New analysis of ketogenic (keto) diets discovers health risks, including cancer, to pregnant women and patients with kidney disease
The term “ketogenic diet” or “keto diet” refers to a diet that is very low in carbohydrate, modest in protein, and high in fat. They are promoted for weight loss and other health reasons such as seizure disorders, diabetes, fatty liver disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, kidney health, and pregnancy.
However, a recent review has found that this type of diet may present long-term health risks, particularly to pregnant women and kidney disease patients.
Key findings from the paper include:
- Keto diets may be especially unsafe for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant—low-carb diets are linked to a higher risk of neural tube defects in the baby, even when women take folic acid.
- Higher-protein keto diets could hasten kidney failure in those with kidney disease.
- Keto diets raise “bad cholesterol” levels for many patients.
- Keto diets are presented as a panacea, but they are not likely to be safe long term.
- Restricting carbohydrate skews the diet toward cancer-causing foods. In fact, typical keto foods have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s—often the very diseases they are touted to help.
Lead review author Lee Crosby, RD, nutrition education program manager at Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said: “The typical keto diet is a disease-promoting disaster. Loading up on red meat, processed meat, and saturated fat and restricting carbohydrate-rich vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains is a recipe for bad health.”
“In addition to the significant risks to kidney disease patients and pregnant women, keto diets are risky for others, too, as these diets can increase LDL cholesterol levels and may increase overall chronic disease risk,” Crosby explains. “While keto can reduce body weight short term, this approach is not more effective than other weight-loss diets.”
The full paper has been published in Frontiers in Nutrition.
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