According to a new study, people who follow a “keto-like” diet of high-fat, low-carb foods may be at higher risk for cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.
The study, presented over the weekend at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting, looked at more than 300 participants who reported eating a diet consisting of 25% or less of daily calories from carbohydrates and more than 45% of calories from fat.
Compared to health information from about 1,200 people who follow a standard diet – with more balance between carbohydrates and fats – researchers who participated in a “keto-like” diet had increased levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and a higher risk of heart disease.
“To our knowledge, our study is one of the first to examine the association between this type of diet and cardiovascular outcomes,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Iulia Iatan, a physician-researcher at the Healthy Heart Program Prevention Clinic, St. Paul’s Hospital and the Center for Heart Lung Innovation at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, said in a statement.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, too much LDL cholesterol – or low-density lipoprotein – in the body can cause plaque to build up on the walls of blood vessels, which can lead to heart problems such as heart disease. heart disease and strokes. CDC guidelines for reducing high cholesterol include limiting foods high in saturated fat, eating foods high in fiber and low in added sugars and salt.
Low-carb diets like the keto diet call for eating high-fat, low-carb foods.
Keto dieters, for example, drastically reduce carbs to around 10% of their daily diet, which in some cases can be as little as 20 grams of carbs per day.
“Keto-friendly” foods include foods like meat, eggs, butter, unprocessed cheese, avocados, meat, low-carb vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
According to Maya Feller, a New York-based dietitian and nutritionist, the amount of fat a person on the keto diet can consume in a day could be more than five times the recommended daily fat intake for the average American. involved in the study.
Current dietary guidelines for Americans call for eating less than 10% of calories per day from saturated fat and less than 10% of calories from added sugars, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
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Iatan said people considering a low-carb, high-fat diet should be aware that the way they eat can raise their LDL cholesterol levels.
“Before starting this diet, they should consult with a health care provider,” she said. “While they are on a diet, it is recommended that they monitor their cholesterol levels and try to address other risk factors for heart disease or stroke, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, physical inactivity and smoking.
Limitations of the study included that people self-reported following a low-carb diet, which may be inaccurate. Also, the study only followed people for a limited amount of time.
The study also only showed a correlation between a low-carb, high-fat diet and high “bad” cholesterol, not a direct link, indicating that more research needs to be done.
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“There are inter-individual differences in how people respond to this diet that we don’t yet fully understand,” Iatan said. “One of our next steps will be to try to identify specific characteristics or genetic markers that can predict how a person will respond to this type of diet.”
The ketogenic diet, keto for short, was developed in the 1920s after it was noticed that after fasting, epileptics would experience a marked reduction in their seizures. The diet is designed to bring your body into a state called ketosis, when your body is so low in carbohydrates that it begins to burn fat for fuel.
Ketosis is also what the body does during fasting.
Proponents of the diet say it’s the best way to lose weight without going hungry and it boosts energy levels. Some studies have shown that following a “keto-like” diet can help with weight loss, leading to better health benefits, including an increase in “good” cholesterol.
A study presented at the American College of Cardiology Annual Meeting in 2019 found that people on a low-carb diet were more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disorder, than people on a diet. moderate in carbohydrates.