The ketogenic diet to Lose Weight is a nutritional strategy that provides a low intake of carbohydrates, perhaps for this reason it is often sought after by those who want to lose weight?
In reality, it is not the exclusion of carbohydrates that makes the ketogenic diet useful for weight loss if it makes you lose weight it is because it is low-calorie, no other secret.
For those who train in the gym and sportsmen, it can be useful in terms of preserving muscle mass. But from a health point of view is the keto diet dangerous? How can it be dangerous and in what cases is harmful?
Ketogenic Diet: Does It Help You Lose Weight or Is It Dangerous?
A ketogenic diet is nothing more than a diet capable of inducing a specific adaptation of the liver that begins to produce a greater amount of ketone bodies and that shifts the metabolism from the prevalent use of glucose to that of lipids.
More concretely, it is a diet that limits carbohydrates below a more or less low threshold. The intake of proteins and fats is actually variable also depending on the subject and the objectives of the diet.
Although proteins can have an anti-ketogenic effect, as a result of their ability to promote insulin, it is actually very difficult to counteract adaptation to ketosis if carbohydrates are kept low, even with high amounts of protein.
If for the benefit you think it can help you lose weight and maintain muscle mass, then the ketogenic diet works. However, the metabolic benefits of ketosis are disproved, so it is wrong to think that a ketogenic diet is better (or worse) than another fat loss diet.
There will simply be people who are happy with a ketogenic approach and people who would optimize their results by following different dietary strategies.
How much is lost depends from subject to subject based on the deficit set and its response?
One of the advantages attributed to the ketogenic diet is the increase in satiety, therefore better food control and greater compliance with the diet.
However, compliance is not only due to the theoretical satiating effect of a macronutrient, meal, or diet but also to the choice of foods to be consumed more or less freely.
Essentially there is no advantage or disadvantage compared to a metabolic protein diet or high-protein non-ketogenic both in terms of fat loss that saves muscle protein.
One of the reasons why this food approach is adopted is that it is considered an easy diet to follow due to the menu and the choice of foods it includes, although it also includes prohibited foods.
It should be noted, however, that the ketogenic diet is considered safe, the side effects are minimal and temporary.
Clearly, like all particular approaches, they provide contraindications in some pathological cases.
Is Ketosis Bad For You?
Ketosis is a metabolic physiological condition that is established during a diet with very low or zero intakes of carbohydrates or during fasting.
It is to be distinguished from (pathological) ketoacidosis, which is present in diabetics and alcoholics.
These two different conditions differ in the plasma concentration of ketones in the blood:
- ketosis, <7-8 mmol / 100 ml;
- ketoacidosis, 20-25 mmol / 100 ml
The pH of the blood in the case of ketosis remains within the physiological ranges, while it lowers and becomes dangerous in the case of ketoacidosis.
What is actually the ketogenic diet? Under “normal” food conditions and in a state of physiological nutritional health, the body uses a mixture of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates for energy purposes.
With the ketogenic diet, the body’s carbohydrates tend to run out quite quickly and the body begins to use free fatty acids (FFA) as an alternative fuel for the tissues that are able to use it.
The need for glucose is significantly reduced due to physiological adaptations to fasting:
- Reduction of the metabolic rate
- Greater use of FFAs
However, not all organs can use FFA: for example, the brain cannot use fatty acids for energy purposes but can adapt to the use of ketone bodies.
When the latter is produced in greater quantities and at a greater rate (ketone bodies come from the metabolism of fats), they accumulate in the blood inducing a metabolic state called ketosis, which occurs 3 weeks after starting the ketogenic diet.
Simultaneously with the increase in ketones in the blood, there is a further decrease in the use of glucose and also in its production and consequently a decrease in the degradation of proteins used for energy purposes.
When adaptation to ketosis leads to less protein being used for energy, there is a positive effect on saving muscle mass.
In any case, it must be clarified that adaptation to ketosis has not been shown to lead to greater advantages compared to other low-calorie high-protein foods.
However, it is also not as ineffective as a good portion of the proponents of high-carb diets would like to believe.
Is Keto Diet Dangerous For You?
The ketogenic diet is generally safe. However, in intellectual honesty, these studies are not 100% reliable.
Basically, it cannot be said with certainty that the ketogenic diets do not have long-term effects on liver and kidney function, and at the same time, it is absolutely unfair to say it doesn’t work as at the moment there is no evidence.
Keto Diet and Kidneys
Underlying the concern about kidney damage induced by a ketogenic diet is the belief that a higher protein intake than the RDAs for sedentary subjects (0.8-1g / kg) can cause damage to the renal system and progressive loss of functional capacity of kidneys.
In reality, the scientific literature has long denied these hypotheses, at least for protein inputs (even very high) for a few weeks or months, while very long-term effects are not fully known due to the lack of adequate studies.
Keto Diet and Liver
One concern often raised by doctors about the potential negative effects of a low-carb, high-protein diet is the alleged potential liver damage from excess protein.
In reality, scientific research is not very substantial in this regard: in one of the few longer-term studies (only 4 weeks anyway), no changes in liver enzymes were observed following a ketogenic diet.
The other long-term studies concern epileptic children on a ketogenic diet and even in this case, no liver damage has ever occurred.
Contraindications And Health Risks With The Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is particularly contraindicated in lipid metabolism disorders as ketogenic dietary protocols provide for an abnormal intake of lipids. Therefore, not all those subjects with a deficiency of:
- carnitine palmitoyltransferase I and II (the enzymatic system that allows the transport of fatty acids into the mitochondrion where beta-oxidation takes place),
- 3-hydroxy acyl-CoA,
- pyruvate carboxylase.
There are also no particular contraindications for a ketogenic diet except underlining that the application of this dietary strategy in the presence of some pathologies, such as diabetes, is particularly complex and requires careful monitoring and some changes to traditional protocols.
Although low carbohydrate diets, and thus ketogenic diets, generally tend to normalize insulin and glucose levels in the blood, it should be kept in mind that when carbohydrates are reintroduced, there is an increase in insulin resistance.
However, this phenomenon should not lead to the conclusion that it is better not to introduce carbohydrates into the diet for life. If anything, it should make nutrition experts think and push to search for other methods to improve glucose sensitivity and the functionality of insulin mechanisms.
There is little research regarding the physiological effects of carbohydrates reintroduced after a long period of a ketogenic diet, but it seems that the initial physiological response given by the reintroduction of carbohydrates is similar to what happens in type II diabetics, that is, fluctuations in the concentration of blood glucose (blood sugar) and hyperinsulinemia.
More than a side effect, or possible damage to the body due to the ketogenic diet, it would be more correct to say that in many cases a ketogenic diet is not an optimal strategy to improve the pathological conditions of insulin resistance, net of any results about weight loss and fat.
Triglyceridemia And Cholesterol
The fact that a ketogenic diet is high in fat leads most people to have concerns regarding the effects on:
- potential increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
In fact, high levels of total cholesterol but above all high levels of LDL (the so-called bad cholesterol) and low HDL (the so-called good cholesterol) correlate with an increased risk of disease.
Indeed, the first short-term studies showed a sharp increase in blood lipid levels following a high-fat diet.
However, some subsequent research showed no relevant changes in blood parameters and some even showed a decrease in cholesterol levels.
Scientific research has not brought conclusive results and it is wrong to extrapolate conclusions starting from the analysis of only a part of the existing studies on the subject. The problem is always the same: these are short-term studies.
Finally, another problem in assessing blood lipid levels is that they are absolutely dependent on calorie restriction and above all on weight loss (however, we are talking about two related aspects).
So, we can simply say that the position of scientific research on the subject is this:
- If an individual loses weight/fat on a low-glucose/ketogenic diet, their cholesterol levels will drop.
- If they don’t lose weight/fat by following a ketogenic diet, their cholesterol levels will rise.
Since there is no absolute conclusion about cholesterol levels during such a diet, subjects should monitor blood lipid levels periodically.
Another criticism made of the ketogenic diet is its correlation with constipation. This disorder represents one of the most common side effects found in a diet of this type.
Most likely all of this derives from the low intake of daily dietary fiber: the lack of carbohydrates leads researchers to think that fiber intake is generally low or much lower than in those who follow a more balanced calorie-restricted diet.
There is no doubt that fiber is an important “nutrient” for human health. On the basis of this, it is always recommended to use a fiber supplement (sugar-free) to increase the total daily intake.
To be fair, however, research seems to establish (but not in a certain and absolute way for now) that the added fibers are not as beneficial as the fibers found naturally in foods.
My advice, sincerely dictated only by a little common sense, is to foresee the consumption of different portions of vegetables even if you follow a ketogenic diet as they are undoubtedly beneficial for the state of health and also do not contain large quantities of carbohydrates and hardly hinder the adaptation to ketosis.
Conclusion On The Ketogenic Diet
In conclusion, the ketogenic diet does not show particular contraindications, but not even great advantages compared to other high-protein diets.
Satiety, certainly a useful factor to consider for those who want to lose weight with a low-calorie diet, is in fact guaranteed by the high protein intake and not by the ketogenic in itself.
The potential cons of liver or kidney damage are disproved, at least for now, by scientific research.