Largest Ever Review of Keto Says Risks Outweigh Reward

On our Facebook posts, many people talk about how they help their blood sugar through diet. Most say they watch how many carbs they eat, some say they cut out dessert and some say they follow the keto diet. A lot of people love the keto diet. But, a new review may have you thinking twice about it as the researchers found that it can do the body harm.

We need to be honest and say that we aren’t fans of any extreme diets. We follow the general rule that eating a varied diet with many vegetables, protein, some dairy, some complex carbs, some healthy fats and a great balance is best! The keto diet shuns that; it’s very low in carbs — including complex carbs — and extremely high in fat. You need to drastically reduce or eliminate many groups of healthy foods to follow the keto diet. We generally don’t believe that’s a healthy way to treat food, and it’s usually not sustainable. However, we understand that some people swear by it, and some people are told to follow it by their doctor. We have never condemned it. With all that said, this blog isn’t about our feelings on the diet but the research results.

This study looked at the long-term risks of keto by reviewing the results of more than 120 studies. They found that the diet raises LDL cholesterol. It can also cause kidney stones and speed the progression of kidney disease, which makes sense as you eat such high amounts of protein and fat. The large quantity of meat encouraged by the diet may increase the risk for heart problems, blood sugar control problems, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer. There is no long-term research on a link between the keto diet and cancer. But, the major increase in meat might put a person at higher risk, especially if you choose processed meat.  

The researchers wrote that “Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are linked to a lower risk of both cancer and all-cause mortality, yet, with the exception of nonstarchy vegetables, these foods are commonly avoided on ketogenic diets.”

The lead author Lee Crosby, a registered dietician, referred to the keto diet as “a disease-promoting disaster.” That is a brutal statement of condemnation.

His team found that people did lose weight on the diet but not more than other diets in the long-term. It’s beneficial for fast weight loss, which is why some doctors recommend it before a surgery where weight loss is required. If you are longing for lasting results, a different approach might be better. It can also aid people with epilepsy who haven’t been helped by medication. Studies have found that following a keto diet can lower the number of seizures a person has.

However, there are some drawbacks to this new research. Just as we aren’t huge fans of this diet, the researchers who published it are on record as being fans of plant-based diets. That doesn’t mean that they are lying! Their results are accurate, and the numbers are real. But, they may be over-stressing the dangers as they are presenting them. It can be hard to tell how people’s biases impact how they represent their results, even unconsciously.

A registered dietician with “no skin in the game” looked at their results. She said that what people have to keep in mind is that keto was first designed for people with epilepsy — not for folks looking to lose weight. It often leads to short-term success. “It’s in fact muscle loss instead of fat loss,” said Christa Brown. It’s not intended to be a long-term diet. She stressed that you should talk to a health professional before undertaking an extreme diet like keto.

If you want to try keto, talk to a doctor or nutritionist about your medical history, goals and concerns. They can tell you if the risks outweigh the benefits for you. We still believe that a balanced diet is the best way to go, but each person’s medical needs are different.

Banner image: Evgeniy Alekseyev via Pexels

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