Followed by many celebrities as a quick and effective way to lose weight, the keto diet, aka the ketogenic diet, has been the most trending topic on the internet.
Although the low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat diet can help one lose weight, the truth is there are no larger clinical studies to determine the long-term beneficial effects on the body, including the heart health.
The keto diet, or the keto pills, consist of 75 percent of healthy fats, 20 percent of protein, and five percent of carbs, meaning you can have cheese and healthy meats, but not bread, rice, or sodas. The goal is to make your body go into a process called “ketosis,” which means your body breaks down fat to generate energy instead of carbohydrates.
One question that has been doing rounds on the internet lately is – “are keto pills safe for heart patients?” Well, there has been a wide range of answers, but let’s look at what Dr. Neel Chokshi, the medical director of Sports Cardiology and Fitness Program at Penn Medicine, has to say.
Dr. Chokshi said, “I am open-minded when patients come to us with diets or nutritional trends, especially because I appreciate that they have taken an interest in their health.”
“We often don’t have a lot of data to guide us on the positive or negative effects, so I am cautious to say this is the right thing to do and not the right thing to do. I think that diet is important, and I have a personal interest in many of these approaches to nutrition, but what I share with patients is mostly my informed opinion based on as much science as possible,” continued Dr. Chokshi.
Even though Dr. Chokshi is not a bit fan of diets in general, he said, “I prefer habits. He recognized that there are keto benefits for some heart patients who are looking to shed extra pounds in the short term.
However, he cautioned there are a few potential downsides that heart patients must watch out for. He explained that eating a lot of saturated fats can increase the risk of atherosclerosis, promoting coronary heart disease and even heart attacks. Dr. Chokshi added that keto might suddenly increase triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol, which may come to normal after following the diet for weeks or months.
“In the short term, having elevated LDL and triglycerides probably doesn’t do much in term of increasing a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Chokshi says. “High cholesterol levels that persist over months to years are more concerning.”
Dr. Chokshi thinks that it is fine to eat natural carbs, which are found in vegetables and whole fruits, especially the ones that have high fiber content. He said, “They are necessary not only for caloric intake but for vitamins and nutrition. I try to get people to avoid extremes for extended periods of time, as the long-term effects of prolonged ketosis on the body are unknown.”
Registered Dietician Susan Ryskamp from the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center said, “It [keto diet] can be very effective in treating and supporting weight loss,” noting that ketosis “kind of mimics a fasting state in the body.”
Ryskamp noted, “Based on the literature, keto diets may be associated with some improvements in cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, and type 2 diabetes, but these effects are usually limited in time.”
The dietician added, “Make sure that the fats you are eating are healthy fats and not processed ones.” She noted that the sources of healthy fats, such as avocado, salmon, seeds and nuts, and extra virgin olive oil are good. She said, “From a cardiovascular standpoint, these are all better.” The bottom line is you should check with your doctor first if you want to follow the keto diet or use keto pills, especially if you have a history of heart disease. It is important to get your lipid profile checked before you use keto pills to lose weight.