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These 5 Serious Diseases May Be Caused by the Keto Diet, New Study Says

A distinguished team of researchers reviewed over 120 nutrition studies to deliver this warning.

The keto diet took hold in recent years both because it's been effective in helping many people slim down, and because many dieters find it helpful to consider some foods totally off-limits when they're concentrating on losing weight. If you've been one of them, a team of health researchers is bringing some concerns to your attention about what they call this "very-low-carbohydrate" diet: It's just been linked to a few of the most-discussed chronic, long-term diseases.

For a report recently published in the peer-reviewed Frontiers in Nutrition, seven medicine and nutrition researchers at  institutions in the U.S. and Canada reviewed 123 past studies. The researchers acknowledge that the ketogenic diet's method of severely limiting carbohydrate intake and placing fasting time parameters around eating can affect how the body metabolizes fat. However, after their review, the study's authors say: "[…F]or most individuals, the risks of ketogenic diets may outweigh the benefits."

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The researchers suggest that the high intake of meat, cheese, oils, and other main components of the keto diet, combined with a lack of appropriate nutrients, result in a significantly increased risk in several common chronic illnesses. One of the study's co-authors, Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and a professor at George Washington University's School of Medicine stated, via VegNews: "The foods that are emphasized on a keto diet are the very products that cause colon cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease." The study also lists chronic kidney disease and diabetes as illnesses that are associated with the ketogenic diet.


The authors also note that the keto diet could cause pregnant women, or women who may become pregnant, to give birth to a child with neural tube defects of the brain and spine.

Barnard added: "New research also shows that these same foods raise the risk for severe COVID-19."

So while it may be exciting to slip into that favorite, old pair of jeans or step on the scale and see that number dropping, you might agree that this goal is secondary to your long-term health. The researchers suggest that consuming fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains—which they classify as "protective foods"—provides the minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients that can help fend off these chronic diseases.

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more about Krissy