The ketogenic, aka “keto,” diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that many swear by for significant weight loss. Although it seems like keto only became popular in recent years, the diet has actually been around for almost 100 years when it was invented by physicians in the 1920s for the purposes of treating patients with epilepsy.
“For decades this diet was widely used as a therapeutic modality for epilepsy, however, with the introduction of anti-epileptic drugs, its use fell out of favor, until recent decades when its popularity resurged for weight loss,” general family practitioner and naturopath Dr. Yelena Deshko explains.
Thanks to celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow who used to the diet for weight loss in recent years, it seems like keto products and materials are everywhere–from your Pinterest feed to your cookbook aisle. But are there any unknown downsides to trying this fad diet? We spoke to leading nutrition experts to learn more.
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It May Cause Issues With The Kidneys
“One of the main cautions is the diet’s potential effect on the kidneys,” Dr. Deshko tells us. Why is this a concern? “As the ketogenic diet tends to be higher in protein, people with compromised kidney function may be putting further strain on their kidneys,” she continued.
Additionally, recent meta-analysis has concluded that the incidence of kidney stones was several times higher in people following a ketogenic diet. “Therefore anyone with a history of kidney stones, kidney disease, or a family history of such, should exercise caution before attempting this diet and do so only under medical supervision,” Dr. Deshko advises.
It’s Too Restrictive
One of the other “downsides” of this diet is how restrictive it is in nature, Dr. Deshko says.
Board certified obesity physician Dr. Amy Lee agrees. “People run into danger when they become too restrictive or extreme,” she warns. “Oftentimes, in the dieters mind, one can get too aggressive and become ‘all or nothing.'” This mentality can lead to extremes, such as not enough of anything.
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It Can Lead To Brain Fog, Lethargy, More
“Some of the most overlooked negative aspects of the ketogenic diet include skin rash, dangerous ketoacidosis, brain fog, severe diet restriction, and potential for increased cholesterol,” nutritionist Lisa Richards warns.
“Physically, one may feel weak and lethargic,” Dr. Lee agrees. “Psychologically, one can feel brain fog before they feel the energy.” Short term dangers include syncopal epis, and “In the long run, if one doesn’t eat appropriately he/she can lose muscles which indirectly cause the body to not burn as many calories.” Yikes!
It’s Not Sustainable
Like most fad diets, the ketogenic diet is effective but not sustainable, our health experts continued. “When carbs are reintroduced the body will store them as fat more efficiently, leading to rapid weight gain,” Richards warns. Yikes!
“Keto may be helpful for a short period of time, but it is best to follow a balanced diet for weight loss and health.”