01 Mar

Is the Ketogenic Diet Good or Bad for Your Heart Health?

Is the Ketogenic Diet Good or Bad for Your Heart Health?

The premise high protein/high fat diets are bad for you is completely wrong.

And it all stems from an erroneous study performed by Minnesota Physiologist Ancel Keys called the Seven Countries Study. In that study, he correlated a high fat diet with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the study itself included more than 30 countries and Dr. Keys cherry-picked the data to fit his premise.

When you look at the data in totality, it was a higher carb diet which correlated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. That being said, not all fats are created equal. Good fats are avocado, coconut oil or nuts, aka anything which comes from nature. All saturated fats or hydrogenated oils, such as margarine or Crisco, are problematic for your cardiovascular health. There is little evidence this diet is deleterious to your health as long as the fats you choose are the heart healthy ones.

The high fat, low carbohydrate ketogenic diet was originally designed as a dietary alternative for seizure control in epileptic patients. The promise of fat loss turned the ketogenic diet into a quick weight loss solution. The theory behind a ketogenic diet is the body changes how it processes energy, switching preferred fuel to fat as opposed to carbohydrates. The body taps into stored fat, accelerating weight loss through a process called ketosis. This metabolic state causes your body to burn fat and its stored form, glycogen, preferentially over sugars.

The Good:

Research has found the ketogenic diet reduces appetite and dietary intake at a higher rate than traditional diets. The ketogenic diet has also shown some potential promise of improved glycemic control in Type 2 Diabetics.

Though Ketogenic diets are good at accomplishing weight loss, sustainability is its biggest challenge and many people have difficulty avoiding simple carbs such as pasta, rice, potatoes and alcohol for long periods of time.

The Bad:

The side effects offer additional challenges:

  • The process of changing body fuel from carbohydrate to fat can cause decreased serum sodium, leg cramps, constipation, decreased energy and headaches.
  • The keto-flu is a very real side effect as the body transitions to a ketogenic diet. Brain fog, fatigue dizziness and insomnia are common with the keto-flu. Symptoms usually subside within a few weeks. Easing into the ketogenic diet and maintaining adequate fluid and sodium intake can lessen symptoms.
  • Reduced fiber from fruit and vegetables can increase risk of constipation. Bowel changes may also occur as the body adjusts to dietary changes.
  • Reduced carbohydrate intake can increase risk of dehydration as increased water is released through more frequent urination. Consume adequate fluid (water is preferred) throughout the day. It is also recommended to add sea salt to food to maintain sodium levels. Adequate sodium may reduce risk of leg cramping, fatigue and headaches.

The Solution:

If you want to try a ketogenic diet, my best advice is to follow it for a short period of time, and then slowly reintroduce nutrient dense carbohydrates like sweet potatoes back into your diet.

There is no need to demonize potatoes, except for the “couch potato” variety.