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Ketogenic diet may be associated with a higher risk of heart disease, study suggests

The low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet may be linked to higher levels of “bad” cholesterol and double the risk of cardiovascular events such as blocked arteries, heart attacks and strokes, according to new research.

“Our study found that regular consumption of a self-reported low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet was associated with increased levels of LDL cholesterol – or “bad” cholesterol – and an increased risk of heart disease,” says the study. The study’s lead author, Dr. Iulia Iatan , from the Healthy Heart Program Prevention Clinic, St. Paul and the Heart Lung Innovation Center at the University of British Columbia in a press release.

In the study, researchers defined a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet as 45% of total daily calories coming from fat and 25% coming from carbohydrates.

The study was presented at the Annual Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology in conjunction with the World Congress of Cardiology.

“The rationale for our study came from the fact that we would see patients in our cardiovascular prevention clinic with severe hypercholesterolemia following this diet,” said Iatan during a presentation at the session.

Hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol, increases a person’s risk of having a heart attack or other adverse cardiovascular events.

“This got us thinking about the relationship between these low-carb, high-fat diets, lipid levels, and cardiovascular disease. And so despite that, there is limited data on this relationship,” she said.

The researchers compared the ketogenic diets of 305 people with around 1,200 people eating a standard diet, using health information from the UK Biobank database, which has followed people for at least a decade.

They noted that people following a low-carb, high-fat diet consumed twice as much animal sources (33%) compared to those on a standard diet (16%).

Additionally, they found that people on the LCHF diet had higher levels of low-density lipoprotein, cholesterol, and apolipoprotein B.

“After an average of 11.8 years of follow-up — and after adjusting for other risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking — people on an LCHF diet had twice the risk of having multiple major cardiovascular events such as blockages in arteries that needed to be opened with stent procedures, heart attack, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease,” the researchers found, according to the press release.

The researchers said their study “can only show an association between diet and an increased risk of serious cardiac events, not a causal relationship” because it was an observational study, but their findings deserve further study.

The study also looked at the longitudinal effect of following the diet. Most people tend to follow it intermittently for shorter periods.

Most of the participants (73%) were women, which Iatan said was “quite interesting to look at, but it also supports the available literature that women in general tend to follow more dietary patterns, tend to be more interested in changing their life styles”.

When asked if there were any groups that weren’t harmed by following an LCHF diet, Iatan said how long people are on the diet and whether or not they lose weight “can counteract any LDL elevations.”

“The important thing to remember is that each patient responds differently. And so, there’s actually inter-individual variability between the response. What we found is that, on average, patients tend to increase their ‘bad’ cholesterol levels,” she said.

Learn more about the ketogenic diet

Most health experts say that the fad keto diet, which bans carbohydrates to make your body burn fat for fuel, eliminates healthy foods like fruits, beans and vegetables, and whole grains.

Here, you limit your carb intake to just 20 to 50 per day – the lower the better.

To put that in perspective, a medium banana or apple has about 27 carbs – the full daily allowance. Keto is short for ketosis, a metabolic state that occurs when the liver begins to use stored fat to produce ketones for energy.

The liver is programmed to do this when your body loses access to its preferred fuel – carbohydrates – and thinks it is starving.

The keto diet has been around since the 1920s, when a doctor discovered it as a way to control seizures in children with epilepsy who were unresponsive to other treatment methods.

Low carb diets like keto rely heavily on fats to fill you up.

At least 70% of the keto diet will be made up of fat; some say it’s more like 90%.

While you can get all of this fat from healthy unsaturated fats like avocados, tofu, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, the diet also allows for saturated fats like lard, butter, and coconut oil, as well as whole milk, cheese, and mayonnaise.

Eating lots of foods high in saturated fat increases the body’s production of LDL cholesterol, which can build up inside the arteries and restrict blood flow to the heart and brain.

Source: CNN Brasil

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