The ketogenic diet has enjoyed something of a popularity boom in recent years, with any number of participants proclaiming its alleged fat loss and health inducing benefits. However, for those that haven’t come across it, a quick overview is in order first.
A ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate food regime that, when effectively employed, can stimulate the body to burn its own body fat, as opposed to carbohydrates. Ketosis, from which the ketogenic diet derives its name, is a process of the liver whereby it produces chemicals called ketones to metabolize body fat into energy. A ketogenic diet also encourages its users to utilize robust levels of protein, primarily from animal products. The sorts of food that are to be found in the standard ketogenic diet include the likes of: cheese, eggs, meat, poultry, butter, cream, olive oil, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds.
Losing weight may of course sound great – but is the ketogenic diet really all that good for human health? At first glance, many would furrow their brow at the idea of actually increasing their fat intake so as to lose weight. It just seems s instinctively counter-intuitive. And while ketogenic diet advocates have been vocal and even adamant about its benefits at times, the concerning side effects of a ketogenic diet have increasingly been coming to light. 17 Negative side effects of the standard Ketogenic diet include the following.
Here are the 17 Side Effects of Ketogenic Diet
Keto Side Effect #1: Bad Breath
A ketogenic diet, once fully up and running (it can take a while), can cause the body to expel acetone (a ketone compound) out of the mouth and on an individual’s breath. The aroma has been described as similar to that of overly ripe fruit.
Keto Side Effect #2: Headaches
Some new to the ketogenic diet have reported an initial headache that they cannot shake for up to a week. That’s because as carbohydrate intake is severely curtailed, so then do sugar levels drop, which in turn can stimulate a headache. This can also help create the “Keto ‘flu” (see 4. below).
Keto Side Effect #3: Vitamin Deficiency
By opting for a low-carb food regime, such as the ketogenic diet, users are at an increased risk of missing out on vital vitamins B, C, D and E. Vitamin D can in particular be easy to fall short on even without a low-carb diet. The pursuit of higher fat in search of quick weight loss can result in significant health problems in the longer term if crucial vitamin intake is compromised.
Keto Side Effect #4: Keto 'Flu'
Aside from an initial headache (as per 2.), new ketogenic diet adherents can also develop a range of other symptoms akin to the flu’ – courtesy again of the body having a hard time with adapting to a low-carb diet. Symptoms can include headaches, nausea, stomach cramps and muscle aches.
Keto Side Effect #5: Kidney Damage / Increased Blood Pressure
The increased fat and protein that comes with a ketogenic diet can cause extra stress on the kidneys, and consequently causing blood pressure levels to rise. A high fat diet can also contribute to renal issues such as the development of kidney stones.
Keto Side Effect #6: Heart Disease
It doesn’t take a leap of imagination to see how the increased consumption of meat (prone to contain considerable amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol) can be harmful to the health of the heart and vascular system over time.
Keto Side Effect #7: Insulin Resistance / Pre-Diabetes
Insulin resistance can be the dangerous pre-cursor to developing type II diabetes. A high fat diet can interfere with how the body uses insulin, which is vital for controlling one’s blood sugar level and manages the risk of diabetes. A ketogenic diet may therefore increase the risk of the body going on to develop this very serious, debilitating, and even life-threatening condition.
Keto Side Effect #8: Brain Fog
Some new to the ketogenic diet have reported experiencing “brain fog”, or put more formally, reduced cognitive function, courtesy of the reduction in carbohydrate consumption – the natural fuel of the body. This then can translate into problems such as maintaining concentration or effective memory recall.
Keto Side Effect #9: Fatigue / Decrease in Athletic Performance
Some new ketogenic dieters have also reported initial bouts of fatigue and subsequent drop in athletic performance and physical endurance. This should come as no real surprise as it is overwhelmingly likely that for many years before taking up a ketogenic diet, users were reliant on carbohydrate heavy food sources for their energy requirements. Consequently, those who lead more physically demanding lives should give serious consideration to this particular side-effect.
Keto Side Effect #10: Constipation/span>
Those on a keto diet may also experience problems with constipation. That’s because when metabolized, carbohydrates turn into glycogen, which is adept at storing water and keeping the body hydrated. When carbohydrates are reduced, as with the ketogenic diet, that hydration can become compromised, with one common symptom of that being constipation. Also, courtesy of the high fat content of a ketogenic diet, one’s bowel movement can become considerably more firm and lumpy.
Keto Side Effect #11: Insomnia
Sleep problems are a commonly reported problem for those new to the ketogenic diet. The reason for that is that higher fat foods tend to have lower levels of the sleep-inducing elements such as serotonin and melatonin
Keto Side Effect #12: Irregular Menstrual Cycles
While the ketogenic diet may help some users lose weight, it can also cause problems with the female menstrual cycle. This is because any weight loss that is too drastic, or too sudden, can interfere with the female body’s menstrual rhythm, causing irregularity.
Keto Side Effect #13: Decreased Bone Density
Bones may become at risk of conditions such as osteoarthritis and decreased bone density when calcium intake becomes compromised, and even more so with a high intake of animal protein. Both decreased calcium and increased animal protein consumption are two very real possibilities with the ketogenic diet, translating into the potential health risk of decreased bone density.
Keto Side Effect #14: Cancer
More and more evidence has come to light in recent years as to the carcinogenic risk of eating meat, particularly red meat. In fact, in late 2015, the World Health Organization released a report that identified red and processed meat as representing as much of a risk to health as asbestos or tobacco, which are Class 1 Carcinogens! Unsurprisingly therefore, with the ketogenic diet’s emphasis on meat / animal protein consumption, the risk of cancer is out there.
Keto Side Effect #15: Sugar Cravings
Because a ketogenic diet entails a drop in sugar levels within the body, it is entirely foreseeable, and often reported, for users to experience sugar cravings. This can be especially noticeable in the mornings. Needless to say, inducing the body into having enforced cravings for anything, even and especially sugar, is an unhealthy burden to place on the body.
Keto Side Effect #16: Skin Breakouts
Human skin is a notoriously temperamental organ. Consequently, it does not respond well to changes in the body (as many a teenager with acne will attest to). Given the significant changes that the ketogenic diet brings to the body, and hence to the largest organ being the skin, in terms of fat, protein and carbohydrates being rearranged, then problems like acne and blackhead become more likely.
Keto Side Effect #17: Rapid Aging
Last, but most certainly not least, is the risk that the ketogenic diet poses to the onset of premature aging and, ultimately, an early grave. As if any of the above, to a greater or lesser extent aren’t bad enough (and potentially debilitating or even deadly), the idea that by placing an exclusive embargo on a particular group of foods that have traditionally been used is going to be good for you in the long-term is highly questionable.
Like so much in life, balance is always the key. While the ketogenic diet may provide you with that weight loss you so much yearn for, you must ask yourself at what cost? Are any of the 17 side effects listed above really worth paying the price for a short term and often unsustainable weight loss?