Answer: No—unless you do it for more than a few months. After a few months, the upfront metabolic and weight benefits will begin to reverse and new health problems arise. We know this with confidence. I raise this question once again because more and more people are coming to me reporting problems. It may take months, even years, but the long-term consequences can be quite serious.
Getting 80-90% of your calories from fat, which is what’s generally required for true ketosis, is fairly difficult. Keto is not just low-carb, it’s also moderately-low protein. That requires filling your plate with avocado, coconut oil, fatty meats, gravy — and very few carbohydrates. While the range for carbohydrate intake vary from person to person, 25-30g is usually the maximum amount allowed to stay in ketosis. That’s the equivalent of one medium apple.
Diabetes is actually a metabolic problem. It’s characterized by the hormone insulin no longer exerting its important actions appropriately. Your cells and tissues don’t ‘hear it knocking’ so to speak. So you produce more and more insulin, which eventually fatigues your pancreas. This deluge of insulin (hyperinsulinemia) you now find yourself bathing in also causes your fat stores to release fat inappropriately. This ultimately swamps your liver with excess fat (energy). To reduce the excess energy, your liver handles starts frantically producing and pumping out lots of blood glucose. This task (gluconeogenesis) is costly and momentarily solves your liver’s crisis of energy excess. The longer-term cost however are serious consequences like high blood sugars, unstable energy levels, damaged tissues (via glycation and ROS), neurodegeneration and worse body composition (with fat usually stored in the wrong places), etc.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet (LCKD) in overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes over 16 weeks. Specifically, we wanted to learn the diet's effects on glycemia and diabetes medication use in outpatients who prepared (or bought) their own meals. In a previous article, we reported the results observed in 7 individuals ; this report includes data from those 7 individuals along with data from additional participants enrolled subsequently.
Technically speaking, you're in ketosis when your blood ketones are higher than 0.5 mmol/L, but the optimal level for fat-burning purposes is 1.5 to 3 mmol/L. Nisevich Bede says that seasoned keto dieters report that they can actually feel a difference in this state, citing that they're less hungry and experience mental clarity once they reach ketosis.
While sugar may be a great quick form of energy, it doesn’t keep your brain at its best. “There is a lot of evidence coming out which suggests that the brain operates more efficiently on ketones than it does on blood sugar, but the research is all fairly new,” Olin says. “Ketones are made to fuel the brain in the absence of glucose,” says Kristen Mancinelli, a registered dietitian and author of The Ketogenic Diet. “On a normal diet, the brain gets 100 percent of its energy from glucose. On a ketogenic diet, up to two-thirds of the brain’s energy comes from ketones. It’s understandable that brain function would change drastically on a ketogenic diet.” Here are 13 things doctors want you to know about the keto diet.
Keto diets, like most low carb diets, work through the elimination of glucose. Because most folks live on a high carb diet, our bodies normally run on glucose (or sugar) for energy. We cannot make glucose and only have about 24 hours’ worth stored in our muscle tissue and liver. Once glucose is no longer available from food sources, we begin to burn stored fat instead, or fat from our food.
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. He’s the author of the books “Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems,” “Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine” and the upcoming “Keto Diet: Your 30-Day Plan to Lose Weight, Balance Hormones, Boost Brain Health, and Reverse Disease” (February 2019, published by Little, Brown Spark). He’s a co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, a health company where the mission is to restore health, strength and vitality by providing history’s healthiest whole food nutrients to the modern world.
If someone tries to tell you that the Keto diet is dangerous because of high protein consumption you can pretty much stop them right there. The calling card of the keto diet is “Low carb, moderate protein, high fat” and the recommended protein dosage usually falls between 60-120g/protein per day depending on your weight and lean body mass. This is not a high protein diet. Anyone eating significantly more protein than they require is probably kicking themselves out of ketosis and is therefore not following a keto diet.
This upregulation is actually responsible for the anticonvulsant benefits in patients with epilepsy, and, likely, the benefits seen in other brain disorders with glucose uptake problems. By providing an alternate source of brain power, brains that don’t run so well on glucose can begin burning fat. There’s no indication that ketosis only induces mitochondrial biogenesis in “unhealthy” brains. It simply hasn’t been studied yet, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t also build mitochondria in healthy brains.
Earlier in this article, I briefly mentioned how consuming too much sugar can impair brain function and cause plaque build up in the brain. Many studies on Alzheimer’s disease patients agree with the biochemistry as well. In fact, A group of scientists reviewed the literature and concluded that “high carbohydrate intake worsens cognitive performance and behavior in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.” This means that eating more carbohydrates cause more problems in the brain. Will the opposite (eating fewer carbs) improve brain function?
Although studies have shown that the keto diet can reduce seizures for children with epilepsy, there is no evidence indicating that keto helps with other brain disorders or improves mental cognition, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Some studies show that keto may lower blood sugar for people with type 2 diabetes, but there is not enough long-term research to determine whether it’s safe and effective for diabetics.
I’ve been eating LCHF for almost a year. I’ve lost 40 lbs, feel hungry less often, reversed my insulin resistance, have lots more energy but my cholesterol keeps jumping up, not just creeping, but taking huge leaps! It’s in the mid 300’s now and my Dr wants me to go on statin drugs of which I’m very resistant, I don’t feel comfortable taking drugs. I read so often how this diet lowers cholesterol, not me! Any clue as to “why me?”
While body weight decreased significantly (-8.5 kg) in these 21 diabetic participants, the mean weight loss was less compared with what we observed in the LCKD participants of an earlier trial (-12.0 kg) . Given that the diabetic participants had a higher baseline mean weight than the LCKD participants of our previous trial (131 kg vs. 97 kg), this translates into an even more dramatic disparity in percent change in body weight (-6.6% vs. -12.9%). This lesser weight loss might result from several factors. First, in the current study, most of the participants were taking insulin and/or oral hypoglycemic agents that are known to induce weight gain[20,21] Second, these same agents, particularly insulin, inhibit ketosis, which is strived for in the earliest phases of the LCKD; while it remains unclear whether ketones actually play a role in weight loss on the LCKD, previous research in non-diabetic patients has shown a positive correlation between level of ketonuria and weight loss success . Lastly, compared with our previous study the participants in the current study had more comorbid illness, lower socioeconomic status, and a shorter duration of follow-up (16 weeks versus 24 weeks), all of which are associated with reduced success on any weight loss program .
In fact, the diet first gained popularity in the 1920s when it was discovered to have benefits for children suffering from extreme epilepsy. Now, researchers are conducting studies to determine whether it could have benefits for any number of disorders, including the treatment of ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumors, traumatic brain injury, diabetes, weight loss, polycystic ovary syndrome, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, narcolepsy, and some cancers.
Foods that are emphasized as part of an alkaline keto diet include non-starchy vegetables, raw foods, green juices, lean proteins and lots of healthy fats. Foods that are high in sugar, carbs and acidic that should be avoided include: added sugar, high-sodium foods, processed grains, too much meat and animal protein, milk and dairy products, alcohol and caffeine.
This section consists of the most common complaints and struggles that keto dieters will come across. In most cases, these risks can easily be addressed and eliminated completely. Below is a graphic for a quick look at the short terms risks of a ketogenic diet and how to remedy it. If you want to read more about the risks or solutions, scroll down for an in-depth explanation of each.
It’s also common for people starting the diet to experience flu-like symptoms, such as headaches and fatigue. This side effect is so common that there’s a name for it: the keto flu. “You shed a ton of water weight at first, which can lead to dehydration,” Nisevich Bede explains. This can worsen the symptoms of the keto flu. To counter it, she recommends staying hydrated and loading up on electrolytes through electrolyte tablets.
Well… what are many people on a Keto diet trying to do? Lose weight right? I would guess that prior to discovering the Keto diet many of these people were caught in the trap of low fat dieting. This lead to months or years of low fat intake and consequentially low gallbladder activity. The gallbladder wasn’t needed to digest fat and so it sat idle and stones were more likely to form. Once they made the shift to a ketogenic lifestyle and their fat consumption increased upwards of 1000%, the gallbladder kicked into high gear. If the previous period of low fat dieting had caused stone formation they are going to have to deal with flushing those stones out now while on a high fat Keto diet.