A keto diet has become increasingly popular, yet a new study indicates it could have serious repercussions for heart health. Atlantic Health System cardiologist Brian Forrestal discusses this further.
Researchers found that following a keto-like diet was linked with elevated LDL levels and doubled risk of cardiovascular events, including chest pain (angina), blocked arteries requiring stents, heart attacks and strokes.
1. It’s a low-carbohydrate diet
Low-carbohydrate diets enable your body to burn fat for energy, producing ketones in turn which help your body function. But research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s annual scientific session this past weekend suggests that following such a plan may increase levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol and double your risk for issues like chest pain (angina), blocked arteries requiring stents or heart attacks.
A typical low-carb diet typically restricts carbohydrates to 10 to 20% of your caloric intake, leaving room for other sources such as lean proteins such as meats, fish and nuts, low glycemic fruits such as leafy green vegetables, low glycemic fruit juices, cheeses and low processed, salty or sugary foods as well as alcohol or red meat consumption.
All diets can increase or decrease LDL cholesterol, but the keto diet takes it one step further by dramatically cutting carbs to induce metabolic ketosis, or burning fat as fuel for energy production. When following this diet, unsaturated fats from fish, olive oil and avocados may actually improve heart health and should be prioritized when selecting which types of unsaturated fatty acids to include in your meal plans.
Many on a keto diet don’t consume enough fiber, which helps lower your cholesterol by reducing blood pressure and triglycerides. Furthermore, according to research presented at an American College of Cardiology meeting recently, those following low-carbohydrate diets for over two decades experienced an increased risk of atrial fibrillation – which can be a telltale sign of heart disease.
Bottom line: It remains uncertain how a keto diet will influence heart disease in the long term, and pregnant women or those taking preexisting conditions should consult their physician prior to beginning any keto diet regimens. Furthermore, those taking blood pressure or blood sugar medications, or with history of cardiovascular issues or high cholesterol should speak with their healthcare provider prior to initiating a keto diet plan.
Keto diets may not be right for everyone, but if you are healthy with moderate weight loss as your goal, they may be heart-healthy. When following one, opt for foods rich in unsaturated fats while restricting salt, sugar and red meat intake in order to promote cardiovascular wellbeing.
2. It’s a high-fat diet
A keto diet is high in fat because limiting carbohydrates forces your body to look to its own stored fat reserves for energy instead. When this happens, your body produces energy called ketone bodies from these fat molecules, helping people on a keto diet lose weight faster while increasing their risk for heart disease.
Attributing to an increased heart disease risk, low-carb and high-fat diets have been found to raise LDL (also known as “bad”) cholesterol, leading to buildup and blockage of arteries resulting in heart disease or stroke. But these changes in cholesterol are temporary; once eating a more balanced diet including whole grains, fruits (except berries), vegetables, lean proteins, nuts seeds and healthy oils like olive and coconut oil they usually return back to normal levels.
One of the primary criticisms of keto diets is their high amount of saturated fats, which increases risk for heart disease. Saturated fats increase levels of triglycerides – another type of cholesterol linked with heart disease – however McManus offers several suggestions for decreasing your consumption of saturated fat. He recommends limiting animal sources like meat and cheese to five percent of total daily caloric intake while opting for vegetable or plant sources like avocadoes, nuts and olive oil instead.
As well as cutting your saturated fat intake, the keto diet limits processed foods consumption and sodium consumption – two risk factors associated with heart disease. Furthermore, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables that promote cardiovascular wellness as well as constipation prevention may also benefit.
If you have a history of heart disease, consulting your physician before embarking on the keto diet may be recommended, particularly if additional risk factors like high blood pressure, smoking and family history exist. While the keto diet can temporarily increase bad cholesterol levels temporarily; it has not been associated with higher risks for heart disease as other high-fat diets have.
3. It’s a low-protein diet
A low-protein diet is an eating plan which limits the amount of protein you consume each day. It may help manage certain health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol; however it must always be undertaken under medical or nutritional advice.
Protein is an essential macronutrient, essential to maintaining good health and helping keep us feeling full and satisfied throughout our days. Protein also plays an essential role in energy production and metabolism processes – so a low-protein diet shouldn’t be undertaken without consulting a physician or nutritionist first.
According to a study presented at this year’s American College of Cardiology conference, people who follow keto-like diets have an increased risk of heart disease compared with those who don’t. Researchers evaluated health information of more than 300 participants who reported following diets which comprised 25% or fewer carbohydrates and over 45% fat content; their information was then compared against that of 1,200 individuals eating standard American diets.
Researchers found that those following a keto-like diet had higher LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels and an increased risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks, strokes and peripheral arterial disease despite controlling for other factors like blood pressure, weight and smoking status.
Though researchers do not fully understand why this occurs, they believe that it could be related to the lack of carb-rich foods found in keto-like diets causing the body to use stored fat as fuel and produce ketones – contributing to an increase in heart disease risk.
A low-protein diet should be combined with other heart-healthy practices, including restricting sugar and salt consumption and limiting red meat and processed food consumption. Furthermore, your diet should include ample unsaturated fat sources like olive oil, avocados and nuts as well as fish or other lean proteins for maximum effectiveness.
4. It’s a high-fat diet
The keto diet focuses on providing your body with healthy fats derived from animal products, vegetables and seeds as well as olive and coconut oils containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids that have been linked with reduced risks of heart disease. But at the same time it limits foods high in carbs which could potentially increase blood sugar levels.
Dieting should include eating foods from all categories in moderation to remain healthy, such as including leafy green vegetables (kale, Swiss chard and spinach) low-glycemic fruits such as berries and moderate protein from meats and nuts. Furthermore, it’s essential to limit processed foods, added sugars and salt while increasing consumption of whole grain fiber products.
The keto diet goes beyond restricting carbohydrates and increasing fiber, suggesting heart-healthy fats from natural sources as part of its core philosophy. Opt for natural sources like lean meats, poultry, fish eggs and nuts when selecting heart-healthy fats; grass-fed butter provides more omega-3 fatty acids that help combat inflammation while helping protect against cardiovascular disease.
Though rich in heart-healthy fats, keto diet is still higher than average American diet in saturated fat. This may contribute to an increase in LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, known as the “bad” variety; high levels are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Recent research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s annual scientific session revealed that diets similar to ketogenic ones increased LDL cholesterol and doubled risk for cardiovascular events, such as chest pain (angina), blocked arteries requiring stents, heart attacks, and strokes.
While this study was limited, its results indicate that a keto-like diet may not be heart-friendly and should be modified. A healthier keto diet would include more plant-based ingredients and reduced saturated fat consumption; additionally, whole grains and pulses provide protection for cardiovascular health due to their rich source of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and other health-enhancing substances.