Are Keto Diets Safe? [Infographic]

Are Keto Diets Really Safe?

Following up on the earlier post that explored the questions of whether keto diets are healthy or unhealthy, we gathered so much information and feedback that it seemed important to share it. We even created an infographic about the safety of keto diets because it seemed like a good way to communicate some of the most important points.

Are Keto Diets Safe? The Infographic!

First, let’s look at some key facts about the keto diet.

Calories Still Matter

You can read any keto diet forum to find people posting about their failure to lose weight beyond the initial loss of water weight. Dozens of other keto fans will reply that the complainers are probably still eating too many calories a day to lose weight. Avoiding carbohydrates isn’t a free pass to eat unlimited calories and still lose weight, and everybody knows this. Dr. Atkins even posted about it in his book.

If the keto diet has any benefits, proponents say that consuming a lot of protein and fat help their cravings and encourage them to eat less. One has to wonder about the incredible keto diet failure rate if it really works that well.

Health Issues

You might want to read this study published on the National Institute of Health before you decide that a keto diet is safe for pregnant women. Tests performed on pregnant mice found significant differences in embryo’s organ development when the mother ate a keto diet vs. a more standard one.

The Diabetes Council went as far as to say as keto diets are inappropriate for pregnant women, nursing mothers, or people with kidney disease. Typical diabetes diets do limit carbs, but they usually allow more carbohydrates in one meal than typical keto dieters eat all day. Also, concerns have been raised about keto diets and hypothyroidism. Anyway, if you are pregnant or have another medical issue, talk to your doctor before trying a keto diet.

Are You Physically Active?

There have been some notable exceptions, but most people don’t perform as well on a keto diet. Almost everybody endures a sluggish period while they are getting used to this very low-carb diet as well.

One study on keto and physical performance found that it compromised peak performance and endurance slightly. Average participants in this study lost about five pounds, but half of that was muscle. While these may be risks worth taking for weekend warriors, they may matter a lot more to top-level athletes.

Gut Health

What you eat directly influences your gut biome health. A keto diet will absolutely make your digestive ecosystem less diverse. Of course, this may not be true if you manage to eat plenty of fiber. Since lots of high-fiber food, like starchy vegetables, are off limits to keto dieters, this can take some work. You can read what Dr. Kresser has to say on the issue here.

The Keto Diet is Strict and Often Results in Yo-Yo Dieting

People who are relatively healthy and not planning on getting pregnant might consider a keto diet. However, this diet is very strict. Carbs might be restricted to fewer than 20 grams a day. Two slices of bread, one banana, or a potato will cause you to go over. Since carbs hold onto water, eliminating them may help you lose five to ten pounds quickly, but again, that’s just water and not fat.

Then you get stuck, post on a forum, and everybody will tell you that you eat too much. Anyway, yo-yo dieting is a big problem, and when you fall off the wagon, you’ll tend to gain back more weight than you lost in the first place. Realistically, this is one of the biggest safety problems with a keto diet. It might help people lose weight and even balance insulin levels, if they can stick to it. Since most people won’t keep eating this way for the rest of their life, it can cause more problems than it solves.

Summary of Potential Negative Side Effects of a Keto Diet

This summary of possible keto diet negatives doesn’t include those negative side effects that people with health conditions might experience. That’s why it’s important to work with a doctor or professional dietician to manage any serious health condition. These are simply some downsides that reasonably health experience when they decide to follow a very low-carbohydrate diet plan.

The potential negative side effects of a keto diet are listed here:

  • Mental and physical sluggish feelings. While your body adjust its metabolism to a new way of eating, you will probably experience low-energy periods and what many keto dieters experience as brain flog. It gets so bad that some people describe the symptoms as the “keto flu.” These symptoms may go away after a few weeks, but it takes some people longer than others.
  • Changes in blood-lipid profiles: Some folks lower their cholesterol over time, but others find that their numbers actually get worse. Even though these low-carb diets call for eating a lot of fat, the kinds of fat you eat might play some part in the different results studies have found. In any case, you license to eat plenty of fat and protein isn’t the same as a license to eat a lot of saturated fat and processed food.
  • Nutrient deficiencies: Keto diet plans may come with advice to add extra supplements for nutrients and fiber. In my opinion, any diet that relies upon supplements to keep people from starving isn’t a great diet plan.
  • Might trigger ketoacidosis in vulnerable people: Most people don’t think that non-diabetics have a big risk of getting sick from changing the PH levels of their body chemistry. On the other hand, the American Diabetes Association says that plenty of type 2 diabetics have not yet been diagnosed. Again, it’s probably a good idea for most people to pass such an extreme diet as the keto diet past their doctor.

Negative Ecological Impact of High-Animal-Food Diets

Yeah, you already know that seven billion human beings can’t go keto. We’re trying hard not to preach, but you may want to read this article in Earth Island and decide if you want to be part of the problem or the solution. Is the keto diet safe for Earth? You have to know the answer to that question is no if you follow the keto diet by relying upon mostly animal-protein.

Of course, vegetarians and even vegans can enjoy a moderate-carbohydrate diet plan that offers them potential health benefits and more variety. Anyway, this discussion of the environmental impact of more keto dieting should really be the topic of its own article.

Is the Keto Diet Safe for You?

Limiting refined carbs, like cinnamon buns, makes sense for people who want to maintain or lose weight. Limiting entire food groups and restricting carbohydrates to unnatural levels at the expense of eating enough fiber hardly seems sensible. Even proponents say it works because — for them — it curbs cravings. Other folks would have their cravings cured better by a big plate of sweet potatoes.

While a keto diet may be relatively safe for some folks, it doesn’t work well for everybody, and for quite a few people, it may be unsafe. The best advise is to get a checkup first from your doctor and ask them about a diet plan that’s right for you.





Is the Keto Diet Healthy or Unhealthy?

Is Keto Healthy, and Are Carbs Unhealthy? We don't think so.

So, is the Keto Diet Healthy or Not?

You might remember that Dr. Atkins popularized low-carb diets a few decades ago, but you may not know that doctors first used these kinds of diets as long ago as the early 20th Century to help manage epilepsy. According to Harvard Medical School, keto diets may be an effective way to help reduce seizures, but is the keto diet healthy for people who simply want to lose weight?

A Brief Intro to Keto Diets

Just in case you’re not sure exactly what following a keto diet means, you can look at this graphic from Dr. Jockers. Basically, you reduce your carbohydrate intake to only five to ten percent of your total calorie consumption. About 20 percent of your consumption should come from protein, and the rest is fat.

Most people call a keto diet a type of low-carb diet, but you should also know that it’s also a very high-fat diet. By the way, Dr. Jockers is an advocate for his version of the keto diet, so you can’t say that we’re not fair and balanced here. He says it works, and this article doesn’t even argue that it might work. The point is that keto diets might be unhealthy and not work for you.


Why Do Some Doctors Say the Keto Diet is Unhealthy?

Dr. Campos, the contributor to the Harvard Medical School blog, isn’t such a fan and offered several reasons why a keto diet may be unhealthy as a weight-loss tool. Consider some of the doctor’s very sensible reasoning after observing his patients before and after trying a ketogenic diet for weight loss:

  • Yo-Yo dieting: A lot of the health problems with the ketogenic diet center on the basic premise of our diet failure infographic. The diet may mainly cause health problems because it’s notoriously tough to stick to over time, so it can contribute to yo-yo dieting, an healthy practice. You can’t underestimate how important it is to find a healthy eating plan that you can live with and not one that may help you shed a few pounds quickly and then regain it and more just as fast.
  • Initial weight loss with a keto diet is mostly just water: People tend to get encouraged by their initial results on the keto diet. Indeed, lots of dieters may lose about 10 pounds very quickly. The problem is that most of this first weight loss is just water weight because carbs hold water in muscle. When people don’t consume carbohydrates, the body sends this water away.

Are Keto Diet Fans Relying Upon Survivor’s Bias?

So, if most people can’t stick to this extremely low-carb diet much past the first loss of water weight, why do so many people strongly argue that a keto diet is healthy? Turn a critical eye to this thread on a popular Reddit sub about the survivor’s bias with the keto diet. The whole point of this diet is that if you reduce fat and protein and minimize carbs, you will continue to lose weight and cut cravings.

Yes, you can lose weight if you can stick to a keto diet. Short-term studies, at least, have also confirmed that low-carb diets may help with blood-sugar and cholesterol control. Does that mean that keto diets are healthy? Well, you can lose weight if you can stick to almost any diet.

You Can Lose Weight on Almost Any Popular Diet — Will it Last?

This report from a team of Canadian researchers found almost the same, average weight loss from common low-fat, low-carb, or other sorts of diet plans. They tested 48 different diets, including Atkins, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and Ornish. With a year, people on all of these different kinds of diets lost an average of 16 pounds, if they stuck to the plan with any regularity.

Most of these diets advertise more than 16 pounds of weight loss for very overweight people people within an entire year. The takeaway is that most people probably didn’t stick to the plans religiously, and of course, you should have your treats and cheat. This study would have really been golden if it would have followed up a year or two later to see if they had managed to at least maintain this weight loss or had regained weight and maybe even gained more.

If you Can’t Stick to a Keto Diet, it Doesn’t Work!

When people dared to say that a keto diet didn’t work for them, other sub members accused them of eating too many calories. Ah ha, so this diet really isn’t working to reduce cravings, and it still requires restricting calories. Again, the main point against the keto diet being healthy or effective comes down to this:

  • If you cannot stick to a diet, it doesn’t work.
  • If you need to watch your calorie intake, why not do it in a more pleasant, sustainable, and healthy way than eliminating entire, healthy food groups?

If the keto diet failed you, you didn’t fail. Apparently, it works for some people who enjoy eating lots of animal protein, but it certainly doesn’t work for everybody. Diets that don’t work for you are diets that make you fatter in the long run.

Other Reasons Keto Diets Are Not Healthy for Everybody

It’s easy to get stuck on the point that keto diets aren’t healthy because they are too hard to stick to and encourage yo-yo dieting. In the end, you lose a little weight and then fall off the wagon and end up gaining more weight than you lost. While some people say they feel satiated on the keto diet, a lot more people never curb their cravings. Again, those cravings simply mean that your body and brain are telling you that you need to eat certain nutrients, but they don’t always communicate in a way that you can interpret well.

Look, some people thrive on a keto or other low-carb diet plan. Because they can finally lose weight, the diet may even save their life. In order for that to be true, these folks have to be committed to their keto lifestyle and make sure they follow a good plan very well. If you’re interested in exploring keto diets, try that Reddit sub about keto diets that you can find linked to earlier in this post.

So, is a Keto Diet Healthy for You?

Really, you should not ask if a keto diet is healthy. You should ask if keto diet plans are healthy and sustainable for you. Before you decide to commit to a low-carbohydrate eating plan, consider some advice about red flags about keto diets from this nutritionist with a master’s degree in public health:

  • Be wary of keto diets if you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or having reproductive or menstrual cycle issues.
  • Athletic and very active people tend not to thrive on low-carb diets, though there are some exceptions.
  • Low-carbohydrate intake can aggravate or even cause symptoms of hypothyroidism.
  • You’re only as healthy as your gut biome, and keto diets reduce the diversity of gut flora.

Anyway, if a keto diet works for you, that’s great. Sometimes, a short-term keto diet of only a few days can help people reset their appetite and lose a craving for carbs. It’s not something we tend to suggest as a long-term solution because it simply doesn’t work for most people for months or years, and you need a lifetime eating plan and not another yo-yo diet.