Keto diet is increasingly becoming popular and gaining a lot of attention worldwide. It is a well known weight loss diet which utilises body’s natural fat-burning mechanism. ‘Keto’ in keto diet stands for ‘ketogenic’, meaning a diet which is low in carbohydrates and high in fat.
Research findings indicate that keto diet helps to lose weight quickly and improve one’s overall health. Keto diet works by reducing carbohydrate content in the diet and replacing it with fat.
The principle of this diet is that the lack of carbohydrates stimulates the body into a metabolic state called ketosis. In ketosis, the body is able to burn fat efficiently and convert it into energy.
The fat is also converted into ketones found in the liver, which is responsible for supplying energy to the brain. The keto diet is known to serve useful in treating epilepsy and may have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties.
There are different types of keto diets, namely: standard ketogenic diet (SKD), cyclical keto diet (CKD), targeted keto diet (TKD) and high-protein keto diet. Each of these variations of the keto diet follows a different dietary pattern.
The CKD and TKD diets, however, are mainly used by athletes or bodybuilders. Keto diet suggests reducing or completely eliminating some food from the diet. This includes items containing sugar like soda, cake, etc.; fruits except berries; grains; beans; root vegetables; diet products; sauces; alcohol and unhealthy fats such as vegetable oil.
It is believed that keto diet is really good if you are planning to lose weight. But the question is, is it safe? In other words, does the keto diet pose any danger? Let’s find out!
Keto diet possible side effects
Keto flu: Keto diet may have side effects known as the keto flu. Keto flu is characterised by lack of energy and mental functioning, increased appetite, difficulty sleeping, nausea, discomfort in digestion and lack of stamina during exercise. The other symptoms of keto flu include dizziness, upset stomach, low energy levels and mood swings. These occur due to the body’s attempt to adapt ketosis. People new to the keto diet are usually the ones who are susceptible to keto flu. The effects of keto flu can be minimised by drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep.
Works short-term: Most of the weight lost during a keto diet is water weight. When the body undergoes ketosis process, there is loss of muscle and heightened fatigue. Eventually, the body enters starvation, which makes losing weight more challenging than it already is. It is therefore, advisable to use keto diets for short periods instead of continuously.
Damage heart: Due to the high fat content of the diet and loss of water, a keto diet can potentially damage the heart. Keto diet can increase the body cholesterol levels due to the high content of saturated fats such as meat in keto diets. It increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases. Individuals with a history or family history of heart problems must consult a doctor before pursuing a keto diet.
Nutritional deficiency: Keto diets discourage the consumption of a range of food items including carbohydrates, grains and fruits. A lack of essential items like fruits for example, tends to cause nutritional deficiency in the body.
Overly strict: Since keto diets work by eliminating many types of food and focusing on saturated fats, some experts believe that it may be a very strict diet to sustain. In fact, due to the restrictions imposed by this diet, there is a risk of the individuals gaining more weight instead of losing.
Diarrhoea: It is common for people on keto diets to experience diarrhoea. The cause for this can be attributed to the gallbladder being under stress. Lack of fibre in the diet can also cause diarrhoea. Other factors responsible for diarrhoea during keto diet may be intolerance to the high intake of sweeteners and dairy products included in the diet.
Other health issues: Keto diets can cause low blood pressure, altered sugar levels, constipation and kidney stones. People on diabetic medication must avoid keto diets. Keto diets are also not safe for people suffering from diseases of the pancreas, thyroid, gallbladder or liver.
Poor athletic performance: Many athletes including cyclists resort to keto diets to achieve weight loss. While they may be able to lose a few pounds, their performance efficiency is affected. Athletes may show reduced efficiency in their performance levels when on keto diets.
Ketoacidosis: Individuals with diabetes have a risk of ketoacidosis if they follow a keto diet. Ketoacidosis is a condition that occurs when the body stores excess ketones and acids are produced as by-products of fat burning. In this condition, blood becomes acidic and has the potential to damage liver, kidneys and brain. Ketoacidosis can also occur in non-diabetics, although such cases may be rare.
Reduced muscle mass: The weight loss due to keto diet may be accompanied by muscle loss. Muscle loss also reduces the metabolic rate of the body. So, when on keto diet, people may lose alot of weight, but it can be alot of muscle mass. Muscle loss reduces functional strength and increases risks of falls.
Bad breath: Bad breath is a symptom of keto flu and is observed in the initial stages of keto diet. The acids produced are released through the breath, making it fruity. This side effect may last for a couple of weeks.
Changes in menstrual cycle: Due to rapid weight loss, menstrual cycle may become irregular or stop completely. Prolonged irregularities can affect bone density because oestrogen is essential for bone health. Long-term irregular periods can cause depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease and sexual dysfunction.
Getting back to our question: is keto diet dangerous? After knowing these facts, what do you think? Well, keto diet may not be safe for everyone. It may suit some, but for some others it may pose to be risky.
It is recommended to consult a doctor or a nutritionist to check whether a keto diet plan will suit your body and history of health conditions. Since keto diet may have side effect and may cause health problems including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, it is best to consult a professional before considering a keto diet for yourself.