Is the Keto Diet Dangerous?

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Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Friday August 21, 2020

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There always seems to be new fads in the diet world, but the keto diet has been around for decades. You may have recently learned how participants follow a high-fat, low-carb diet to trigger the body’s natural state of ketosis.

It’s a different approach to weight loss that works well for some people, but others experience symptoms that make them question if it’s healthy. Read on to learn about the potential effects of trying this diet to determine if the keto diet is dangerous for your health needs and concerns.

It Leads to Keto Flu

When you stop eating a diet with a significant amount of carbs, your metabolism has to switch to burning fat for energy. This switch is the process of ketosis, but it can be a shock to the body even though it’s naturally occurring.

The shock can result in flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty sleeping

Although you may worry that you should go to the doctor, they’re the same symptoms you would experience if you quit caffeine, so they don’t immediately indicate a grave medical concern. Call your doctor if they persist longer than a few days or keep you from going about your daily life.

It May Complicate Diabetes

People with diabetes are no strangers to the existence of ketoacidosis. If you have this disease, you may have experienced it before, when your blood sugar levels spiked because you didn’t have access to insulin. Although nutritional ketoacidosis due to the keto diet is different than this, it can still complicate diabetes.

One study found that diabetic patients needed 20 fewer insulin units when they began a low-carb or keto diet. Another study noticed that blood sugar levels dropped too low in some participants, due to the diet and a lack of change in their insulin dose.

People with diabetes can start the keto diet and lose weight safely, but it’s best to keep in touch with your doctor so they can monitor your progress.

It Might Slow Your Metabolism

Low-carb diets tend to also be low-calorie. Low-calorie meals can refresh your body and improve your weight loss performance, but it might also slow down your metabolism by keeping your body from natural fuel. When done correctly, the keto diet teaches your body to burn fat for energy instead of carbs or calories.  

However, if you don’t eat at least a minimal amount of calories every day, your body will shut down your metabolism because it believes you’re starving and need to conserve energy. If you decide to start the keto diet, make sure you establish how many calories you’ll consume each day so your body gets the necessary nutrition to function properly.

It Increases Heart Disease Risk

The keto diet has a unique focus on getting enough daily calories from fat, but that can backfire. As you eat more fat, you increase your risk for atherosclerosis, due to saturated fats causing coronary disease. Anyone with a family or personal history of heart disease should be aware that eating a high-fat diet puts their health more at risk and may require their doctor’s assistance.

It Could Spiral Into Eating Disorders

When someone begins the ketogenic diet, they learn how to divide the nutrients in what they eat. After participants decide what they can eat, they divide their daily macronutrients into 60% fat, 5-10% carbs and 35% protein. 

The calculation helps people understand what their new eating routine will look like and what will get their body into ketosis, but it can also develop into an eating disorder. Carefully calculating the macronutrients in every meal and snack can create a hyper-focus on the numbers.

Obsessing over the numbers is a symptom of orthorexia, an obsessive-compulsive eating disorder that fixates on tracking healthy eating to achieve a set amount of weight loss. Eating disorders may haunt victims for years or their entire lifetime, depending on if they can get help.

If you already exhibit tendencies to obsess over numbers, like weighing yourself every morning or checking calorie content before buying any groceries, the keto diet may be dangerous for you to begin. You may opt to start it without focusing on macronutrients or logging daily meals, which will yield results without risking your mental and physical health.

Evaluate Your Health

The keto diet can be dangerous for some people, so evaluate your health before you begin. Think about if you’re at risk for heart disease, diagnosed with diabetes or likely to develop an eating disorder. If you don’t think these factors are a risk for you, then you can see if you’ll be one of the many people to find success with a ketogenic diet.

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