The primary drawback of keto for the general population is how restrictive the diet is. “It requires more thought than some other diets,” Santos-Prowse says. And whenever a diet requires too much thought or effort, the likelihood of effectively sticking with it becomes diminished. People just don’t like having to think about how, when, and where to get their next meal when they’re so used to grabbing something quick from the nearest fast food joint.
Reynolds, AN. "Comment on 'An Online Intervention Comparing a Very Low-Carbohydrate Ketogenic Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations Versus a Plate Method Diet in Overweight Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Controlled Trial." Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2018; 20(5):e180, May 2018. Available at: http://www.jmir.org/2018/5/e180/ Accessed May 4, 2018.
When the body is first deprived of carbohydrates, usually felt at around 50 grams per day or less, the body starts with gluconeogenesis which is the body using stored glucose (glycogen) from the liver and muscles for energy. When the stored glucose can no longer keep up with energy demands, which will happen because there’s limited storage of glucose, the body turns to using ketone bodies for energy.
Because it lacks carbohydrates, a ketogenic diet is rich in proteins and fats. It typically includes plenty of meats, eggs, processed meats, sausages, cheeses, fish, nuts, butter, oils, seeds, and fibrous vegetables. Because it is so restrictive, it is really hard to follow over the long run. Carbohydrates normally account for at least 50% of the typical American diet. One of the main criticisms of this diet is that many people tend to eat too much protein and poor-quality fats from processed foods, with very few fruits and vegetables. Patients with kidney disease need to be cautious because this diet could worsen their condition. Additionally, some patients may feel a little tired in the beginning, while some may have bad breath, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and sleep problems.
You’ve lost weight. By far the most common cause of unexplained hair loss is simply rapid weight loss or dietary change. This disrupts the normal growth and decline cycle of your hair follicles, shunting a greater proportion of them into the “rest” phase to be pushed out by incoming hairs. Even though you may see extra hair in the shower or on the brush, your actual hair thickness shouldn’t change much.
Of all the high-carbohydrate foods that are eliminated in the low-carb ketogenic diet cutting out wheat products — bread, cereals, baked goods, pasta — may be the most significant for mental health disorders. It has been known for more than 50 years that an associate appears to exist between wheat consumption and symptoms for some people with schizophrenia.
However, we need to consider that most of these studies failed to equate for both calories and protein, and it is likely that if similar weight loss was achieved, these health outcomes would look similar regardless of the diet used. This is supported by the Johnston study from Arizona state which saw similar outcomes when calories and protein were equated.
If you’re wondering about the difference between ketosis and diabetic ketoacidosis, you’re not alone. “The word ketone is scary for most people with type 1 diabetes because they relate ketones to diabetic ketoacidosis,” says Patti Urbanski, MEd, RD, CDE, a certified diabetes educator with St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. “But with the ketogenic diet, we’re talking about a much lower level of ketones.”
“If someone with diabetes is [taking insulin or oral type 2 meds in the sulfonylurea or meglitinide class and is] following this diet, they need to know that their blood sugar can drop really quickly, so it’s critical that they check it more frequently,” says Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, CDE, author of Diabetes Meal Planning & Nutrition for Dummies. “Don’t wait for it to happen. Meet with your doctor or diabetes educator in advance so that you can troubleshoot exactly what to do if your blood sugar drops.” If it’s an infrequent occurrence, you may be advised to treat with fast-acting glucose. But frequent lows may require medication adjustments or the addition of more carbs to your eating plan.
If you experience symptoms like fatigue, intense hunger and cravings, light-headedness, or heart palpitations, this may be a sign your blood sugar has dropped too low. Use a blood glucose monitor to track your body’s response to the diet change and make sure your body is adapting properly. If necessary consult your physician for necessary medication changes.
The initial weight loss is usually short-lived as carbohydrates hold onto fluid in the body. Beyond that, we need fat on our bodies in order to function and survive. Fat is essential and plays a vital role in many basic physiological functions of our body. This notion of ‘burning’ as much fat off our bodies as we can can be downright dangerous because biologically, we need fat. Having too little body fat can lead to issues such as:
If not treated or reversed, dehydration can lead to acute kidney injury, Dr. Rahnama says. That’s not the only way the keto diet can put your kidneys at risk, however. “Kidney stones or damage to the kidney may also be a side effect,” Grace Derocha, RD, a certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan says. High levels of nitrogen created by excess protein can also increase pressure in your kidneys. This can lead to the formation of more stones and damage your kidney cells.
On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat, burning fat 24-7. When insulin levels become very low, fat burning can increase dramatically. It becomes easier to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, such as less hunger and a steady supply of energy. This may help keep you alert and focused.
But beyond that, experts aren't convinced that the keto diet has any other scientifically-proven health benefits. In fact, it may have some distinct downsides. If you follow the keto diet incorrectly, for example (like by eating lots of saturated fats, versus healthy unsaturated fats), you're at risk of raising your cholesterol levels. “The best strategy to keep your heart healthy is to get as much fat as possible from unsaturated sources such as olive, avocado and canola oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives," says Ansel.