What are the main long-term effects of ketogenic diet, and why should we worry about them?
Researches and Studies have not yet confirmed nor denied the definite long-term effects of ketogenic diet, even the studies already published can find some correlations between ketogenic diet and certain complications but they are not fully attributed to the diet itself,
What is ketogenic diet?
Before discussing long term effects of ketogenic diet, it is important to know what are the effects of ketogenic diet on your body! And what are its short-term effects too?
Like any diet, ketogenic diet has certain implications on your body and its metabolism. But what makes it different than other diets, it is that it totally alters your metabolic state.
It is not your regular, let’s eat less fatty food to lose weight. On the contrary, ketogenic diet allows you all the fats in the world as long as it is healthy fats not trans-fats.
What is ketosis?
Because when you follow a ketogenic diet, a low carb high fat diet. it forces your body into a metabolic state called ketosis! This state shifts your body fuel from glucose to ketone bodies.
Imagine your body as a car, normally cars run on gas and when it goes low on that it starts suffering from technical problems like low performance and speed.
So as long as you are not providing it with enough gas (aka glucose) it will never perform efficiently.
That’s why most diets don’t work with your body coz it doesn’t give you enough fuel.
But what if, there is a new fuel in town? Let’s say natural gas or sugar cane or bio-fuel, all you need to do is stop giving your car any kind of gas, supply it only with sugar cane. after a few days, your car will force itself to totally rely on sugar cane and it will run like a race car!
The same with your body, when you stop giving it glucose, and only eat fats, your metabolism changes and only relies on fats as its main energy source.
This state is called ketosis!
This state has numerous benefits, like:
- Promoting weight loss.
- Improving your mental functions like focus, alertness and memory span.
- Reduces appetite
- Decreased triglycerides, bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol blood levels.
- Better cardiac health.
- Lessens risk factors for cancer.
- Improves insulin sensitivity and decreases insulin resistance.
- Improving blood glucose levels up to controlling diabetes type 2 completely.
- Treatment of epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease by altering how the brain works and decreasing frequency of seizures and deterioration.
- Anti-inflammatory effects and more anti-oxidants production.
- Treatment of metabolic syndrome and PCOS.
These benefits are considered short term positive effects of ketogenic diet. What about the short-term and long -term negative effects of ketogenic diet?
Keto-flu is a group of symptoms that highly resembles having the flu, where you feel tired, exhausted, out of focus, dizzy, nauseous, constipated and may get some muscle cramps.
These symptoms are common in the first few days of following ketogenic diet because your body is still adjusting to the new metabolic state of ketosis.
When you hit ketosis, the excess ketone bodies are excreted through your sweat, urine and breath giving you an acetone like breath!
Because you lose your stored water in the early days of ketogenic diet, you may suffer from some signs of dehydration. It is best to always drink sufficient water.
These symptoms may throw you off, the ketogenic diet! but if you drink enough water, see the weight loss curve going down and your health risks improving, you may be inclined to continue it for more than 30 days!
Any effect positive or negative takes place after 30 days of following a ketogenic diet. is considered a long term effect!
Ketogenic diet: long term effects:
If you manage to follow a standard ketogenic diet for more than 30 days then you may experience different symptoms than the ones you had in your early diet days!
These effects include:
Mineral and vitamins deficiency:
Since you are following a highly restrictive diet, you are depriving your body of many important elements.
Since you stop eating fruits, some vegetables and grains you don’t make use of their numerous benefits!
Fruits are great sources of vitamins and help fight many diseases, while vegetables are full of minerals, vitamins and fibers you don’t benefit of them.
Whether it is lack of fibers of vegetables or the excess of fatty foods in your diet, your intestines may suffer from constipation or diarrhea! These effects may further risk your health and deprive you of more nutrients and may cause dehydration!
Kidney stones and failure:
One of the most serious side effect of ketogenic diet is kidney stones formation, whether it is because of the ketone bodies, the dehydration or the excess protein intake , you remain at risk of ketone stones and subsequent kidney failure that’s why you must be cleared by your doctor to follow a ketogenic diet , and even if cleared you must follow up your kidney functions every 3-6 months.
Loss of muscle mass and decreased athletic performance:
Although weight loss directly improves your athletic speed and endurance, but long-term effects of ketogenic diet, especially if you don’t dwell on healthy protein sources, you risk losing your muscle mass and eventually lose your overall athletic performance in cardio exercise and HIIT training.
Liver and gall bladder problems:
Eating too many fats, can directly affect your liver functions and gall bladder too since they are responsible for its digestions and absorption and also ketone bodies production!
Though ketogenic diet is known to decrease health risks of your heart, but if you don’t eat the right type of fats (aka unsaturated fats) and indulge in trans-fats (the bad fats) you risk your arteries, heart function and more!
Rebound weight gain:
When you follow a strict ketogenic diet, and successfully reach your ideal weight you start going easy on yourself. Adding a few more carb loaded options here and there, or may be some fruits and sweeteners, you deserve that for sure.
But with ketogenic diet, sudden administration of carbs may lead to rebound weight gain! And since you don’t want to lose any more weight, you get stuck between completing anew cycle of ketogenic diet, or following a dirty keto (where you can add carbs) and risk your achievement!
Needless to say, that this weight gain is purely fats too!
Too little sodium:
Yes you heard it right , though many dieticians believe that table salt is the root of all evil , when you cut it off in your diet ( including ketogenic diet ) you risk low serum levels of sodium which leads to leg cramps, decreased overall energy, mental confusion, and vomiting.
Diet life advice:
Although ketogenic diet has tons of benefits from treating epilepsy and diabetes type 2 to weight loss and improved brain functions and more, there are not enough studies to prove its long term effects whether negative or positive ! that’s why following up with your nutritionist is mandatory to detect any risk or side effect as soon as it happens to avoid complications and prevent more risks!