Celebrities such as Halle Berry and Kourtney Kardashian have made the keto diet, which consists of eating lots of fat while cutting back on carbs and increasing protein consumption, popular. Unfortunately, according to new research it may also increase “bad” cholesterol levels while increasing heart disease risk factors like chest pain or blocked arteries necessitating stent placements.
1. It’s a low-carb diet
A keto diet reduces carbs, the main source of energy for our bodies. By restricting carb intake, our bodies become forced to start breaking down fat for fuel instead. This process, known as ketosis, may cause fatigue, constipation and nausea as it progresses.
An integral component of keto diet is eating animal proteins and fats for nutrition. While animal sources contain protein and fat that is beneficial, not all types are equal – eating high amounts of saturated fats like meat and dairy increases LDL cholesterol levels which in turn increases risk of heart disease and stroke.
The keto diet eliminates foods rich in carbohydrates and other nutritious components, like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, leading to nutritional deficiencies and leading to weight fluctuations that cause more fluctuations in weight and blood sugar. This may increase cardiovascular disease risks as more variations in body weight and blood sugar may lead to irregular heartbeat patterns and increased risk of cardiovascular issues.
Concerns with the keto diet also include its difficulty of adhering to it in the long term. As its restrictions can be difficult to adhere to, most who initially go on it eventually end up reintroducing carbohydrates back into their diet, leading to rebound weight and increased levels of unhealthy cholesterol. To reduce heart disease risks effectively it’s crucial that you find a diet you can stick with over time; try getting most of your calories from plant-based sources and lean proteins while limiting fats and sugars intake.
2. It’s a high-fat diet
On the keto diet, your primary source of calories comes from fat. While this can be healthy in moderation, consuming too many saturated fats at one time may increase LDL or “bad” cholesterol and raise your risk for heart disease. Furthermore, not providing sufficient dietary fiber which has been known to lower it further increases this risk.
Studies conducted at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology have revealed that following a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet like keto can double your risk of cardiovascular issues such as chest pain, blocked arteries requiring stents and heart attacks. Over 300 individuals who reported following such diets participated in this research study conducted by American College of Cardiology researchers.
When carbohydrates are limited, the body goes into ketosis – breaking down fat for energy instead of glucose or simple sugars such as cornstarch. Ketone bodies produced during ketosis provide fuel for brain and other tissue tissues; however, conversion to energy may take more time; consequently LCHF diet can result in lower blood sugar levels which could pose risks to people living with diabetes and may interfere with certain medications prescribed to them.
The keto diet contains high amounts of saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. To maintain optimal heart health, it is advisable to limit these to no more than 10% of total daily calories; examples include meat, butter, unprocessed cheese and avocados. On the upside though, fruits and vegetables rich in heart-protecting nutrients do not restrict this plan!
When choosing a source of fats, it’s essential to focus on unsaturated sources, like olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Salmon, trout, herring, and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids for added health benefits. Furthermore, it is vital that we steer clear of foods containing trans fats such as fast food or margarine which contain trans fatty acids.
3. It’s a high-protein diet
Celebrities like Halle Berry, Kourtney Kardashian and Lebron James have taken to following the keto diet — low in carbs but high in fat — which allows the body to produce chemicals known as ketones for fuel and help people shed excess weight. But is this diet, also referred to as Paleo Diet or Atkins 20 by its various names, suitable for cardiologists? Two Hackensack Meridian Health medical experts share what you should know before embarking on such a high-fat regimen.
Keto diets typically consist of eating 75% of their calories from fat, 20% from protein and 5% from carbs – this allows the body to access its own stored fat while also potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies. “It may be difficult for someone on a keto diet to consume sufficient quantities of fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” notes Dr. Adnan Khan from Monmouth Heart Center in New Jersey.
One issue with keto diets may be their excessive consumption of saturated and trans fats, leading to build-ups of plaque in arteries that raise your risk for heart disease, causing chest pain or blocked arteries that require stents to open them up, as well as possible heart attacks.
Selecting foods rich in carbohydrates and fiber is one way to mitigate these risks, such as substituting processed grains-based snacks for nuts, seeds or avocados instead. Also consider switching out regular milk for almond or coconut milk that’s lower in carbs; and finally try eating a variety of fish and healthy fats (like olive oil, salmon or avocado) for increased omega-3 consumption.
Overall, the long-term effects of a keto diet remain unclear and additional research needs to be conducted before concluding whether it’s safe for certain health conditions. Pregnant women and those with diabetes should particularly avoid keto because it increases the risk for ketoacidosis; another concern with keto is that sudden surges of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides could damage artery walls leading to an increase in atrial fibrillation risk.
4. It’s a low-calorie diet
The keto diet involves drastically cutting carbohydrates out of your diet, depriving the body of its primary energy source – carbohydrates. To compensate, your body begins breaking down fats for energy instead, creating substances called ketone bodies which provide energy across the board including brain function. According to research done recently, these ketone bodies may also help protect heart health by decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress.
Chokshi notes that while ketogenic diets, which contain many saturated fats, may increase cholesterol levels, this does not have to be seen as bad news; in fact, he believes it could actually lower LDL and raise HDL. In the past, doctors were concerned that these diets would increase LDL, however a new study indicates the opposite may be true.
Recent study by scientists examined the health data of over 300 people who followed a low-carb, high-fat diet and compared that information with that of 1,200 people who consumed typical American fare diets. Their results demonstrated that those following the low-carb, high-fat diet had higher levels of bad cholesterol and double the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Although the results of the study may be shocking, they should not be taken as definitive. Relying solely on self-reported data, participants did not follow their diet consistently for long periods of time and this study only covered one type of ketogenic diet while other studies have produced different outcomes.
As with any diet, ketogenic diets require consulting your physician first before beginning one. By understanding their potential impacts on blood sugar and cholesterol, and understanding if they’re right for you, then can you determine if keto is appropriate for you.
There are a wide variety of healthy options for anyone following a ketogenic diet, including lean meats, eggs, unprocessed cheese, nuts and seeds, fruits vegetables olive oil. Furthermore, herbs and spices may contain small amounts of carbs but these should only be consumed occasionally as part of a moderate keto diet plan. MCT oil could provide an added boost of keton production.