Is the Keto Diet Harmful for Some People?

An alternative view for sure, but one that might raise a few eyebrows.

Because a keto diet cuts out many foods that provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and it may increase how much saturated fat you consume, the keto diet is likely to not be the healthiest option for most people over the long haul. The keto diet may contain higher levels of unhealthy saturated fats, which are linked to increased heart disease risk.

If your body struggles to handle high levels of fat, the keto diet could put you at high risk for dietary inflammation. Because the large amounts of protein may stress your kidneys, keto can be more of a risk for those who suffer from chronic kidney disease. Keto may be particularly dangerous for women who are pregnant or who might be expecting — low-carb diets are associated with an increased risk of neural tube defects in babies, even if women are taking folic acid.

Another study, published in The Lancet this month, also found that people following a diet with fewer carbohydrates and more animal protein — the type of the keto diet — had an increased risk of dying young, compared with people eating carbohydrates moderately.

For instance, a 2016 study found that people following a low-carb diet had higher levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease. A keto diet may quickly raise overall cholesterol levels, including lower-density lipoprotein cholesterol (bad cholesterol), which may be particularly harmful to people at higher cardiovascular risk.

High-protein diets have also been found to precipitate renal failure in patients with renal failure, and to raise levels of bad cholesterol in some patients. A new review found that protein-rich keto diets can also lead to kidney stones, as well as hastening of renal failure in patients with renal failure.

The authors of a 2012 review concluded that low-carbohydrate diets focused on animal sources of protein and fat increased risk for type-2 diabetes and death. In addition, very low carbohydrate diets generally had higher rates of adverse events, including constipation, headaches, bad breath, and others. While some studies suggest that a ketogenic diet can starve out cancer cells, the latest report found that limiting carbohydrates actually skewed the persons diet toward more foods that contribute to cancer. Ketogenic diets generally promote foods high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbohydrates, to try to trigger a metabolic state known as ketosis, in which the body burns fat as fuel rather than carbohydrates.

Unlike other low-carb diets, which emphasize protein, the keto plan emphasizes fat, providing up to 90% of your daily calories. The keto diet allows many people to eat the types of high-fat foods that they like, like red meat, fatty fish, nuts, cheese, and butter, all while losing weight.

Another finding suggests that a ketogenic diet may actually help people achieve weight loss – but it is not any more effective than other diet approaches, such as a low-fat diet, when studied over a longer period. While it is probably going to result in some weight loss over the short-term, it is really about losing lean mass, rather than losing fat, says Krista Brown.

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