Is there a Dark Side to the Keto Diet?
The long-term effects of a keto diet are undergoing continual debate. Short-term effects are largely known, and the verdict on short-term effects is that the keto diet is an exceptional diet for improving health. Many doctors are simply unaware of new research studies and developments regarding the keto diet. While there are legitimate risks, most of these risks are associated with high-risk populations and unhealthy adults.
One of the longest running studies on the keto diet lasted for 24 weeks. Published in the Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cardiology, the study restricted carbohydrates to 30 grams. The diet also consisted of 1 gram per kilogram of body weight in protein and a mixture of 20 percent saturated fats and 80 percent polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. The study was conducted on patients who were considered obese.
The researchers were careful to test the patients before the start of the study for the most important factors, including cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, creatine levels and other tests. The same tests were administered before and after the ketogenic diet. They also monitored the levels at eight-week intervals.
Weight and body mass was significantly reduced. Other important results include an increase in good cholesterol, a decrease in bad cholesterol and a decrease in triglycerides. Blood glucose also significantly reduced. There were no significant changes in urine tests or creatine levels. This study suggests that the diet is safe and effective for reducing the risk of a number of diseases.
The takeaway from all of this is that the ketogenic diet is safe to continue for a fairly long period of time. Complications may arise as the result of micronutrient deficiencies that may occur as the result of restricting carbohydrates. However, by choosing your carbs carefully and using smart supplementation, it's possible to stay on the diet for a longer period of time.
Potential Kidney Problems
One effect of the diet that may be cause for concern is in relation to how the kidneys respond to some of the waste produced by the diet. An increase in nitrogen excretion has been observed during the metabolism of protein. While individuals who have effective kidney function have not experienced any significant issues with the diet, this extra strain on the kidneys could pose a problem for people who have kidney issues.
The process of gluconeogenesis requires the use of amino acids. This also applies to the production of urea. These processes can cause the blood pressure to lower, but amino acids with an acidifying effect can increase blood pressure. This puts people who suffer from renal sufficiency, kidney transplant patients and those who have metabolic syndrome at a greater overall health risk. Of course, the study is also quick to point out that people who have normal insulin responses are not at risk.
The other factor to consider is that other studies, including the one mentioned in the introduction, noted that there were no discernable differences in the urea of patients. With this fact in mind, it seems that the kidney threat is more of a potential side effect with no solid research to confirm that a keto diet really puts people at risk.
Lower Levels of Antioxidants
While long-term studies on the ketogenic diet are severely lacking, the diet has been in use clinically for over 80 years. As a medical treatment, patient variables are carefully controlled to ensure that the right macros and tests are administered. While one often cited criticism of the ketogenic diet involves the lack of antioxidants, research suggests on a keto diet with some level of carbohydrates, this might not be a huge issue.
Ketone bodies have an interesting effect on the body. They are able to reduce the amount of coenzyme Q semiquinone, which is largely responsible for free radical production. It's possible that the keto diet is the preferred diet for the body, and antioxidants are produced in large part to combat the increase in carbohydrate consumption. Since ketones have been found to act on a crucial mechanism in the production of free radicals, there is some support for this theory.
Reactive Oxygen Species are also problematic in a typical diet. A keto diet has been shown to control ROS formation, which can have a negative effect on the health of the cells in your body. The diet is able to induce the right kind of chemical activity to increase positive action in relation to the formation of ROS. In short, ROS formation is something you want to avoid in your body. The diet has also been shown to increase mitochondrial respiration rates and increases the levels of polyunsaturated fats.
While antioxidants are important for your body to get rid of free radicals, some research has suggested that free radicals may not need to be completely eliminated. With the proper supplementation, you can maintain proper antioxidant levels and stay on the ketogenic diet.
Potential Effects on Children
It should be evident that most of the issues associated with the keto diet tend to only affect compromised populations. One of those groups is children. In general, it's not a good idea to put children on a ketogenic diet. With growing bodies and brains, they have unique nutritional needs that differ from the needs of an adult. Since the ketogenic diet has been proven to provide an effective treatment for children epilepsy, it's important to understand any of the hazards associated with the diet.
One of the crucial components that have been studied is the effect that a keto diet has on lipids and arterial function. The medical treatments do have real side effects for children, and it's crucial to weigh the pros and cons of these symptoms to determine if a keto diet is right for your child. Some side effects are mild and only cause mild discomfort, other side effects are much more serious and must be monitored more closely.
Common Side Effects
The minor side effects of a ketogenic diet for a child includes problems like constipation, hypoglycemia, and gastric reflux. Dehydration is also a serious concern since children are generally less able to handle a dehydrated state. These issues are typically minor when compared with the effects of epilepsy, and a medical professional can usually provide relief for these symptoms. For the most part, none of these minor side effects are serious enough to create cause for alarm.
The more serious side effects do have to be taken seriously. Children on the diet can develop kidney stones, the diet may affect their normal growth, and acidosis can create a hazardous condition. While hypercholesterolemia isn't really an issue for adults, it is also one of the more serious problems that a child can face.
On a more promising note, children who have maintained the diet for more than one year see their blood levels and other factors stabilize. Long-term follow-ups of children on the diet indicate that the issues prevalent in the short-term tend to be temporary, and there doesn't appear to be any long-term effect on cardiovascular health. While research on this front is still in its infancy, there does seem to be a light on the horizon.
Effects on Endocrine Disorders
One of the most common endocrine disorders that affect women is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). This syndrome affects women who are of child-bearing age, and it is typically associated with women who are obese or have insulin-related problems. Since a keto diet can reduce insulin dependence, some studies have been completed to find out the effect of a ketogenic diet on women who suffer from PCOS.
Participants in the study were asked to limit their carbohydrate intake to 20 grams per day. The study lasted for 24 weeks, and the subjects were asked to return every two weeks for testing. Five women ended up completing the study, but their results were impressive. They found significant positive reductions in their baseline stats from the beginning to the end of the study. There was an average 12 percent reduction in body weight, a 22 percent reduction in testosterone, a 36 percent reduction in LH/FSH ratios and a 54 percent decrease in fasting insulin.
The study demonstrated significant improvements for the women who completed the entire study. What's even more remarkable is that two women who were previously unable to get pregnant suddenly found themselves pregnant.
Gaining Muscle on a Ketogenic Diet
Traditionally, low carbohydrate diets have been shown to have a positive change where the individual shows an increase in lean mass and a decrease in fat. A study that was designed to assess the impact of a traditional western diet was assessed in comparison to a ketogenic diets effect. The study used trained athletes for the study.
It's widely reported that a ketogenic diet makes it impossible to build muscle and some critics state that it can actually result in an overall decrease in lean muscle mass. This study showed that the athletes showed greater muscle mass on a ketogenic diet. Fat also decreased on the ketogenic diet. The results suggest that the belief that a keto diet can result in cannibalizing of muscle are likely misinformed.
While there are some potential risks on a ketogenic diet if you're a person who has certain health issues, the research shows that most of the fears of ketogenic diets are unfounded. The diet helps improve health, builds muscle and has even helped women who were considered infertile to become pregnant. With so many health benefits, it makes sense to do your research and approach the diet using good research and careful monitoring of your stats.