Is Keto Diet Safe? – The very first question that comes to one’s mind when one is thinking of going on a keto diet. And rightly so, Keto diet is a scientific diet and does require careful planning and consideration. In a keto diet, one consumes high fat, low carbohydrate and a moderate amount of proteins to meet the protein requirements of the body. The diet is designed to make your body enter into a metabolic state called ketosis. During ketosis, due to glucose deficit, your body utilizes the fat stored in the body and produces ketone bodies. Ketone bodies circulate in the blood and fulfill the energy requirements of your body instead of glucose. Ketosis induced by a ketogenic diet is called nutritional ketosis. Since fat is used to produce ketone bodies during ketosis, the primary effect of a ketogenic diet is weight loss due to burning of fat stored in the body. Apart from weight loss, there are several other health benefits of following the ketogenic diet. However, there are several issues that have been raised around Keto Diet which begs the question is keto diet safe?
Below we will discuss few of the concerns on keto diet and try to answer the question is keto diet safe for an average Indian?
Does ketogenic diet cause ketoacidosis?
The ketone bodies (acetoacetate, hydroxyl butyrate and acetone) produced during ketosis are acidic. The body has mechanisms for maintaining its acid-base balance. These mechanisms prevent the development of highly acidic environment inside your body due to the production of ketone bodies. But during instances of prolonged ketosis the acid-base balance is no longer maintained resulting in ketoacidosis. It is a dangerous condition that requires immediate medical help and commonly occurs in people with type 1 diabetes. Type I diabetics do not produce insulin and due to this the feedback mechanism in their body that prevents the ketone bodies from rising to dangerously high levels is impaired leading to diabetic ketoacidosis.
In contrast, ketosis induced by the ketogenic diet is called nutritional ketosis and is a normal metabolic process. Nutritional ketosis cannot lead to ketoacidosis in a normal person. This is because, in a normal person who can produce even small quantities of insulin, the ketone bodies are prevented from rising to dangerously high levels by a feedback mechanism present in the body. Nutritional ketosis leads to keto-adaptation by your body where the body adapts to relying on fat rather than glucose as its primary energy source. This is entirely different from what happens during diabetic ketoacidosis. In fact, nutritional ketosis is associated with various health benefits.
Does ketogenic diet lead to dehydration and constipation?
When you are on a ketogenic, low carbohydrate containing diet you tend to urinate more often and lose water and electrolytes. This can be mainly due to the fact that the glycogen stores in your liver and muscles are depleting. Since glycogen has a tendency to retain water, losing your glycogen stores can lead to water loss.
However, this is not a dangerous condition. You can easily replenish the lost water and electrolytes. You have to drink sufficient water to prevent dehydration and eat foods rich in magnesium, sodium, and potassium. While following the ketogenic diet you may experience symptoms of dehydration such as fatigue, difficulty in concentration, muscle cramps, and headaches. These symptoms are collectively called ‘keto flu’ and can be prevented and treated easily by drinking an adequate amount of water to combat dehydration.
Sometimes, when you are on ketogenic diet you may get symptoms of constipation. This especially happens when you do not include enough fibrous vegetables in your ketogenic diet. Another reason for your constipation can be inadequate water intake. By including enough fibrous vegetables in your diet and by drinking adequate quantity of water you can get rid of your constipation problem.
Does ketogenic diet cause kidney problems?
The fear that ketogenic diets can cause kidney problems and kidney stones stems from the misconception that the ketogenic diet is rich in protein. If you strictly adhere to your ketogenic diet you will be consuming only a moderate amount of protein. The keto diet is designed such that it contains only the amount of protein that is needed to meet the basic protein needs of your body.
However, it has been shown that ketogenic diet can worsen the condition of people already suffering from kidney damage and kidney stones.
Dehydration, which occurs while following a ketogenic diet, is also a predisposing factor for kidney stone formation; however, it can be easily handled by staying sufficiently hydrated.
Does ketogenic diet increase your risk of developing heart disease?
It has always been believed that eating fat rich foods leads to obesity and increases the levels of triglyceride and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) leading to heart disease. However, consuming ketogenic diet, which contains high fat foods, has been shown to be beneficial in preventing heart disease.
In a study conducted in obese subjects who followed the ketogenic diet long term, the subjects showed weight loss, decrease in triglyceride levels, decrease in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol levels), increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels and decrease in blood glucose. Therefore, ketogenic diet is beneficial in causing weight loss and maintaining heart health.
Does ketogenic diet cause gallbladder stones?
It is a common fear that since the ketogenic diet is high in fat content it can cause gallbladder stones. The function of the gallbladder is to store bile, which helps in the digestion of fat. If you are already suffering from gallstones you will be asked to reduce eating fat rich foods as the gall stones can block the passage of bile to the intestines to digest fats.
However, it has been found that eating low fat food only worsens gall stone problem. This is because if you eat less fat very less bile is needed to digest it and a major portion of the bile produced by the liver stays in the gallbladder. Bile that is retained in the gallbladder for a long time results in gallbladder stones. There is also evidence from research that people on low fat and low calorie diet develop gallbladder stones. In a study with 51 obese subjects who were on low fat and low calorie diet, it has been found that one in four people in the study developed gall stones after around one or two months of starting the diet.
In another study, a group of people were placed on low fat diet and another group was placed on a slightly higher fat diet. It was found that among the group that was on low fat diet more than one in two people in the group developed gallstones. However, none of the people in the group consuming slightly higher fat diet developed gallstones.
Eating fat rich foods regularly can flush gallstones out of your bile ducts and gallbladder by regular movement of bile out of your gallbladder. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that ketogenic diet, which is high in fat, can lead to gall stone formation. It can, in fact, prevent gallstone formation.
A Swedish study was conducted on 145 people who were suffering from gall stone problems and were placed on the low carbohydrate and high fat diet. The study showed that among these people only 3% showed deterioration of their symptoms and 85% showed improvement in their symptoms. This shows that people suffering from gallstones can also follow the ketogenic diet but should use caution and consult their doctor before starting it
Is keto diet safe?
Research has shown that ketogenic diet is an effective weight loss tool; it helps prevent and manage type II diabetes, prevents heart disease and improves symptoms of metabolic syndrome. However, if you decide to follow the ketogenic diet, start it after consulting a physician or a nutritionist. While following the diet it is recommended that you strictly follow the prescribed diet and the associated measures you need to adopt such as drinking adequate amount of water to prevent dehydration.
However, if you suffer from certain medical conditions you should avoid following this diet or you should follow this diet while you are monitored carefully by a doctor. The following are certain medical conditions that do not favor a ketogenic diet and need careful monitoring by a healthcare professional:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Metabolic disease that causes problems in fat metabolism
- Gallbladder stones
- Pancreatic insufficiency
Hope the article answers the question is Keto Diet Safe and gives you more insights on some of the common concerns about Keto diet. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask in the comment section below and I will be happy to answer.