Adhering to the wildly popular keto diet has been correlated with added strain on the kidneys and cardiac arrhythmia, and a new, small study links going keto with possible consequences on another vital body system: the bones. The study, published in late January in Frontiers in Endocrinology, is the first to look into whether the high-fat, low-carb diet might also adversely affect bone health.
The study only involved 30 people, all of whom were about to start vigorous training for upcoming competitions in race walking. Researchers found more significant signs of bone breakdown in the athletes who followed a keto diet for three and a half weeks, compared to those who continued to simply eat their regular, more balanced diet. That doesn’t necessarily mean that eating virtually zero carbs weakens the bones; researchers didn’t examine bone density, and further study is needed. But Louise Burke, one of the study’s lead authors, told the New York Times that researchers believe the low availability of carbs on keto may very well affect bone metabolism.
Doctors and researchers across disciplines have long decried the keto diet, especially over the past few years, as its popularity as a quick way to lose weight surged. Following the diet correctly involves getting as much as 90 percent of one’s daily calories from fats, which is meant to send the body into a semi-starvation state known as “ketosis.” The idea is that, while in ketosis, ketoers burn through reserved fat stores for energy, rather than churning through readily available carbs. That can (and does) help people drop pounds, but it’s also extremely unsustainable, and appears to come with a whole mess of health issues.
The only known medical use for keto is treating epilepsy in children; it’s also been useful for helping regulate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. But just because a diet is doctor-approved for specific situations doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to use it “off-label” for weight loss without physician guidance. If your goal is to lose fat, there are plenty of other ways to do that without rotting vital body systems, and almost all of them are far less annoying.
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