The ketogenic diet has become increasingly popular in recent years, but it's important to understand the potential risks and drawbacks of this high-fat, low-carb diet. While the keto diet can lead to short-term weight loss and other health benefits, it can also cause nutrient deficiencies, digestive problems, and long-term health risks. The ketogenic diet is a very low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that restricts carbohydrates to just 5-10% of total calories. This means that most of the calories come from fat, with protein making up the remaining 10-15%.
The goal of the diet is to put the body into a state of ketosis, where it burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. One of the main drawbacks of the keto diet is that it can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Since the diet restricts carbohydrates, it eliminates many nutrient-rich foods such as whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. This can lead to deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals such as selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins B and C.
Additionally, since the diet is low in fiber, it can cause constipation. Another potential downside of the keto diet is that it can cause digestive problems such as stomach upset, headache, fatigue and dizziness. Additionally, some studies suggest that keto may increase levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), which increases risk of heart disease. The ketogenic diet can also be dangerous for people with certain medical conditions.
People with type 1 diabetes may be at high risk for episodes of low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), which can cause confusion, tremors, fatigue, and sweating. Hypoglycemia can cause coma and death if left untreated. Additionally, people with conditions involving the pancreas, liver, thyroid or gallbladder should not follow a ketogenic diet. Finally, long-term health risks associated with the keto diet include kidney stones, osteoporosis, liver disease and decreased bone strength.
A 10-year study of children with epilepsy on a ketogenic diet found that 65% reported constipation as a common side effect. Additionally, a 6-month study of 29 children with epilepsy who were on the ketogenic diet found that 68% had a lower bone mineral density score after following the diet. Overall, while the ketogenic diet can be beneficial for short-term weight loss and other health benefits, it's important to understand the potential risks and drawbacks before starting this type of diet. People considering a keto diet should talk to their doctor or a registered dietitian to make sure it's safe for them.