The ketogenic (or keto) diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that is commonly used for weight loss and also for lowering or managing blood sugar levels. Through carbohydrate restriction and increased fat intake, this diet can lead to ketosis, a metabolic state where your body burns fat for energy in lieu of carbs.
While with some health solutions, however, a keto diet has shocking health problems that can arise as you practice it. Here are some:
Carbohydrate intake in a keto diet is less than 20 to 50 grams daily.
Because your body depletes the carbs stored and switches to ketones and fat for fuel, you may experience flu-like symptoms at the beginning. These include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and constipation, which are partly caused by dehydration and electrolyte imbalances in your body as it adjusts to ketosis.
Though a keto flu is usually gone within a few weeks in most cases, it is important to monitor these symptoms throughout the diet, stay hydrated and eat food rich in electrolytes such as sodium and potassium.
High-fat, animal-based food sources such as eggs, meat and cheese are staples of a keto diet because they do not contain carbs. However, too much of these can cause your blood and urine to become more acidic, leading to increased excretion of calcium in your urine and increasing your risk of kidney stones.
Some studies suggested that a keto diet reduces the citrate released in your urine. Since citrate itself binds to calcium and prevents the formation of kidney stones, reduced citrate levels can increase your risk of developing them.
Additionally, a keto diet is not recommended for those with chronic kidney disease (CKD) because weakened kidneys may be unable to remove acid buildup in the blood that stems from consuming animal-based food. This leads to acidosis, which worsens the progression of CKD. That is why those with CKD are often recommended with diets that are low in protein, which a keto diet is high in.
May Cause Digestive Issues
A keto diet limits your intake of carbs. This poses a problem since carbs — or more accurately, naturally-found carbs — meet your daily fiber intake.
Fiber-rich food such as high-carb fruits, starchy vegetables, whole grains and beans are slashed from the diet because they contain too many carbs, leading to digestive discomfort and constipation as a result.
In addition, fiber feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut, and a healthy gut can help boost your immunity, improve your mental health and decrease inflammation. Though current research is mixed, a low-carb, fiber-less diet such as keto can negatively affect your gut bacteria.
Leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower and coconut are among many keto-friendly food sources that are rich in fiber.
Because a keto diet restricts several foods, particularly nutrient-rich fruits, legumes and whole grains, it may fail to provide recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals.
More accurately, some studies suggested that a keto diet does not deliver enough calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin D. Another study, which evaluated the nutrient composition of common diets, revealed that extremely low-carb eating patterns such as Atkins, which is similar to keto, provide sufficient amounts of only 12 out of 27 vitamins and minerals needed to be obtained from food by your body. All of these can lead to nutrient deficiencies over time.
It is noted that guidelines for physicians who manage people on a keto diet for weight loss recommend supplementing with potassium, calcium and other vitamins and minerals.
Keep in mind that the diet’s nutritional adequacy depends on the specific food you eat. A diet rich in non-starchy vegetables, nuts, avocados and other healthy low-carb food sources provide more nutrients than processed meats and keto treats.
Low Blood Sugar
Although low-carb diets like a keto diet help manage blood sugar in those with diabetes (specifically, type 1 diabetes), they can also lead to higher risk of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. Marked by confusion, shakiness, sweating and fatigue, hypoglycemia can lead to coma or death if not treated.
That is because those with type 1 diabetes always experience low blood sugar if they take too much insulin and not enough carbs. Theoretically, this can happen to type 2 diabetics who are taking insulin medications.
Damages Your Bones
Though more research is needed, a keto diet is also linked to impaired bone health.
More accurately, several animal studies link keto diet to decreased bone strength, likely caused by bone density losses, which may occur as your body adapts to ketosis. Also, a six-month study in 29 children with epilepsy discovered that taking a keto diet is linked to lower bone mineral density.
Increases Risk Of Chronic Diseases And Early Death
The ketogenic diet’s effects on your risk of chronic diseases (e.g. heart disease, cancer) are a subject of heated debates and are not fully understood.
While research is mixed, some evidence suggested that high-fat, low-carb diets that focus on animal-based food sources can lead to higher death rates resulting from heart disease, cancer and all causes.