Is the keto diet heart healthy?

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The ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet has become one of the most popular diets for weight loss. There is a long history of using keto in children that have epilepsy. The keto diet is a very high fat and very low carb diet with moderate amounts of protein. One major concern people have, is if it is bad for their heart or could it be beneficial? 

Low carb vs. keto

A low carb diet may provide anywhere from 50 grams of carbs per day, all the way up to 150 grams of carbs per day. These numbers are based on 10 to 30% of daily calories from carbs. Meanwhile, a keto diet typically provides less than 20 grams of carbs per day and no more than 50 grams of carbs per day. The keto diet is based on less than 10% of daily calories from carbs. The main difference is the amount of carbs needed to put the body into ketosis. 

Weight loss

The big thing about keto is that it actually changes how your body uses calories. Our bodies use carbs as its primary source of energy, fat is second and last is protein. When our carb intake is so low, our bodies use fat as energy instead of carbs, which is called ketosis.

Obesity is a known risk factor for heart disease. The keto diet is popular because of the weight loss many people achieve from it. Weight loss is probably the largest indirect impact keto has on heart health. While there are not many studies focusing on hypertension, weight loss from keto may also indirectly help with hypertension. 

Risky? Or Beneficial?

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When you are looking at the cardiovascular risk factors of the keto diet, it is important to look at the sources of the fat consumed. Keto diets are known for consisting of a lot of cheese, bacon, butter, and meats, which are known to raise lipid levels. On the flip side, keto can consist of fat in the form of fish, oils, and nuts, which are known to be more heart healthy options. 

A few studies have shown that there were no changes in lipid levels in the short term, which is less than 6 months. Weight loss may be one of the reasons why there has been no negative effect on the labs in the short term. Meanwhile, in the long term, around 12 months or more, there may be a risk to increased lipid levels. 

Therapeutic ketosis and heart failure 

There have been studies that state the keto diet may actually be therapeutic for those with heart failure. It has been postulated that since the heart uses ketone bodies as a response to cardiac stress, if more ketone bodies are available then there may be more available for cardiac protection. The research still remains inconclusive if it is helpful for heart failure but the current findings have been very interesting.

Keto or bust?

Keto has also been shown to be beneficial with type two diabetes, epilepsy in children, and weight loss. The research on long term effects keto has on heart health is constantly evolving. A lot of the impact on heart health is due to the types of dietary fat consumed. More long term studies are definitely needed to be done in order to draw a conclusion. It is interesting to note that while it may not be beneficial in the long run for heart health depending on the types of fat consumed but in heart failure, it has been studied to be therapeutic. 

Always discuss any interest in new diets with your health care provider and Registered Dietitian. A restricted diet is not beneficial for everyone and it is important to understand a diet prior to starting it. This blog is for educational purposes only and it is not promoting the use of a keto diet but discussing what the current research says in regards to heart health.