5 Keto Diet Dangers You Might Not Be Aware Of

Foods representative of the keto diet.
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Health

Widely popular among celebrities and common folk alike, the ketogenic diet boasts important health and weight loss benefits that have propelled it to the forefront of a fitness-oriented lifestyle.

While everyone and their grandmother know what we stand to gain from this low-carb, high-fat diet, its potential dangers are less well-known.

One possible threat of the keto diet is that it's so efficient at lowering blood sugar it might become dangerous to people with type 1 diabetes. Although low-carb diets are generally recommended to diabetics as a way of managing blood sugar levels, the keto diet can increase the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) episodes, uncovered a 2018 study.

Here are four other potential dangers of the keto diet.

1. Keto Flu

Foods and food group chart illustrative for the keto diet.
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Like many other low-carb diets, such as Atkins, the keto diet is all about drastically reducing carbs -- to fewer than 50 grams per day, in this particular case. With carbs essentially out of the picture, the body is fuelled with fat instead, with the goal of achieving a metabolic state called ketosis.

"When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain," explains Healthline.

However, adjusting to ketosis may not be a smooth ride for everyone and can, in some cases, lead to flu-like symptoms known as "keto flu."

"These include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and constipation," details the media outlet, explaining the symptoms occur as the body depletes its carb reserves and switches to ketones and fat as its primary energy source.

For more details about the process, check out this editorial.

2. Digestive & Intestinal Flora Issues

Sad face drawn on a plate.
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The keto diet's low-carb requirement calls for cutting out a variety of foods that, aside from their high carbohydrate content, also provide the much-needed fiber for the digestive system. Such examples include starchy vegetables, whole grains, and beans, all of which are rich in fiber as well as carbs.

The lack of fiber can spell bad news for digestion, causing digestive discomfort and constipation. It can also have a negative impact on intestinal flora -- the beneficial bacteria in your gut that help break down food and regulate your immune system.

3. Nutrient Deficiencies

Keto diet foods on a wooden tray.
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The restriction of certain, nutrient-packed foods can do more than hamper digestion; it can also make it difficult for you to meet your daily vitamin and mineral needs.

According to Healthline, because the keto diet eliminates fruits, whole grains, and legumes, it may not provide sufficient amounts of calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and phosphorus.

"A study that evaluated the nutrient composition of common diets revealed that very low carb eating patterns like Atkins, which is similar to keto, provided sufficient amounts for only 12 of the 27 vitamins and minerals your body needs to obtain from food," notes the media outlet.

Since this can cause nutrient deficiencies in the long run, doctors recommend that people who go keto in order to lose weight take dietary supplements of all the major minerals and vitamins, such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, psyllium fiber, and vitamins B, C, and E, per this 2019 study.

4. Kidney Problems

Medical model of kidneys.
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The keto diet is based on the consumption of animal-sourced protein and fat, such as meat, eggs, and cheese. However, these are exactly the type of foods that can put stress on your kidneys, increasing the risk of kidney stones.

"That’s because a high intake of animal foods can cause your blood and urine to become more acidic, leading to increased excretion of calcium in your urine," states Healthline, citing a pair of studies published in 2017 and 2010.

Research has also shown that the keto diet can lower the amount of kidney-beneficial citrate in the urine, which binds with calcium, preventing the formation of kidney stones.

Lastly, the animal foods that are a staple of keto can also cause the buildup of acid in the blood, putting people with chronic kidney disease at risk of acidosis.