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What are the Long Term Side Effects of Doing the Keto Diet?

Other than limited studies done on epileptic children who have been prescribed ketogenic diets for an extended duration, the long-term consequences of doing ‘’Keto’ have not undergone extensive scientific scrutiny. One of the few landmark studies done on actual humans (vs rodents) concluded that the ketogenic diet did the following for the test subjects:

  • Decreased weight
  • Decreased BMI
  • Decreased blood glucose level
  • Decreased LDL cholesterol
  • Increased HDL cholesterol
  • Decreased triglycerides

It also did not result in any major negative side effects over the study period of 24 weeks (i.e. 6 months). The authors of this study determined that this study “confirmed the safety of the ketogenic diet for a longer duration than was previously demonstrated.”1

The prevailing consensus among medical professionals familiar with the KD is that, for certain health conditions, such as Metabolic Syndrome, Type 2 Diabetes, Pre-diabetes, or PCOS, this approach to managing their condition appears to be both effective and safe. More recently, studies have demonstrated that life span extension produced by caloric restriction can actually be replicated by the metabolic changes induced by ketosis2.

By mimicking the physiological effects of a prolonged low-calorie diet, the ketogenic diet, which produces ketone bodies such as Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (βOHB), has also been shown to help protect our cells from “oxidative stress” and, over an extended period of time, can have the potential to positively impact our body’s aging process3. Eric Verdin MD, the senior investigator of a study which identified a novel mechanism by which a type of low-carb, low-calorie diet—i.e. the “ketogenic diet”—could delay the effects of aging, stated that “βOHB, the body’s major source of energy during exercise or fasting, blocks a class of enzymes that would otherwise promote oxidative stress, thus protecting cells from aging.” Dr. Verdin also added, “this chemical compound may be key to new therapies for treating or preventing a variety of age-related diseases.”4

Whether you’re simply curious about trying out Keto for yourself, or whether you’re already ‘keto-adapted’ and might have occasional doubts about its long term effects, rest assured that its long-term benefits appear to far outweigh any potential risks.

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  1. Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/
  2. Ketone bodies mimic the life span extending properties of caloric restriction: https://iubmb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/iub.1627
  3. Suppression of Oxidative Stress by β-Hydroxybutyrate, an Endogenous Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3735349/
  4. Gladstone Scientists Discover Novel Mechanism by Which Calorie Restriction Influences Longevity:https://gladstone.org/about-us/press-releases/gladstone-scientists-discover-novel-mechanism-which-calorie-restriction
Mary Paley

Fearless Dietitian; 30+ years as a professional dietitian; Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at the MGH Institute of Health Professions; Lead research dietitian for several major pharmaceutical companies; Currently focused on health and wellness and the benefits of ketogenic diets for both obesity and diabetes management. MS, RDN, CDE, LD/N

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