Going keto is all about dropping carbohydrates from your diet but replacing it with healthy fat and protein. A diet that comprises 75% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbohydrates certainly looks challenging on paper and is even more so in practice. Done right however, the low-carb/high-fat approach works well in reducing inflammation markers and restoring insulin sensitivity. This makes the ketogenic diet effective for improving health and promoting fat-loss. However, this diet isn’t suitable for everyone – here are some instances when it may not be wise to go keto:
The ketogenic diet restricts the type and amount of vegetables, fruits and grains that you can eat. Cutting carbohydrates from these foods help with fat-loss, but you are also losing lots of nutrients that are vital for a foetus’ growth. Furthermore, some laboratory research on rodents has found that babies born to mothers on a ketogenic diet experienced some birth defects: they had bigger hearts and smaller brains than babies born to mothers on a normal diet. While there is no research to support the possibility of a similar occurrence in human births, it may be better to err on the side of caution.
Vegans already have a limited choice of foods to eat. The ketogenic diet makes it even harder for a vegan to get essential nutrients and vitamins because vegetables are central to any vegan diet. It’s also hard to fulfil the protein requirement of a ketogenic diet if you are a vegan because the most common sources of protein are animal products like milk and eggs, while vegan alternatives like legumes are often starchy by nature.
3. Risk of triggering eating disorders
The ketogenic diet, like most other diets, force you to read food labels and be very careful of everything you consume. This could set off an eating disorder, especially with individuals who have a history of dealing with one. Orthorexia is an increasingly common eating disorder whereby a person practices excessive restraint over the types of food that they eat, on the basis of whether it's healthy or “clean”. Keto dieters run the very real risk of developing a similar condition.
4. Risk of developing kidney stones
Kidney stones are a common health issue and ketogenic diets could increase the risk of developing them especially if you already faced the problem before. This is because the additional protein consumed in a ketogenic diet increases uric acid levels, which contributes to kidney stone formation. Nevertheless, you can still go on a ketogenic diet, just not for extended periods of time.
5. Negative effects on athletic performance
Ketogenic diets can affect your sports performance especially if you do high-intensity sports. The drastic reduction in carbohydrates from your diet means your body loses an important reservoir of fuel (muscle glycogen) when you’re engaging in certain sports, leading to decreased strength and stamina.
A final point to note when considering going keto is that ketogenic diets are not always easy. Not all fat are created equal and you have to be conscious about the kind of fat you consume, ensuring that there is a balance between monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fat. Also, the amount of dietary fat you consume is also essential to fat-loss as you'd want your body to metabolise the body's fat stores for fuel instead of what you're consuming. Ultimately, the ketogenic diet can be tricky but is highly rewarding when done right. As with any diet, do consult a nutritionist or doctor to see if you're physically in the clear before embarking on one.