy , a severe drug-resistant seizure. However, more and more people are adopting this restrictive diet for weight loss and diabetes treatment .

Joshi says that some people lose weight through the keto diet, but the short-term weight loss is likely the result of reduced calorie intake. Keto is on par with other calorie-restricted diets, he adds, but people should be aware of its side effects.

Risks associated with keto

Neil Barnard, MD, FACC , associate professor of medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, tells Get Meds Info that ketogenic diets contain foods that are associated with cancer risk.

The keto diet emphasizes consumption of animal products and limits many nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. As a result, the ketogenic diet is low in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Restrict carbohydrates before or during The researchers found that pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of birth defects and gestational diabetes. Since 40% of pregnancies in the US are unplanned, a low-carb diet is considered risky for anyone who could get pregnant.

Barnard adds that most people are at risk for a strictly restrictive ketogenic diet. "If a cat eats meat every day for its entire life, it will never have a heart attack," he says. "If you eat meat for a week, in many cases your cholesterol levels will rise and you could develop heart disease."

Potential Health Risks of the Ketogenic Diet

  • In pregnant women, even those taking folic acid supplements, babies can develop neural tube defects.
  • Because high amounts of protein can put pressure on the kidneys, keto can pose an increased risk for people with chronic kidney disease.
  • Persistent ketosis in people with type 1 diabetes can lead to insulin resistance and other complications.
  • Keto can quickly raise total cholesterol levels, including low-density lipoprotein cholesterol ("bad cholesterol"), which can be especially dangerous for people at high risk for heart disease.

How to Safely Embark on a Ketogenic Diet

In recent years, the ketogenic diet has become a fad diet for weight loss and treating various other ailments. However, Barnard suggests that there is generally a better dietary approach than keto.

'Carbs are good. Grains, beans, fruits and vegetables should be staples, ”he says, adding that a plant-based diet can predictably lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.

Some followers of the ketogenic diet have moved away from the traditionally restrictive format in favor of a vegan or plant-based ketogenic diet.

Liz McDowell , Certified Complete Nutrition Consultant and Author of Vegan Keto maintains a Meat Free Keto food blog. She sticks to what she calls a "quasi-ketogenic diet." Liz adds fruits, vegetables, and beans to her diet, which could spark controversy in the keto world. He even received criticism for sharing a post about strawberries on his Instagram.

"Consuming these micronutrients far outweighs any challenge your body currently faces in maintaining ketosis with these minimal extra grams of carbohydrates," McDowell tells Get Meds Info. 'Fruit is not the worst. It has sugar, but it has so many other positives, so many good phytochemicals and micronutrients. "

For those who want to add more Cool Liz emphasizes one important thing: don't be nervous.

"We have enough stress that we don't have to worry about eating an extra carrot or an extra cherry tomato," he says.

Strict ketogenic diets, even if they are plant-based, still bother some practitioners, as they often limit healthy sources of protein. While keto can be a great weight loss aid, more research is needed on its long-term safety for people with metabolic diseases and cardiovascular risk factors.

What does this mean to you

Ultimately, you can decide which diet is best for achieving your health goals. If you are looking to switch to a ketogenic diet, think about its risks and whether it is acceptable to you. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how your diet plan could affect your health. While the ketogenic diet helps some people control cramps or lose weight, there are long-term risks that may outweigh the short-term benefits.

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