Helped in part by celebrity weight loss stories, the Keto Diet has become one of the trendiest ways to lose weight.
However, although the Keto Diet can be effective for many people, it also has risks. If you are seriously thinking of doing the Keto Diet, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the problems it can present. Just because some celebrities are doing it doesn’t mean you should do it too.
Celebrities have many virtues but few of them are medical experts and many people who have the necessary medical credentials are quick to advise people to forget the Keto Diet and follow an alternative weight loss plan instead.
What Is the Keto Diet and How Does It Work?
In a nutshell, the Keto Diet is an eating plan that’s very low in carbohydrates (carbs), high in dietary fat, and provides moderate protein.
Carbs are the body’s primary source of fuel. When the body is robbed of carbs it enters a biological state called ketosis.
During ketosis, the liver produces ketones for the body to use as an alternative source of fuel. The liver manufactures ketones from fat.
Many fans of the Keto Diet claim ketones are a superior fuel but there is no reliable science to back this up.
The Keto Diet is associated with several benefits but generally gets the most attention for its ability to help people to lose weight. It can be effective for this, at least in the short-term, but many experts will tell you there are safer ways to go.
The Keto Diet Voted Worst Diet of the Year
If you have heard a lot of good things about the Keto Diet, you may be surprised to learn the US News & World Report has ranked the Keto Diet as one of the worst diets.
Every year the US News & World Report recruits the help of a panel of expert nutritionists and health experts who compare the virtues of all the most popular diets.
In 2021, the experts considered the merits of 39 diets and the Keto Diet was very close to the bottom of the list. Along with the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet, the Keto Diet achieved joint 37th place. The Dukan Diet was number 38.
So, although certain celebrities may love the Keto Diet, many diet and health experts do not. The top spot went to the Mediterranean Diet. It did this in 2020 as well, with the Keto Diet joining the Dukan Diet again at the bottom of the list.
The experts had several concerns about the Keto Diet including how difficult the diet is to follow and maintain over long periods of time.
Additionally, the Keto Diet scored poorly as a heart-friendly diet and the experts found it “extremely incomplete” in the nutrition category. Several experts were also worried about the high fat content and felt the diet “could be dangerous for some [people]”.
Unfortunately, although the Keto Diet scored quite well as a short-term weight loss aid, one expert stressed short-term weight loss does not make following the Keto Diet a good idea.
How the Experts Ranked the Keto Diet
Keto Diet Side Effects & Health Risks
One of the main Keto Diet side effects is a condition known as Keto Flu. The flu-like symptoms and constipation are the results of dehydration and electrolyte imbalances within the body.
Fortunately, the symptoms of Keto Flu don’t last long. They generally disappear within a few weeks when the body adjusts to its enforced state of ketosis.
Switching to the Keto Diet also has the potential to place extra stress on the kidneys and increase the risk of kidney stones.
Keto dieting may interfere with bacteria levels in the gut as well. This may lead to digestive issues and other health issues caused by a decrease in probiotic bacteria.
Probiotic bacteria benefit the body in many ways. Many of the foods the Keto Diet does not permit, such as onions and leeks provide the prebiotic fiber that nourishes probiotic bacteria and helps it to thrive. Conversely, high-fat diets nourish the “bad” gut bacteria. The Keto Diet can play havoc with your gut microbiome.
The overall lack of fiber can also cause constipation. The results of a 10-year study involving children shows 65 percent of participants reported constipation as a side effect. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25649120/)
Other Keto Diet side effects may include:
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Low blood sugar
- Weak bones
- Increased risk of chronic disease
Ketogenic Diets and Chronic Disease
A recent study, published in Frontiers in Nutrition, weighs up the benefits and risks of the Keto Diet, as relates to chronic disease (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2021.702802/full)
Although the researchers noted the Keto Diet may help reduce the frequency of seizures in people suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy, they concluded, for most people, the benefits don’t outweigh the risks.
This is unlikely to go down well with fans of the Keto Diet, but the analysis also points out very low carb diets could increase the likelihood of chronic disease.
On a more positive note, the researchers confirm the Keto Diet’s ability to reduce body weight but are of the opinion it is not any more effective than other diet options over the long term.
Although the Keto Diet may be good for producing rapid weight loss, the dietary restrictions make it hard to maintain over long-term.
Losing weight can take a long time, bearing in mind the concerns raised by health experts and scientific studies, using the Keto Diet to lose weight does not seem like a smart move. Even following this type of diet short-term could entail too many risks to make it worthwhile.
What can you do instead of the Keto Diet? Any diet that is high in nutrition and low in calories would be a superior choice and there are strong arguments for eating a Mediterranean Diet. It’s taken the top spot on the US News & World Report’s list of best diets for several years.
That’s not surprising. With its focus on fruits, vegetables, fish, and healthy fats, the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets in the world. You can learn more about the pros and cons of the Mediterranean Diet on another page of this site: Can You Lose Weight with the Mediterranean Diet?
Disclaimer: The information in this article is based on research. It would be unwise to use it as a substitute for expert medical advice.
It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before embarking on any new weight-management routine. Especially ones that involve major changes in diet.
If your doctor does not believe the Keto Diet is not right for you, they may be able to suggest an alternative route to take instead.