Who hasn’t heard of the keto diet? Famous for its weight loss benefits, going keto is more popular now than it was a decade ago.
While the ketogenic diet has been shown to be an effective tool for weight loss, performance enhancement, and cognitive health, most people aren’t getting the complete picture. Let’s review the dangers of keto diet that are not commonly addressed with a focus on what the science tells us.
There is no denying that the ketogenic diet can promote a successful weight loss. Numerous studies have demonstrated how effective the keto diet is at triggering a higher level of fat burning while improving other cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure and heart rate.
But the hallmark of weight loss success is not whether you can lose the weight; it’s all about whether or not you can keep it off and maintain your results. While the ketogenic diet may be effective for your initial weight loss, it might not be the best option for long-term weight management.
One study placed obese subjects on the ketogenic diet for two years, and no other study has attempted this length of time yet. In fact, this study is the foundation for supposed long-term keto studies. This presents the bigger issue of not knowing what long-term health effects may appear when following the diet for five, ten, or twenty years.
Researchers in another study pointed out that the keto diet might provide short term benefits in weight loss, but that it is not possible to successfully stay on the keto diet for a long period of time. This will inevitably result in weight lost becoming weight gained.
Higher Risk of Mortality
Followers of the ketogenic diet aren’t shy about exclaiming their love for the keto essentials: bacon, cheese, and steak. Unless you’re following a vegan or vegetarian-based ketogenic diet, the bulk of your calories will most likely come from animal sources. Studies suggest that those diets favoring animal proteins and fats over carbohydrate-based options may reduce life expectancy.
One study followed subjects, tracking their dietary intake, beginning in 1987. For almost 30 years, researchers collected data and paid close attention to the relationship of diets with 30% or less in carbohydrate sources and diets with 70% of more coming from carbohydrates. Those on low-carb and high-carb diets had a higher rate of mortality than moderate-carb diets.
One exception was low-carb diets that focused their protein and fat sources from plants including vegetables, nuts, seeds, and oils such as coconut oil. Those subjects who consumed more plant sources were found to have a longer life expectancy.
There is a lot of misinformation being spread when it comes to the impact of the keto diet on the environment. According to the United States-based EPA, cattle agriculture only accounts for 1.9% of global greenhouse gases. The majority of greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation. With that said, depending on where and how you purchase your ketogenic grocery list, it is possible to have a higher carbon footprint.
Take note of where your ketogenic choices are coming from. Meat and vegetables that are produced in other countries are going to require more fuel to reach you, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, depending on where they are produced, these international products may have hormones, fillers, and preservatives.
Buy your keto groceries as local as you can in order to reduce the resources being used. You can visit local farmer’s markets or butchers, but confirm everything is grown on site, or no more than 25 miles away.
Another way to reduce your carbon footprint on the ketogenic diet is to buy in-season produce only. While it’s tempting to buy whatever fruits and vegetables we want year round, those items are most likely coming from another country.
Dangers of Keto Diet: Is Keto Right for You?
The ketogenic diet has become a go-to resource for weight loss and with good reason: it works. Assuming you are able to properly enter and maintain a state of ketosis, the keto diet has been shown to promote a high level of fat loss, helping many achieve their weight loss goals.
Through all the fanfare, many have unknowingly ignored a few serious concerns and dangers of keto diet including the reality of long-term sustainability, increased risk of mortality, and environmental damage.
Have you tried the ketogenic diet? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!
- Dashti HM, Mathew TC, Hussein T, et al. Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. Exp Clin Cardiol. 2004;9(3):200–205. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/
- Masood W, Uppaluri KR. Ketogenic Diet. [Updated 2019 Mar 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
- Seidelmann SB, Claggett B, Cheng S, Henglin M, Shah A, Steffen LM, Folsom AR, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Solomon SD. Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis. Lancet Public Health. 2018 Sep;3(9):e419-e428. doi: 10.1016/S2468-2667(18)30135-X. Epub 2018 Aug 17.
- “Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 13 Sept. 2019, www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions.