Eating a keto diet can have some short-term health perks. But in the long run, it also has the potential to create some serious health problems. That’s why many experts say you shouldn’t attempt it on your own. “In general, if a person follows a ketogenic diet, they should only do so for a brief time and under close medical supervision,” says Hultin.
“If you’re going to do keto, there’s a better and a worse way to do it,” says Yawitz. “Loading your plate with meats, and especially processed meats, may increase your risk for kidney stones and gout,” which is a painful type of arthritis. “High intake of animal proteins makes your urine more acidic and increases calcium and uric acid levels. This combination makes you more susceptible to kidney stones, while high uric acid can increase your risk for gout,” adds Yawitz.
In another study looking at ketogenic diets as a treatment for cancer,5 this research team concluded, “based on the results of rigorous preclinical and clinical studies performed thus far, the KD would appear to be a promising and powerful option for adjuvant therapy for a range of cancers. Cancer-specific recommendations await the findings of randomized controlled clinical trials.”
Mastering Diabetes: Studies conducted in tens of thousands of people over 5+ years indicate that low-carbohydrate diets increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, hemorrhagic stroke, hypertension, atherosclerosis, diabetes mortality, obesity, cancer, and all-cause mortality (premature death). No matter how you slice it, low-carbohydrate diets trick patients and doctors into believing that ketosis is an excellent long-term dietary strategy, when in reality the consequences can be disastrous.
There are various ways to practice intermittent fasting on keto, including some that are less likely to trigger side effects like fatigue or cravings. Crescendo fasting gives you a break from fasting throughout your week, but is still very helpful for achieving the benefits of IMF. Dr. Cabeca and other experts, such as Amy Shah, M.D., advise their patients to check their urinary ketone levels (using ketone strips) and to aim for testing positively for ketones about three days per week.
But more than that, people just don’t like giving up carbs. Dr. Kevin Fontaine, a Professor of Health Behavior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health and an expert on the ketogenic diet points to this as one of the main drawbacks of the diet. “Many people find it very difficult to give up carbs, and may be unwilling to do it. Plus, if you’re on the diet and eat a few carbs, you feel physically terrible. It’s hard to stick with this diet, especially while traveling.”
Difficulty. Many experts question how long a person can realistically give up carbs. “This is a very restrictive diet that requires a drastic change in eating behaviors and even taste,” says Sandra Arevalo, MPH, RDN, CDE, a certified diabetes educator and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It isn’t very practical or easy to maintain, for people both with and without diabetes.” That’s not saying you can’t stick with it, but before you commit, make a plan and set measurable goals to help you stay on track. Being prepared with the right foods can also help. Urbanski recommends making a shopping list that focuses on a few basic keto-friendly meals and snacks, so you’ll always have the right foods on hand to ensure success.