The Worst Side Effects of the Keto Diet

Keto diet has been on the news of late as the latest food trend and it is been hyped as the best way to shed off some pounds. But if you’re thinking of giving this diet a try, you’ll probably want to know about the side effects before venturing into it. Keto diet has been in the news in recent weeks because some experts say it can cause changes in libido.

The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. This makes your body more effective at burning fat.

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Dr. Nancy P. Rahnama, a bariatric and internal medicine doctor based in California said;

“The ketogenic diet can definitely result in a drop in libido when starting the diet, as the dieter will be experiencing symptoms of carb withdrawal and potentially the keto flu,” noted “Once the withdrawal and flu-like symptoms have passed, and the dieter has adapted to the lower-carb lifestyle, the libido will most likely reset and potentially be better than prior as a result of weight loss from the diet.”

While the libido warning got a lot of disrepute in the media, actual research checking this side effect was hard to establish.

Stephanie McKercher, a Colorado-based registered dietitian and recipe developer at The Grateful Grazer said;

“Generally, ketogenic research is limited. We need more studies to fully understand all of the potential adverse effects of this diet.”

She pointed out that the diet was originally developed for a medical purpose to help people with epilepsy. However, there are some downsides that are well known and that any aspiring keto dieter can get ready for.

Worsts side effects of keto diet

Keto flu

You can experience keto flu when you start the diet. Keto flu is as a result of the body adjusting to the low-carb state. Lowering carb consumption forces the body to burn ketones for energy instead of glucose. Once the body is in ketosis where it burns fat instead of glucose, the keto diet is working. However, you may not feel so great at first. Keto flu lasts about a week for most people.

READ ALSO: Ketogenic Diet for Beginners

Symptoms of the keto flu can include weakness, nausea, vomiting, headache, and irritability, and constipation, nausea.

According to Rahnama;

“With the start of the keto diet, the body switches from using sugar as a source of energy to using the body’s stored fat. In the process of breaking down fat, the body produces ketones, which are then removed by the body through frequent and increased urination. This may lead to dehydration and flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue, dizziness, irritability, nausea, and muscle soreness.”

“With this frequent urination, there is also the inevitable loss of electrolytes, which can exacerbate these symptoms. In addition, as carbohydrates are a source of energy and stimulation, removal of this source of energy will result in increased sugar cravings, brain fog, [and] difficulty concentrating, much like most other withdrawal symptoms,” Rahnama added.

Kidney and heart damage

The body can be low on electrolytes and fluid coupled with the increased urination. This can lead to a loss of electrolytes such as sodium, magnesium, and potassium. This can make people susceptible to acute kidney injury.

“Dehydration is serious and may result in kidney injury, faintness, kidney injury, or kidney stones,” Rahnama said.

This may put the dieter at risk of a cardiac arrhythmia, since electrolytes are required for the normal beating of the heart.

“Electrolyte deficiencies are serious and may results in an irregular heartbeat, which can be fatal,” she added.

Yo-yo dieting patterns

Because people have difficulty staying on the limiting diet permanently, keto diet can lead to yo-yo dieting. This can have other negative effects on the body. There are few long-term studies on the keto diet, which may be because it’s difficult to follow, so people aren’t staying on it for a long time.

READ ALSO: Keto Cycling: Everything You Need to Know

“If trying to go keto causes you to yo-yo and go off and on diets, that has impacts related to weigh fluctuations and increased mortality risk,” added Sharon Palmer, a dietitian from California.

Other side effects

Other side effects can include constipation, bad breath, fatigue, irregular menstrual cycles, problems with sleep, and decreased bone density.

Then there are other effects that are not well studied, mostly because it’s hard to track dieters on a long-term basis to find out the lasting effects of the eating plan.

“We don’t know for sure the effects on blood cholesterol, some studies show increases, others show decreases, but we don’t know over the long-term because of a lack of research,” Palmer said.

Nutritional concerns

Palmer said here is a fear among health experts that such high consumptions of unhealthful fats would have a long-term negative effect. Weight loss can often confuse the data in the short term. This is because when overweight people lose weight, regardless of how they do it, they often end up with better blood lipids and blood glucose levels.

The keto diet is also enormously low in certain vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes that are normally considered healthy. People on the diet can miss out on fiber, certain vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are found in these foods. That has substantial human health impacts over the long term such as bone loss and increased risk of chronic diseases.

“Hundreds of studies suggest that diets rich in whole plant foods are connected to lower levels of diseases like osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes,” Palmer said.

Is the keto diet for everyone?

Keto diet isn’t meant for everyone. Not all patients are suitable candidates for the keto diet, especially those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or other conditions that may be the result of a previous diet, Rahnama noted.

She also pointed out that this diet can result in such a big change for many people’s metabolic and other bodily systems that adhering to the diet may even change the efficacy of a person’s drug.

Patients need to be checked and monitored by a physician when they begin a keto diet because of the level of dietary restriction. They may need to begin electrolyte supplementation or change any daily medication dosages they take. Talking to your doctor before you begin is a smart idea.

“Some patients may need to supplement with sodium, as long as they do not have blood pressure issues. Some may even need prescription potassium supplementation,” Rahnama said, adding that she begins all keto diet patients on a magnesium supplement, as it’s an electrolyte that can be taken with low risk of overdose. She also said keto dieters may have to up their carb intake if they have continued issues with hydration.

“Keto is not a good long-term diet, because it is not a balanced diet,” Rahnama said. “A diet that lacks fruit and vegetables will result in long-term micronutrient deficiencies that can have other consequences.”

The keto diet can be used for short-term fat loss so long as the patient is under supervision.


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