Health & Wellbeing

Concerns raised over long-term health risks of ketogenic diets

Concerns raised over long-term...
A new research review argues the health risks of a keto diet outweigh the benefits for most people
A new research review argues the health risks of a keto diet outweigh the benefits for most people
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A new research review argues the health risks of a keto diet outweigh the benefits for most people
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A new research review argues the health risks of a keto diet outweigh the benefits for most people

A new research review published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition argues popular low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets are unhealthy for most people. The review rekindles a long-standing debate over the dangers of high-fat/low-carb dietary strategies.

Ketogenic diets can take a number of different forms. The general idea is to induce a metabolic state called ketosis by strictly eating foods high in fat but low in carbohydrates and sugars. This forces the body to turn to burning stored fats for energy instead of carbohydrates, leading to swift reductions in body weight.

Originally developed a century ago as a treatment for pediatric epilepsy, the dieting strategy has become popular in recent years. And that’s because it does rapidly reduce body weight while allowing the dieter to eat an often meat-heavy diet.

But the long-term health effects of ketogenic dieting are controversial. Many nutritionists argue ketogenic diets are fundamentally unhealthy and Lee Crosby, lead author of this newly published review, goes so far as calling the typical keto diet “a disease-promoting disaster.”

"Loading up on red meat, processed meat, and saturated fat and restricting carbohydrate-rich vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains is a recipe for bad health,” says Crosby.

The review article finds ketogenic diets particularly unsafe for pregnant women and people suffering from kidney disease. It also indicates the long-term health effects of the diet are unclear, with many ketogenic foods linked with heart disease and cancer.

"In addition to the significant risks to kidney disease patients and pregnant women, keto diets are risky for others, too, as these diets can increase LDL cholesterol levels and may increase overall chronic disease risk," adds Crosby. "While keto can reduce body weight short term, this approach is not more effective than other weight-loss diets."

The article concedes ketogenic diets are effective in reducing seizure frequency and suggests use in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy is well-supported. But in almost all other cases the “risks of [ketogenic] diets outweigh the benefits.”

The new review article is peer-reviewed, and published in a respected journal, but it is worth noting it’s not without a conflict of interest. The study was funded by a non-profit called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an organization that promotes plant-based diets and advocates alternatives to animal testing in science.

Lee Crosby, lead author of this newly published review, goes so far as calling the typical keto diet 'a disease-promoting disaster'

Despite this, the long-term health effects of ketogenic dieting are still profoundly unclear. A small body of research, primarily using mice, has indicated high-fat/low-carb diets may be beneficial to both healthspan and lifespan.

However, a Yale University study published last year found the benefits of ketogenic diets may be short-lived. Using animal models the research found the metabolic benefits of a keto diet disappeared in mice when the eating strategy was maintained for many months. These findings somewhat gel with a 2019 review on intermittent fasting finding periodic switching between different metabolic states may be most beneficial to humans.

So, the jury is certainly still out on the long-term health implications of eating a ketogenic diet, but one thing we do clearly know for sure is that a balanced diet nutrient-rich in fruits, vegetables and grains is good for one’s health.

The new study was published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

Source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

14 comments
14 comments
aksdad
So rather than actually doing, you know, science, and studying the actual health effects of a ketogenic diet in a trial, they opined on the potential (but unproven) effects based on other questionable studies on, for example, red meat. Never mind that a ketogenic diet is low in both carbohydrates AND proteins (red meat) and high in fat. Try doing an actual trial, geniuses, and get back to us.
thurstjo63
@aksdad. You took the words right out of my mouth!
paul314
There's a reason that ketosis (uncontrolled) is considered a medical condition that needs immediate treatment. Seems plausible that dancing along the edge of a cliff might have issues.
Bob B
That's enough evidence for me! Back to my diet of Doritos and beer, stat!
Douglas Rogers
Gluten free has demonstrative benefits.
WB1200
What @askdad said.
What about the Inuit peoples? They eat nothing but seal blubber and seal meat - no fruits or veggies or grains. They are considered among the healthiest peoples on the
planet.
This says it all:
"The study was funded by a non-profit called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an organization that promotes plant-based diets"
Linda Bragg
That food pyramid has been the recommended diet for Americans since the 70"s and we are all aware of how obesity has grown since the 70"s aren't we?!?! On keto, I eat more fruit and vegetables than my dad does not on keto. I have blueberries, strawberries, cauliflower and broccoli. My dad has potatoes with his meat, then later a couple danishes, then later on a bunch of cookies and it goes on because he is still hungry and craving more and that's how the American diet works. Ingredients are actually put in food to make you crave more. Big companies want to keep selling their crap so they promote these kind of reviews.
Monty B Earl
First of all, my keto diet does include vegetables, just not ones that are high in carbs. Typically the rule is foods that have as much fiber as carbs are OK in moderation. The ones that are high in carbs were cross bred etc, don't think they ever existed naturally. Second, who funded the study, I've been around for a while with the various studies that some how reveal exactly what the sponsor of the study wanted it to. I lost 35 lbs, 225 to 190, to be fair I also do some fasting, blood pressure went down, best part isn't the weight, got rid of fat I had on my body even when i competed as a college athlete and had 6 per cent body fat. This is nonsense.
akarp
"review article" aka an opinion. (as others have already said). Anything against cheap and profitable carbs and sugar must be bad.
Phaedrus
Yeah, this is a disappointing clickbait fluff piece. Obviously one can do keto without eating bacon or red meat if one wanted. Just pointless speculation.
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