Followed by many celebrities and fitness enthusiasts to lose weight, the keto diet might seem a bit unreasonable for good heart health. After all, what you eat is a low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat diet.
The keto diet is all about getting in the state of ketosis, a metabolic process that is achieved when your body uses up fat for energy. Typically, your body uses up carbs for energy.
Although many criticize the keto diet, including fitness coach Jillian Michaels, it has produced some good results for a registered dietician Susan Ryskamp from the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center.
Earlier this year, Ryskamp 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.”
A 2017 study has found that losing even a small amount of weight through the keto diet can reduce obesity and high blood pressure, which are the potential cardiovascular risk factors. The study found that the keto diet reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased HDL (good cholesterol), protecting heart health.
Also, the keto diet has been found to reduce high blood glucose (sugar) levels.
It is good to cut down low-quality carbs, sugar and starches from your diet, which are found in white bread and soft drinks, because they increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Even though those omissions are acceptable, vigilance is still needed, cautioned Ryskamp.
Please note that the keto diet is not about loading up on too much bacon and butter, which may trigger certain health issues.
Ryskamp said, “Make sure that the fats you are eating are healthy fats and not processed ones.” She noted that good fat sources, such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado, salmon, nuts and nut butters, are better from a cardiovascular standpoint.
However, the dietician explained that the long-term viability of the keto diet is not yet clear. The short-term results are well-documented but there is little research on whether the keto diet is safe for your heart health.
She explained, “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.”
One Chinese study has suggested that there is a risk of heart disease with the keto diet. The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology annual conference in New Orleans, which found that patients who had a diet low in carbs for more than 20 years had a risk of atrial fibrillation. However, there were a few limitations of the study.
Dr. Neel Chokshi of the Sports Cardiology and Fitness Program at Penn Medicine thinks that the keto diet is likely to have some positive effects than other diets.
He said, “People who are dieting are more likely to pay attention to the food they’re putting into their bodies, with likely no excessive caloric intake. Higher fat and protein diets have greater satiety – if you feel full, you are less likely to eat too much.” “In counting carbs vs. proteins vs. fats, you are paying attention to the quality of foods you consume, eating fewer processed foods, which is generally healthier,” he added. “Lastly, you form routines around meals and consumption which are sustained over time and lead to positive changes in weight and sense of well-being.”