The most comprehensive review on ketogenic (Keto) diets to date found that they increase the risk of heart disease and cancer and are dangerous for kidney patients and pregnant women, indicating long-term damage to health.
Published in the Frontiers in Nutrition, the analysis titled ‘Ketogenic Diets and Chronic Disease: Weighing the Benefits Against the Risks’ also found that the possible long-term impacts of the diet could result in Alzheimer’s disease, adding that the risks associated with the diet outweighed its benefits.
“The typical keto diet is a disease-promoting disaster,” lead review author Lee Crosby said, according to a statement from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
“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,” Crosby, who is also a nutrition education program manager at the committee, added.
One of the review’s key findings was that keto diets may be especially unsafe for women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant as low carbs diet have previously been linked to a higher risk of neural tube defects in babies.
Keto diets were also found to have raised levels of ‘bad cholesterol’ in many patients, according to the review and that higher-protein versions of the diet could hasten kidney failure in those with kidney disease.
Such diets are generally high in fat, very low in carbohydrates, modest in protein and this mixture leads to what is known as ‘ketosis’ which serves as an alternate energy source for neurons and other cell types that are unable to directly metabolize fatty acids.
Keto diets have been most commonly promoted for weight loss and for people struggling with obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes and seizure disorders, among others, the statement added.
“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,” said Crosby.
“While keto can reduce body weight short term, this approach is not more effective than other weight-loss diets.”