A recent study suggests that the keto diet, which focuses on restricting carbohydrates while increasing fats, may not be good for heart health. According to this research, following this diet increases cholesterol levels significantly and doubles your risk for cardiovascular events like blocked arteries or heart attacks.
However, experts agree there are ways to keep to a diet while simultaneously safeguarding your heart health.
How does the keto diet work?
Following the keto diet will cause your body to switch over from using carbs as fuel to using fat for energy instead, known as ketosis. Once in ketosis, liver produces compounds known as ketone bodies to keep your brain and central nervous system working. Ketone bodies come from breaking down fat molecules within your body.
The keto diet limits carbohydrates intake and emphasizes high-fat and protein foods for most of your daily calories. Furthermore, most fruits (with exception of berries), starchy vegetables and legumes should be restricted; with an aim of keeping carb intake to less than 50 grams daily.
An unfortunate side effect of keto diets can include fatigue or weakness as your body adjusts to receiving so much energy from fat sources. You might also experience indigestion and nausea before becoming adjusted to it – some individuals take up to two weeks before feeling comfortable on keto.
Some health professionals are warning patients with heart disease against following the keto diet, due to its high-fat content which could increase your blood sugar and thus wreak havoc on arteries over time. Furthermore, LDL cholesterol is one of the major risk factors of heart disease and this diet could potentially raise it further.
If you suffer from heart failure, the keto diet can be particularly detrimental. Excessive amounts of saturated fat may worsen your condition by increasing triglycerides and inflammation in your arteries. Furthermore, eating keto can result in an imbalance between potassium and sodium electrolytes – potentially worsening both conditions at once!
Another potential downside of the keto diet is that it could leave you deficient in Vitamin D, an essential nutrient for bone health and immune function. A recent study discovered that following a keto-like diet doubles your risk for cardiovascular issues such as chest pain, blocked arteries requiring stents and heart attacks or strokes.
The keto diet may limit your fiber consumption, which is essential for gut health, and cause you to consume too much protein which could damage kidneys. Before undertaking the keto diet it’s wise to consult a registered dietitian.
What are the risks?
A keto diet is high in fat, forcing the body to rely on fat instead of carbohydrates as fuel, leading to various health complications like elevated cholesterol and heart disease. One recent study demonstrated this by finding that an LCHF (low carb, high fat) diet was associated with higher levels of “bad” cholesterol as well as double the risk of cardiovascular events like strokes and heart attacks.
The keto diet may increase your risk of kidney stones and gout, an extremely painful form of arthritis. This is due to its high protein intake which can raise calcium and uric acid levels as well as dehydrate you leading to symptoms like dizziness, confusion, and fatigue.
Last, keto diet can restrict certain essential nutrients such as fiber, vitamins A-K and minerals like potassium and magnesium – leaving many individuals at risk of deficiencies which are difficult to treat. Mitigation: Make sure that you eat plenty of green vegetables, nuts and seeds as well as lean meats so you can receive adequate fiber intake as well as essential minerals and vitamins; you could also consider supplementing with multivitamins and probiotics in order to help avoid deficiencies.
One drawback of the keto diet is its difficulty in providing sufficient amounts of protein. This is partly because many of the foods with the highest protein concentration, like eggs and meat, also tend to be high in fat content. Too little protein intake can result in muscle atrophy, fatigue and poor mental wellbeing – potentially serious consequences if followed too strictly.
Before making major dietary changes to your lifestyle, it’s wise to consult your cardiologist or other healthcare provider. They can help determine if keto is right for you and suggest ways of tailoring it specifically to suit your individual needs.
Atlantic Health System cardiologist Brian Forrestal, MD recommends eating a diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains and healthy fats – and don’t forget regular check-ins with your physician and up-to-date immunizations!
What are the benefits?
The keto diet helps your body access stored fat as energy more easily. It may also aid with controlling metabolic syndrome – an accumulation of risk factors like abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, and low HDL cholesterol – with one study showing significant improvements after following it for months to years and even reversing symptoms related to diabetes and heart disease in some instances.
Dieting can also reduce carb intake, helping improve glycemic index scores – which help predict diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk factors – and aid weight loss when used alongside exercise and other behavioral changes.
Studies suggest the keto diet can boost brain health, even helping prevent or slow Alzheimer’s disease in some instances. This may be attributed to its effect on ketone bodies which protect brain cells against various forms of damage; one study even demonstrated this with its combination with carb restriction and high-fat diet resulting in improved memory for Alzheimer patients.
A well-formulated keto diet may be heart healthy, as it provides an appropriate mix of nutrients. However, any keto diet should be closely monitored by a healthcare professional or registered dietitian in order to ensure your macronutrient consumption meets both age and activity level requirements.
An integral component of any keto diet should be including sources of unsaturated fats, as some saturated fats can contribute to high cholesterol levels. Omega-3 fatty acids – essential for brain function and red blood cell formation – can be found in various sources like walnuts, salmon, trout, avocados, olive oil, and seeds.
A keto diet can provide essential fiber for gut health and digestive wellness, including leafy greens such as kale and Swiss chard, mushrooms, tomatoes and cauliflower. You should also ensure to include plenty of healthy proteins like nuts, lean meats, fish and eggs as part of a keto diet plan.
What are the side effects?
Side effects from keto diet can include fatigue, muscle aches and nausea; foul-smelling poop; fruity breath (commonly known as the “keto flu”) as your body adjusts to using fat for energy instead of carbs; this often subsides once your body adapts to this new source.
A keto diet which emphasizes meat and dairy may increase LDL cholesterol levels and increase your risk for heart disease; high LDL levels have been cited as one cause for cardiovascular events such as strokes and coronary artery diseases.
UBC researchers discovered in their new study that people following a keto diet experienced higher LDL cholesterol and twice as many heart-related issues like chest pain, blocked arteries requiring stents, and heart attacks than those on a standard low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. While further investigation of its effect will likely take place later on, experts advise keeping LDL cholesterol below 100 mg/dl and blood pressure below 130/80 mmHg to keep heart health optimal.
Concerns have been expressed that keto diet may result in deficiencies of vital nutrients such as Vitamin D and Potassium, essential components in calcium absorption. Potassium plays an essential role in nerve and muscular systems and its presence can reduce fatigue for older adults as well as those living with chronic diseases or conditions which restrict movement such as arthritis, kidney disease or diabetes.
One potential drawback of the keto diet is its limited fiber intake. While leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds provide some dietary fiber, most of its calories come from animal foods like butter and full-fat milk containing saturated fat. If you suffer from chronic kidney disease, the keto diet should not be undertaken, as this may increase acid in your bloodstream known as metabolic acidosis, worsening its condition further.