What Health Benefits and Risks Are Associated with a Ketogenic Diet?

David Geithner
4 min readOct 23, 2023

The health benefits of following the ketogenic diet are alleged to be numerous. Research suggests that ketogenic diets may protect against diabetes, epilepsy, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions. Ketogenic diets lower blood sugar and insulin levels, aiding weight loss. Other reported health benefits include lower blood pressure, reduced dependence on medication, and improvements in cholesterol levels. Increased satiety and fewer cravings are other reported advantages.

Sharing many similarities with the Atkins diet and other low carb eating plans, the ketogenic diet focuses on reducing carb consumption, replacing these with fats to trigger a state known as ketosis. This metabolic state primes the body, making it extremely efficient at burning fat to produce energy. In this state, fats in the liver are turned into ketones, which supply energy to the brain. What are some of the other benefits of a keto diet? Here’s what you need to know:

Benefits of a Keto Diet

Carbohydrates elevate blood sugar more than any other nutrients. Following a ketogenic diet has been shown to prevent large, abrupt rises in blood sugar. Ketogenic diets are so effective at lowering blood sugar levels that they have been used under medical supervision by people with type 2 diabetes to help reduce their dependence on non-insulin diabetes medication. In one study, 95 percent of participants with type 2 diabetes were able to reduce their diabetes medication or come off it completely.

Eating fewer carbohydrates reduces insulin resistance and restores insulin sensitivity. This reduces the likelihood that prediabetes will progress to type 2 diabetes. It also reduces the amount of A1c in the blood, another indication of high blood sugar. Keto may also cause LDL levels of cholesterol to go down and HDL levels to rise, another healthy trend. Following a keto diet may also lower blood pressure, which may be a desirable or an undesirable effect depending on other factors.

According to a review published by the National Institutes of Health, ketogenic diets may positively impact the gut microbiome, a complex ecosystem incorporating trillions of microscopic organisms that live in the gastrointestinal tract. Research shows that the genetic makeup of the gut microbiome is affected by a variety of lifestyle factors, including antibiotic use, exercise, sleep, and diet.

Gut bacteria can affect the way the body responds to different food sources, impacting the postprandial glucose response. Not only that, but also, reducing the presence of glucose in the urine can reduce the risk of UTI. Since controlling blood glucose levels has also been shown to reduce the risk of metabolic disease, obesity, and diabetes, scientists speculate that this may be an effective way of reducing disease and associated comorbidity risk.

Risks of a Ketogenic Diet

Following a ketogenic diet is not without risk. There is some evidence to suggest that being keto can have an adverse effect on health in the long-term. Potential side effects include an increased risk of kidney stones, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, accumulations of fat in the liver, and excess protein in the blood.

For some individuals, eating a ketogenic diet triggers a state known as “keto flu,” causing symptoms like headaches, fatigue, constipation, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, and a low tolerance for exercise. This symptoms are usually temporary, and are particularly common in those just starting the ketogenic diet as their body adjusts to its new energy source. Additionally, as noted above, lowering the blood pressure can be a positive or a negative consequence depending on the patient’s overall health.

Medical experts suggest that some people should avoid the ketogenic diet completely. These include diabetics who are insulin-dependent, people with pancreatis or kidney disease, people with eating disorders, pregnant and nursing women, and people taking certain types of medication.

Talk to Your Doctor before Going Keto

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that a ketogenic diet can confer a range of health benefits. People considering such an extreme change in diet should seek the guidance of a doctor, dietitian, or other healthcare professional — particularly those who are trying to manage an existing health problem. They can help make sure that you do not have any additional underlying conditions of which you are unaware and make sure that you follow the diet safely. They can also help you get the most benefit from this style of eating.

Ketogenic diets severely limit carbohydrate intake. However, some carbohydrates confer health benefits. For a less restrictive dietary approach, experts recommend maintaining a diet that incorporates a range of nutrient-dense, fibrous carbs like fruits and vegetables alongside healthy fats and nutritious protein sources.

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David Geithner

David Geithner is a senior finance executive who draws upon nearly three decades of experience to serve as EVP and COO, IMG Events and On Location.