The dangers of the ketogenic diet
Those who know us know that we at Bivo are in favor of the Mediterranean diet, which we consider to be the best nutrition in the world.
With this premise, we are also aware of the complexity of the issue of nutrition, and we are wary of all established and valid “erga omnes” (for all) diets. This is the reason why with Bivo we provide a natural and nutritionally balanced solution to be used when needed, without the need to follow any specific diet. We believe in a holistic approach to nutrition, for which it is necessary to understand the situation of each individual well before drawing up a nutritional plan (age, weight, percentage of fat mass, but also other aspects such as lifestyle, metabolism , etc). The activity just mentioned must be carried out by a certified professional, such as a nutritionist.
We believe in a medium to long-term approach to weight loss that is healthy and sustainable, and we are wary of all diets that promise miracles.
This is why our customers who want to have a personalized nutritional plan know they can contact our nutritionist Dr. Paola Salgarelli, with whom we have been collaborating since the beginning of the project (here is an example of collaboration around the theme of nutritional training: in Italian https://blog.bivo.it/servizio-di-formazione-nutrizionale/).
Today we are talking about “low carb” diets, with a particular focus on the ketogenic diet.
We will tell you very clearly what we think, by inserting the scientific references at the bottom of the article.
We believe that the so-called “low carb” diets are potentially dangerous, and that if you want to adopt such extreme nutritional regimes, the diet should be followed with great care under the observation of a specialist.
In our opinion, the only positive thing that the proponents of “low carb” diets say is the indication to avoid refined carbohydrates and added sugars.
For the rest, there is a great deal of evidence that indicates the effects of numerous diets that lower the macronutrients that should be the basis of a healthy diet to excessive levels: carbohydrates, in fact.
The reason why “low carb” diets are successful is because they are able to lose weight in a short time. Unfortunately, however, diets of this type maintained over time cause negative health effects (see the rest of the article). Furthermore, even leaving out the negative effects on the body, these diets are stringent and difficult to maintain in the medium term, almost always causing the accordion effect of those who lose weight quickly and get it back just as quickly (which is certainly not healthy).
As anticipated, today we are talking in particular about a diet that is strongly in fashion right now: the so-called ketogenic diet.
This diet was actually born in the distant 1920s to prevent epileptic seizures in children with epilepsy. (1)
To quickly explain how it works, let’s start from the fact that normally the carbohydrates in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported throughout the body; it is important for fueling brain function. But if there are few carbohydrates left in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The latter pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. A high level of ketone bodies in the blood (a state called ketosis) reduces the frequency of seizures. (2)
However, beyond the treatment for people suffering from epilepsy, there is no scientific basis that proves the benefit of a ketogenic diet for people’s health.
Let’s ignore the obvious fact that this type of diet is difficult to maintain, as it is very stringent.
Instead, there is much evidence of the problems caused by this type of diet, several of which are common to other “low carb” diets. We are talking about serious health effects, such as constipation, high cholesterol, slowed growth, acidosis and kidney stones. (3) and (4)
High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are high in animal protein and fat and may be associated with increased mortality. Conversely, with plant-based proteins and fats, evidence suggests there may be a decrease in mortality. (5)
As of 2018, research has paid insufficient attention to the potential negative effects of the reduced-carbohydrate diet, particularly the risk of micronutrient insufficiency, bone health, and the risk of cancer. (6) The analysis in question reported that adverse effects could include “constipation, headache, halitosis, muscle cramps and general weakness”. (6)
Ketosis induced by a low-carbohydrate diet has led to reported cases of ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition. (7) and (8)
This has led to the suggestion that ketoacidosis should be considered a potential risk from a low-carb diet, not a desirable condition to aim for. (6)
In a 2018 comprehensive systematic review, the study reported that other case reports raise concerns about other potential risks of a low-carb diet including hyperosmolar coma, Wernicke’s encephalopathy, thiamine-deficiency optic neuropathy, acute coronary syndrome, and anxiety disorder. (6)
Significantly reducing the percentage of carbohydrates in your diet risks causing malnutrition and can make it difficult to get enough dietary fiber to stay healthy. (9)
Of course, we are not saying that a diet based on a good intake of carbohydrates is in itself the solution to all ills. For example, since 2014 it has emerged that with respect to the risk of death for people with cardiovascular disease, the type of carbohydrates consumed is important; Relatively higher fiber and whole grain diets lead to a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to diets high in refined grains. (10)
To conclude, before making extreme choices on a nutritional level, listen to some advice: consult a specialist and carefully evaluate the potential risks for your health.