Contributed by: Nancy Dixit
In simple words – a keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet plan. In recent times, the Keto diet or ketogenic diet has gained much fame because of its ability to aid in weight loss, effectively.
However, there are certain potential side effects too.
So let’s start with – what is the Keto diet exactly?
A ketogenic diet or keto diet is a low-carb diet and this diet includes a state called ketosis.
Ketosis is a natural process of metabolism that may have benefits for weight loss and occurs either when you have not eaten for a long time or when the intake of carbohydrates is low.
How it works
When there is an intake of fewer than 50 grams of carbs a day, your body eventually runs out of fuel (blood sugar) which gives it the energy to function.
After that, the body starts to break down protein and fat for energy, which can ultimately lead to weight loss. This whole process is called ketosis.
During this process, the insulin level falls and releases fat to provide energy.
This fat then enters the liver and some part of it converts into ketones.
Many parts of the body such as the brain or muscles use ketones instead of just carbs.
Our body and brain may take some time (3 to 4 days) to adapt to burning fats and ketones instead of carbs.
During this adaptation phase, there might be chances of experiencing side effects which are usually temporary and subside with time.
In this article, we will be discussing the benefits as well as the risks of a keto diet.
Benefits of the Keto diet
A keto diet helps promote weight loss by boosting metabolism and reducing appetite.
This diet includes food that keeps the person full and reduces the hunger-stimulating hormones; thus reducing appetite and promoting weight loss.
Acne can occur due to several different factors. It may have a connection to diet and blood sugar also, in some people.
But according to some studies, it has been shown that a keto diet or limited intake of carbs could reduce acne symptoms.
May reduce the risk of certain cancers
According to some researchers, the keto diet might help in preventing cancers.
For individuals with certain cancers, already going through chemotherapy or radiotherapy, the keto diet is recommended as a complementary treatment to use along with.
Improve heart health
As we all know, high levels of cholesterol can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. A Keto diet reduces the effects of cholesterol which might help in reducing the risk of developing heart-related problems.
Improve PCOS symptoms
According to clinical studies, it has been found that the keto diet has beneficial effects on women with hormonal disorders such as PCOS or type II diabetes.
Because, a high carbohydrate diet can cause adverse effects in persons with PCOS, such as skin problems, weight gain, acne, etc.
Risk and complications of the keto diet
The ‘keto flu
During the initial phase of the Keto diet, you may experience adverse effects. It is often called low-carb flu or keto flu.
These symptoms are a bit similar to flu such as headache, brain fog, poor sleep, nausea, decreased physical performance, etc.
However, the symptoms usually subside eventually.
Bad breath is one of the common unwanted effects of ketosis or ketogenic diet.
It is caused by acetone (a ketone) which is a byproduct of fat metabolism. When this acetone level rises, your body gets rid of it via breath, and occasionally via sweat and urine.
But this unusual smell or bad breath usually goes away within a few weeks.
Leg muscle cramps
Many individuals following the keto diet might sometimes experience leg cramps. It can be painful and in such conditions, you need to have a lot of water.
This is because ketosis causes a reduction in water weight, especially in the very first week of a low-carb diet.
So, it is strictly advised to keep yourself hydrated to reduce the risk of kidney problems, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration.
A ketogenic diet sometimes may also cause digestive issues such as constipation or diarrhoea (rarely).
This is because there is less intake of fibres. Nevertheless, these digestive issues are usually resolved within a week.
Elevated heart rate
Because of ketosis, some people might experience irregular or increased heart rate, especially in the initial phase (first few weeks).
It is also called palpitations or pounding heartbeat. This occurs due to dehydration and low salt intake.
However, if you feel these symptoms frequently and persisting, you must speak to your doctor and the doctor might advise you to increase your carb intake.
Other side effects of Ketosis
Apart from the aforesaid side effects, there are some less common side effects also, which include:
- Fatty liver– a common condition caused by the storage of extra fat in the liver.
- Ketoacidosis– is a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when your body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones. However, this is rare, but breastfeeding women are more likely to have this that can be triggered by a very low-carb diet.
A ketogenic diet has been shown to provide short-term benefits in some people, such as weight loss and improvements in total cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
Therefore, if one chooses to start a ketogenic diet, it is recommended to consult with one’s physician and a dietitian to closely monitor any biochemical changes after starting the regimen.
A modified carbohydrate diet e model may produce adequate health benefits and weight reduction in the general population.
A dietitian can also provide guidance on reintroducing carbohydrates once weight loss is achieved.
Moreover, it is always a good idea to get a regular health checkup done as it gives you complete health insight.