High-fat ketogenic diets are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases
The ketogenic diet, or keto diet for short, is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that has gained popularity recently as a weight loss and health improvement strategy. The diet involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fats to put the body into ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body burns fat for energy instead of glucose, leading to weight loss. However, recent evidence highlights the negative impact that this diet can have on human health.
A recent research led by Dr Iulia Iatan with the Healthy Heart Program Prevention Clinic, St. Paul’s Hospital and the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Heart Lung Innovation in Vancouver found that regular consumption of a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat was associated with increased levels of LDL cholesterol – or “bad” cholesterol – and a higher risk of heart disease. This study contributes to the scientific literature and suggests the harms outweigh the benefits. In the study, researchers defined a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet as 45% of total daily calories from fat and 25% from carbohydrates. The researchers compared the diets of 305 people eating an LCHF diet with about 1,200 people eating a standard diet, using health information from the United Kingdom database UK Biobank, which followed people for at least a decade. The researchers found that people on the LCHF diet had higher levels of low-density lipoprotein, also known as LDL, cholesterol, and apolipoprotein B. Apolipoprotein B is a protein that coats LDL cholesterol proteins and can predict heart disease better than elevated levels of LDL cholesterol can. The researchers also noticed that the LCHF diet participants’ total fat intake was higher in saturated fat and had double the consumption of animal sources (33%) compared to those in the control group (16%).
After an average of 11.8 years of follow-up and after adjustment for other risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking, people on an LCHF diet had more than two times higher risk of having several major cardiovascular events, such as blockages in the arteries that needed to be opened with stenting procedures, heart attack, stroke and peripheral arterial disease. It is essential to highlight that this study can only show an association between the diet and an increased risk for major cardiac events, not a causal relationship because it was observational. However, their findings are worth further study, especially when approximately 1 in 5 Americans report being on a low-carb, keto-like or full keto diet.
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