Can The Ketogenic Diet Be Dangerous?

It’s no wonder the Keto Diet has gained widespread popularity due to its proven benefits associated with weight loss outcomes, reversal of diabetic states and cognitive decline. Does this mean we should all go Keto?!

If I’ve learned anything in practice as a Nutritionist – no diet can be an umbrella for all. AND, the Keto diet can be done incorrectly and worsen certain states of health if not used appropriately. What do I mean by appropriately? The Keto diet should generally be utilized in short term, under medical supervision and ideally with the guidance of a Functional Medicine Dietitian/Nutritionist where it is deemed appropriate. The danger lies in the overwhelming amount of the population doing it on their own as they’ve self-diagnosed necessary.

There are two big problems with this: First off, Keto is easily done incorrectly.

How? Consumption of too much protein. Why is this dangerous? Very restricted carbohydrates and high fat intake in the setting of too much protein will increase blood glucose levels to provide fuel for the body. This is called gluconeogenesis. This process of increasing blood sugar over the long term can ultimately drive up cholesterol and triglyceride levels-this is NOT helpful! Therefore, to avoid this it is vital that protein intake is kept to around 20% of total calories on a keto plan. Those who go keto and increase their intake of “keto-labeled” foods like bacon, cream and cheese usually surpass this limit and can, therefore, do more damage to their bodies. The fix? Choose cleaner organic/grass-fed animal proteins like turkey, salmon or beef in 2-3 oz portions per meal.

Another big problem? Those with gut healing or intestinal permeability issues integrating a strict Keto diet. Long term no carb diets or keto can worsen states of gut dysbiosis by depriving the microbiome of prebiotic fiber via carby foods-think sweet potato, fruits, and root vegetables.  We need prebiotics! These are like food for your good gut bacteria (ie probiotics) to flourish and keep your gut healthy. In addition, when your fat sources are primarily coming from processed meats and saturated animal fats you run the risk of increasing intestinal permeability via a compound called LPS (lipopolysaccharide) that damages the intestinal lining (2). How can you go keto and still stay gut-friendly? You can still keep carbs low by choosing foods low in net carbs and high in fiber like apples and lentils.

Thinking you’d like to go keto or that you may be doing it wrong?  Schedule an individualized functional nutrition consult with Meg at Five Journeys!

  1. Cani PD, Everard A. Talking microbes: When gut bacteria interact with diet and host organs. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 Jan;60(1):58-66. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201500406. Epub 2015 Aug 26. Review. PubMed PMID: 26178924; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5014210.
  2. Moreira AP et al. Influence of a high-fat diet on gut microbiota, intestinal permeability and metabolic endotoxaemia. Br J Nutr. 2012 Sep;108(5):801-9. doi:10.1017/S0007114512001213. Epub 2012 Apr 16. Review. PubMed PMID: 22717075.
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