Dangers of the Keto Diet
While the ketogenic (keto) diet has been around for decades, it does come with certain hazards. One of them is that the keto diet is surrounded by a great deal of misinformation.
While there are several benefits to living a ketogenic lifestyle, there are also certain risks to consider before embarking on a ketogenic diet. It’s critical to have realistic expectations before embarking on any new endeavor, especially something as severe as drastically altering your daily diet.
The keto diet is a very low carbohydrate diet that can help you lose weight quickly—but it also has certain side effects that you may not like.
A normal keto diet consists primarily of fat, with some protein and very few carbs. Carbohydrates provide the body with the majority of the energy it requires in the form of glucose. With such a low carbohydrate and glucose intake, the body begins to utilise glucose stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. This is the body’s initial source of energy. When glycogen levels are depleted, the body switches to fat storage for energy, which is why the keto diet is so popular for weight reduction.
This is referred to as ketosis, which is the metabolic process through which ketones are converted to energy. While ketosis is normal and incredibly efficient at burning fat fast, there are several ways for the keto diet to go awry.
Susceptibility to illness and disease
One of the initial disadvantages of the keto diet is that a high proportion of beneficial carbs such as fruits and vegetables are prohibited. This eliminates a significant portion of your regular vitamin, mineral, and fiber consumption. Vitamins and minerals are required for every single bodily function. If you do not consume fruits and vegetables, your immunity will be weakened and you will become unwell more frequently. You will then battle the sickness. Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables also helps avoid heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. As a result, it is prudent to consider overall health, not only weight loss (1). Vegetables grown above ground are acceptable on a ketogenic diet. Broccoli, kale, spinach, asparagus, sprouts, and cauliflower are all examples.
You are also deficient in fiber if you do not consume fruits and vegetables. Meat and dairy items contain no fiber. Fibre is required to maintain healthy gut bacteria, which is associated with both mental and physical wellness. Additionally, it keeps your digestion working and prevents constipation. Constipation is inconvenient at best and severely painful at worst. Constipation can be alleviated by drinking plenty of fluids or by using medicines. However, the most effective method is to consume fiber fruits, and vegetables. (2)
Ketogenic diets are high in dairy goods like cheese and cream, as well as meats like bacon and sausages, poultry, and game. The problem is that high-fat meals are frequently rich in saturated fat and cholesterol when consumed on a regular basis on the keto diet. In the long run, this might result in fatal illnesses such as cancer and heart disease as a result of blocked arteries (3). Is it really worth it to kill yourself in order to be thin? It is critical not to adhere to a rigorous keto diet for an extended period of time and to monitor your blood fat levels.
If finances permit, purchase meat from grass-fed, organically bred animals. This meat is of superior quality and includes omega 3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to our health. Antibiotics and hormones are present in meat from animals kept inside and fed grain rather than grass. These are fed to the animals and end up in the meat and milk. These thus have the potential to have a detrimental influence on human health (4). Keep processed meats such as sausages, bacon, corned beef, chicken nuggets, and cold cuts to a minimum. These are salty and include preservatives. Additionally, they have been related to the development of health problems such as cancer. (5)
Keto flu is a regular side effect of this method of diet. The most often reported symptoms to resemble those of the flu – headache, exhaustion, and nausea. Additionally, muscular weakness, achiness, and cramping; fear, anxiety, sadness, acne, diarrhoea, constipation, and an overall sensation of exhaustion are common symptoms. The reason for suffering keto flu is that the body is transitioning from glucose to ketones as an energy source. Symptoms are caused by the adaptation process (6).
Those who advocate for the keto diet advise that if you suffer these symptoms, you should drink plenty of water and relax until they subside. This is accurate, however, transitioning to ketones after years of consuming glucose might take many weeks (7).
As previously stated, the keto diet relies on ketones for energy. While extra glucose may be stored on a typical diet, excess ketones cannot. They must be eliminated by the body, which is why they are expelled in the urine. As a result, you’ll need to pee considerably more frequently on a keto diet, which can result in a deficiency of water in the body, referred to as dehydration. Dehydration manifests as fatigue, headaches, and irritability. Because thirst is a solid symptom of dehydration, it is better to listen to your body and drink lots of water (8).
An unpleasant side effect of the keto diet is kidney stones, however, you may believe it is worth the risk given that they impact around 8% of individuals and grow with age (9). If left untreated, kidney stones can cause irreparable renal damage (10).
Constipation is the inverse of diarrhoea, which can also be a side effect of the keto diet. The ketogenic diet is extremely rich in fat. When we consume fat, the liver creates bile to aid in the breakdown of that fat. Bile has little impact on a regular diet; nevertheless, eating too many fats results in an excess of bile. This may result in diarrhoea, as bile is a laxative (11).
When you have diarrhoea, the food is not fully broken down because it passes too quickly through the intestines. Along with being inconvenient, it may be somewhat humiliating. If food moves too quickly through the digestive tract, the nutrients consumed are not absorbed into the body. This should not be a problem in the short term, but in the long run, it can result in dehydration and other health problems (12).
Halitosis is another unpleasant side effect of the keto diet. As such, it poses little risk, but be advised – you may lose friends! The good news is that this phase only lasts a few weeks as your body learns to burn fat rather than carbs. The best method to combat it is to drink enough water and maintain proper dental hygiene (13).
Many people who adhere to keto diets do so in order to lose weight. However, obesity is one of the negative consequences of this sort of diet. Obesity is harmful because it is associated with a variety of chronic health problems, including heart disease and cancer. The reason for this is that when we consume a high amount of saturated fats, our livers become overworked and begin converting any more calories to fat rather than utilising other available energy sources. Because fat contains more calories per gram than carbs, it is critical, as with any diet, not to consume too many calories (14).
A high-fat diet results in something called insulin resistance. This occurs when cells become oblivious to the presence of insulin in the circulation. When we eat, insulin is produced to allow the cells to absorb the glucose required for energy. Excess fat obstructs this process, resulting in insulin resistance, which can progress to diabetes (15). Diabetes has long-term repercussions that include eye difficulties that can result in blindness and nerve damage that can result in limb amputation (16).
Poor Mental Health
Finally, a high-fat diet poses a major risk of increased stress, anxiety, and depression. Fat is inflammatory, and its long-term influence on the brain results in many devastating mental health conditions. Not to mention that the diet is quite restrictive, which can result in poor mood merely from eating the same items over and over (17).
When considering starting the keto diet, it is critical to get medical counsel, especially if you have any health concerns. At the very least, eat this way for a brief period of time. There are other additional methods for losing weight that is, arguably, considerably less dangerous.
- Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Risk of Major Chronic Disease https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/96/21/1577/2521033?login=true
- Constipation on Ketogenic Diet: Causes and Remedies https://www.ketovale.com/constipation-on-keto/
- Fats, Cholesterol, And Chronic Diseases https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235018/
- Antibiotic exposure and risk of weight gain and obesity: protocol for a systematic review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5571496/
- Healthy Eating: The Dangers of Processed Meat https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/processed_meat_dangers_healthy_eating
- Consumer Reports of “Keto Flu” Associated with the Ketogenic Diet https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2020.00020/full?
- The impact of keto-adaptation on exercise performance and the role of metabolic-regulating cytokines https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/110/3/562/5539226
- Clinical Aspects of the Ketogenic Diet https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2007.00914.x
- Incidence and Characteristics of Kidney Stones in Patients on Ketogenic Diet: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34070285/
- Kidney stones https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/kidney-stones/
- Researchers find new treatment for constipation https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110510101500.htm
- Effect of high fat-diet and obesity on gastrointestinal motility https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3890396/
- 5 easy tricks to stop keto bad breath https://dentalhealth.oxyfresh.com/dental-health/5-easy-tricks-to-stop-keto-diet-bad-breath/
- Reasons for not losing weight on a keto diet https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326484
- Deleterious effects of lard-enriched diet on tissues fatty acids composition and hypothalamic insulin actions https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26525379/
- Complications of diabetes https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/complications
- Diet-Derived Fatty Acids, Brain Inflammation, and Mental Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6448040/