Ketogenic nutrition: benefits and risks


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  • Ketogenic Diet: What is the Keto Diet?
  • Ketogenic nutrition: benefits and risks

The keto diet has some potential side effects. Especially the risk of acidification of the blood should be considered. But other health side effects should not be underestimated. Nonetheless, the ketogenic diet also provides a not inconsiderable benefit to medicine. The side effects of the keto diet and the type of diet that can benefit from the diet are explained below.

Risks of a ketogenic diet

The most serious possible side effect is, as already indicated, the risk of Ketoacidosis. This is a hyperacidity of the blood by ketone bodies and can bring health damage. Consequences of an acidified blood can be among others:

  • a drop in efficiency
  • Tiredness and slackness
  • halitosis
  • an increasing uric acid level and thus an increased risk for gout or kidney stones

In addition, the ketogenic diet may too Indigestion and nausea to lead.

Also, due to the limited diet may be the risk of a possible undersupply with important nutrients.

It should be noted in the keto diet also the high risk of JoJo effect.

What is the keto flu?

Another possible side effect is the so-called keto flu. This can occur while the metabolism switches to ketosis.

Symptoms of keto flu include:

  • Energylessness and tiredness
  • weakness
  • a headache
  • difficulty concentrating
  • cravings
  • constipation

The symptoms mentioned usually disappear after a few weeks.

Ketogenic nutrition in medicine

The keto diet is used in certain diseases under medical supervision to support the therapy. This is the case, for example, with rare, congenital metabolic diseases or epilepsy.

In the case of the glucose transporter (Glut1) defect - a metabolic disease in which the body can not transport or utilize glucose - the keto diet is even the treatment of choice. Because ketone bodies serve here as an alternative source of energy.

Below is an overview of which diseases the keto diet may have a positive impact on.

However, one should always keep in mind that the keto diet is not a medically approved therapy method. Therefore, you should use the diet in case of illness in all circumstances consult with a doctor.

The ketogenic diet in epilepsy

Various studies1,2 point out that a ketogenic diet in epilepsy in children who do not respond to antiepileptic drugs can reduce or even completely prevent the onset of seizures. This should apply above all to a vegetarian ketogenic diet. Further studies3,4 also suggest the effectiveness of the keto diet in adults with epilepsy.

Why the ketogenic diet can reduce epileptic fits is still unclear. Some researchers suggest that the metabolism changes the intestinal flora and has an antispasmodic effect.5 Other scientists hypothesize that neurotransmitters are regulated by the ketone bodies.6

Scientifically researched and applied medically, the keto diet is used in epilepsy, especially in America. In Germany, however, the ketogenic diet is rarely used Therapy of epilepsy used, since it is difficult to implement, especially in children.7

Ketogenic diet: diabetes and obesity

The keto diet should also have a positive effect on diabetes. Scientific investigations6,8,9,10 Especially for type 2 diabetes, it has been shown that a ketogenic diet can reduce and maintain blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin doses as well as the risk of complications could be lowered and thereby.

On the other hand, consumer centers warn against insulin resistance induced by ketogenic nutrition.

Because metabolism in the keto diet drives fat burning, keeps insulin levels low, and promotes faster satiety, the diet can also be used in overweight.6,11,12 Even with lipoedema, a ketogenic diet should be able to help.

The keto diet and neurological diseases

Research is increasingly providing clues9,13 that a ketogenic diet may support the therapy of neurological diseases of the brain. These include, among others Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis. These diseases are likely to share impaired glucose uptake and utilization.

However, for each of the diseases mentioned an individual and medically controlled therapy is necessary - the additional use of the keto diet should always be discussed with the doctor.

Keto diet and cardiovascular diseases

Some studies, such as the 2013 study by Paoli et al.,9 were able to detect an improvement in body fat, blood pressure and blood glucose levels and cholesterol levels as part of a ketogenic diet. This could also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

German Consumer Centers, on the other hand, warn that the keto diet could lead to cardiovascular diseases. The findings of such studies as those mentioned above should therefore be evaluated with caution, as long as there are not enough studies for reliable statements - especially long-term studies are still lacking.

Does a ketogenic diet help with cancer?

It is also discussed scientifically whether the keto diet can slow down the growth of cancer cells. While some studies14,15,16 to indicate efficacy, other studies could6,17 do not confirm this effect and complain about the lack of high-quality studies.

In addition, it must be remembered that cancer cells are very adaptable and therefore probably can not be eliminated through the diet. As a supporting element in cancer therapy, the ketogenic diet may eventually play a role.

The keto diet in sports

In addition to medical patients, some athletes should be able to benefit from the ketogenic diet: it should improve performance and help, for example, to lose weight quickly before a competition. However, this is not scientifically proven.

Kraftsportler often eat ketogenically for visual reasons. Because the keto diet drains the body, which makes the muscles more visible.

For endurance athletes like runners or climbers, the ketogenic diet is not suitable. Because this group of athletes needs due to the ongoing exercise stress enough glucose - and it requires carbohydrates.

For whom is the keto diet not suitable?

A ketogenic diet is not suitable for everyone, because some groups of people can be seriously injured and should therefore refrain from the low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet.

These groups include people with

  • elevated blood lipid levels: If you suffer from hyperlipidemia (high levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoproteins), your body may not be able to break down fat, which may make a high-fat diet a problem.
  • Heart diseases such as heart failure: If the body has to switch to a metabolism with ketone bodies instead of glucose, this can put additional strain on a weakened heart.
  • Bile problems, For example, in gallstones or a distant gallbladder: The fat digestion is difficult in people with diseased or missing bile, so that a high-fat diet would be counterproductive.
  • Liver or kidney diseases: A ketogenic diet can put additional strain on the liver and kidneys, as it removes water from the body, while at the same time giving it a lot of fat to break down.
  • Underweight or eating disorder: Those affected are already struggling with a lack of nutrients and must also instead of lose weight.

Anyone who wants to try the keto diet despite one of these diseases should not do so without medical advice.

Ketogenic diet in pregnancy

So far there are no scientific studies on this topic.

However, to be able to ensure a normal development of the baby, pregnant women are generally recommended no diet to do and instead to feed balanced. This also includes the consumption of carbohydrates.

Conclusion: Is a ketogenic diet healthy?

For people with illnesses like epilepsy, a keto diet can bring health benefits. Even a fast weight loss can be achieved with this diet.

But consumer centers warn in the keto diet from a lack of vitamins, fiber and phytochemicals. In addition, the organizations point out that ketogenic nutrition can lead to long-term cardiovascular disease or insulin resistance.

In addition, the ketogenic diet is at odds with long-established dietary guidelines. For example, the German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends only 30 to 35 percent of the energy generated from fats a day.

The keto diet should therefore, if at all, only be used under medical supervision and, if necessary, with the help of a nutritionist. Who wants to lose weight in the long term and without JoJo effect, should make his diet better balanced and healthy and move regularly.

Sources and studies

  1. Hyun Nam, S. et al. (2011): The role of ketogenic diet in the treatment of refractory status epilepticus.
  2. Nabbout, R. et al. (2010): Efficacy of ketogenic diet in severe refractory status epilepticus initiating fever induced refractory epileptic encephalopathy in school age children (FIRES).
  3. Thakur, K.T. et al. (2014): Ketogenic diet for adults in super-refractory status epilepticus.
  4. Klein, P. et al. (2010): Ketogenic diet treatment in adults with refractory epilepsy.
  5. Olson, C.A. et al. (2014): The Good Microbiota Mediates the Anti-Seizure Effects of the Ketogenic Diet.
  6. Bahr, L.S. et al. (2018): The ketogenic diet - what it can do, how it works and how it works.
  7. Cooper, P.N. et al. (2013): Ketogenic diet and other dietary treatments for epilepsy.
  8. Hussain, T.A. et al. (2012): Effect of low-calorie versus low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet in type 2 diabetes.
  9. Paoli, A. et al. (2013): Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very low carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets.
  10. Hallberg, S. (2018): "Reversing type 2 diabetes starts with ignoring the guidelines": Sarah Hallberg's TEDx talk.
  11. Yancy, W.S. et al. (2004): A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet Versus A Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia: A Randomized, Controlled Trial.
  12. Bueno, N.B. et al. (2013): Systematic Review with Meta-analysis. Very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
  13. Stafstrom, C.E. & Rho, J.M. (2012): The ketogenic diet as a treatment paradigm for various neurological disorders.
  14. Schmidt, M. et al. (2011): Effects of a ketogenic diet on the quality of life in 16 patients with advanced cancer: A pilot trial.
  15. Seyfried, T.N. et al. (2008): Targeting energy metabolism in brain cancer with calorically restricted ketogenic diets.
  16. Allen, B.G. et al. (2014): Ketogenic diets as an adjuvant cancer therapy: History and potential mechanism.
  17. Maisch, P et al. (2018): Effectiveness of the ketogenic diet in urological tumors.




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