Is the Keto Diet Safe for Your Body and Lifestyle? – Keiko

Most of us would be keen to drop a few pounds, given the chance.

But it seems like there are a million different diets, programs, and meal plans out there. So how on earth are you supposed to know which one’s right for you? 

And how should you know which diets are dangerous—or potentially deadly—for your body?

There are six types of people that should avoid keto at all costs. Read on, if you are:

  • diabetic,
  • a yo-yo dieter,
  • vegan,
  • dealing with an unhealthy relationship with food,
  • suffering from existing physical health problems, or
  • pregnant.

Do you have diabetes?

There are arguments for both sides when it comes to keto and diabetes type 2. But if you have type 1 diabetes, the consensus is clear: keto carries high health risks, up to and including death.  

If you’re not diabetic, your body makes insulin. Insulin is important because it metabolizes ketones, which you normally pee out. But if you have type 1 diabetes, you don’t have insulin—so ketosis can spell disaster. The ketone acids can collect in your bloodstream and cause diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). 

DKA can poison your body, knock you unconscious, and even kill you. It works fast, too—sometimes within 24 hours. It’s the leading cause of death among diabetics under 24 years old, according to this American Family Physician article.  And while it’s mostly associated with diabetes type 1, it can happen to people with diabetes type 2 as well. 

Is your only motivation weight loss?

Look, I’m not trying to de-motivate you. I’m really not. 

But I do want to save you time, energy, and a whole bunch of nasty side effects. More on them later.

The fact is that this diet was designed to treat seizure disorders. And since the 1920s, doctors have been prescribing it to epilepsy patients with great success. 

But when it comes to the keto diet and fat loss…

Not so much. 

In one study that tested this relationship, individuals were given either a low-fat diet or a low-carb (keto) diet. Both diets were identical in calories. Researchers found that although subjects lost more weight on the keto diet, it was due to water and muscle loss. 

And speaking of muscle loss: CrossFitters, take note! After three months on keto, you could risk losing around 8% of your leg muscle. 

Unlike other diets, a cheat day or even a cheat meal can totally halt your progress. That’s because you can break your body’s state of ketosis with as little as 50 grams of carbs in one day. That’s a cup of rice, to you and me. Or one apple and a small banana. ☹️🍌🤏

In case you’re curious (I was), here are some more potential keto-destroyers:

  • 5 and a half Oreos
  • 1 cup of plain pasta or quinoa
  • A 3 Musketeers bar
  • Around HALF of a small Mcdonald’s Shake
  • A small (16oz) Coke
  • 2 hard ciders
  • A few bites of a mozzarella stick (I’m deadly serious… not even the whole thing)
A visual representation of 50 grams of carbs.

The process of re-entering ketosis can take several days up to a week. 

So if your answer to the question, “why do you want to follow a keto diet?” is, “I want to lose weight,” you’d probably better look elsewhere.

There’s not enough research on the risks of long-term keto yet. But experts warn that it could lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, blood vessel damage, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, weight fluctuations, and early death. 

Luckily, sticking to keto long-term is pretty difficult. But even in the short term, things could get gnarly. Muscle burns more calories than fat. So when you lose muscle mass on keto, your metabolism will decrease. That means when you start eating normally again, you’ll likely regain more fat. And because of your slower metabolism, it will be even harder to get rid of it. 

Other diets actually intended for fat loss may be more effective and less restrictive. So, you can get all the micronutrients you need for healthy, sustainable weight loss.

Are you vegan?

If you’re an animal lover, you’ll probably want to sit this one out. 

A classic ketogenic diet is largely based on seafood, meat, eggs, and dairy. It does encourage some vegan faves, like avocado, spinach, and coconut oil. But it also drastically reduces your consumption of nutrient-rich staples like fruits, whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. No legumes means no chickpeas, and no chickpeas means NO HUMMUS, people! 

Delicious dips aside, the keto diet tends to severely lack fiber. Hence, one of the most common side effects is something not usually on a vegan’s radar: constipation. 

It’s not only a shortage of fiber you have to worry about. A vegan keto diet is extremely restrictive, which increases your risk of nutrient deficiencies. Josie Porter is a dietitian at Doctify. She explains that restrictive diets “impact our gut microbiota and are not safe for a variety of health conditions.” 

Ah, but that’s what supplements are for! Well, not quite. Your mental health is also at risk. “Emotionally, restrictive diets can lead to disordered eating which may impact emotional wellbeing.” Which leads us to our next at-risk category…

People with a history of disordered eating

It’s no secret that diet culture contributes to eating disorders. We live in a society obsessed with body image and food. Historically, the media has done a fantastic job of sending out toxic messages and shamelessly promoting unrealistic beauty standards—especially to girls and young women. 

Then along came social media which made everything better! 

Just kidding, it made things much worse. 

Eating disorders are one of the most deadly mental illnesses, and almost 1 in 10 people will have one in their lifetime. The American Psychiatric Association describes them as “behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviors and associated distressing thoughts and emotions.” 

So what’s this got to do with keto, specifically? 

We can link keto to eating disorders in two main ways: 

  1. People with an existing eating disorder (ED) may use the diet as a guise—to hide or normalize their disordered eating 
  2. The meticulous carb-counting and strict rules of keto could be a slippery slope into an unhealthy obsession that becomes an ED

There is research that suggests the keto diet could actually help some eating disorders, like binge eating disorder. There’s even a case of a woman successfully treating symptoms of her anorexia nervosa with keto and ketamine. 

It’s important to note: this research has a LOT of limitations. But what we do know for certain is that keto can be extremely dangerous for people at risk of developing an eating disorder. 

Keto’s restrictive nature could trigger orthorexia—an obsession with eating only “healthy” foods. While healthy eating doesn’t sound like a bad thing, orthorexia is a different monster entirely. 

Some common tendencies include: 

  • Thinking about food for 3+ hours every day 
  • An obsession with eating “perfectly” or “clean”
  • Judging others for unhealthy food choices and feeling superior to them
  • On the flip side, feeling insecure when someone eats more “healthily” than you 
  • Anxiety about food in social situations
  • Needing complete control over the things you eat, worrying about minor ingredients
  • Shame and guilt when you eat foods that aren’t “safe”

If you think that you or someone you care about might be struggling with an ED, it’s important to get professional help as soon as possible. The National Eating Disorders Association helpline is a great place to start. 

Do you have any problems with your liver, pancreas, gallbladder, cholesterol, or kidneys?

In 2020, Bollywood actress Mishti Mukherjee suffered a painful and tragic death at just 27 years old. 

The statements released after her death cited kidney failure as the cause, brought about by her ketogenic diet. But did keto really kill Mishti? Well, maybe. We do know that keto can make kidney disease much worse and increase your risk of kidney stones and gout. 

This is because keto dieters tend to eat more animal products. Along with a myriad of other health complications, eating lots of animal products increases calcium and uric acid levels and causes an imbalance of gut microbiota. This makes you more susceptible to kidney stones and end-stage kidney disease (ESKD). 

Are you pregnant (or trying)? 

Mummies-to-be! It’s important to eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet to give your child the best chance of being happy and healthy. Which is why most medical experts agree—a ketogenic diet is not considered safe for you or your baby. 

On keto, you’d avoid foods like fortified cereal, bread, juices, whole grains, and beans. These carbohydrate-rich foods are major sources of folic acid, which is vital to your baby’s brain and spine development. 

Following keto while pregnant is thought to increase the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) by 30 percent. NTDs are birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord—like spina bifida, encephalocele, and anencephaly (when a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull). Sadly, these defects are often lethal.

That’s not to say there aren’t any documented cases of successful low-carb pregnancies. But given the potential consequences, why risk it?

The advice is the same if you’re trying to conceive or are lactating.

Who is the keto diet really good for, then?

Some people call it a miracle diet. Others, a “diease-promoting disaster”. Either way, the potential side effects are enough to put a lot of people off. Sudden cardiac death, heart disease, confusion, irritability, and constipation (or, if you’re lucky, diarrhea) are just a few. Keto flu is real! Then there’s the fact that keto may decrease your serotonin levels. A lack of serotonin is linked with depression, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. 

However, a keto diet can be an effective treatment…for some people. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence about the positive effects of keto, even if they may be short-lived. The main thing to remember is this: before you embark on any highly restrictive diet, consult your physician first, and monitor your health regularly throughout.

Is the Keto Diet Safe for Your Body and Lifestyle?

It’s easy to see why the ketogenic (“keto”) diet has become so popular — cutting out processed carbs and sugary treats for a diet focused on consuming healthy fats and protein can lead to rapid weight loss. But is the keto diet safe for your body and lifestyle?

The short answer is: yes, the keto diet is generally considered to be safe for most people. But like any diet, it’s important to pay attention to the effect the keto diet has on your body, as well as what types of foods you’re eating and in what quantities.

One of the biggest potential risks of the keto diet is the fact that it subjects your body to a serious transition, where it must switch from using carbs (sugars) as its primary source of fuel to using fat stores as fuel — a process known as ketosis. To make this switch, your body must completely restructure its metabolism, which can cause some minor side-effects such as headaches, fatigue and light-headedness. For most people, these side-effects fade within a few weeks.

In addition to the physical effects, the keto diet can potentially affect your lifestyle as well. When in ketosis, your body begins to crave more fat and protein, which may be difficult to accommodate if you’re used to eating high-carb meals. It also requires more planning, as you need to ensure you’re eating enough fat and protein and not consuming too many carbs in order to remain in ketosis.

Overall, the keto diet can be safe for your body and lifestyle, particularly when done right. To maximize safety, it’s important to pay attention to how the diet affects your body and adjust accordingly, as well as to ensure you’re eating a balanced set of keto-friendly foods. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist if you’re considering the keto diet to make sure it is the right option for you.

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