What Are the Long-Term Effects of a Ketogenic Diet?

By Derrick Lane, Black Doctor.Org

As Well and Good’s Erin Magner puts it, “Is it just me, or was it impossible to swing a bottle of MCT oil in 2018 without hitting someone who’s gassing up the keto diet?”

She and other health trend followers refer to 2018 as “the year of keto.” As for next year, the high-fat, low-carb, butter- and bacon-laden diet shows no signs of letting up. INSIDER ranked it third among diets that millennials plan to try in 2019, for example.

And while most people on this now mainstream ketogenic diet are too thrilled with the weight loss and extra energy to worry too much about the future, the long-term effects of keto are important. And according to multiple experts, keto may not be beneficial in the long run, at least not when compared with other options for maintaining long-term health.

A short history of recent keto popularity

The idea of keto really seized hold in 2014 or 2015, registered dietitian and nutritionist Kristen Mancinelli told Well and Good, when the link between saturated fat and heart disease fell under scrutiny. All the meta-analysis “basically came up with no link,” said Manicelli, who is the author of The Ketogenic Diet: A Scientifically Proven Approach to Fast, Healthy Weight Loss. “In the nutrition and medical science community, there was a slow move towards saying, ‘Okay, villainizing fat is actually having this unintended result of making people over-consume carbohydrates.’ That really was the foundation.”

According to Dr. Josh Axe, a clinical nutritionist and author of the forthcoming “Keto Diet: Your 30-Day Plan to Lose Weight, Balance Hormones and Reverse Disease,” people who adhere to the diet to lose weight commonly see results within a week or two. (His book, scheduled for Feb. 19 release, does also emphasize the importance of five sometimes misunderstood “protocols” of the keto diet and says there’s a critical link between picking the right one and succeeding with keto.)

According to University of California San Francisco experts, ketogenic diets are accepted as being beneficial to those suffering from epilepsy or other neurological ailments and may even reduce inflammation in the brain.

But do the benefits all continue when people follow ketogenic guidelines for the long-term? That is where the experts part ways.

Mayo quotes its own expert, Dr. Donald Hensrud, author of “The Mayo Clinic Diet Book”. He described people who go on keto or any other restrictive diet. “They want an easy way out,” Hensrud said. “They want the magic panacea.”

And while decreasing carbohydrate intake dramatically will make a body burn fat and drop weight, problems arise after the initial weight loss, Hensrud said. “Long term, it’s hard. People miss some fruits, different vegetables, grains. It’s hard. It becomes a very restrictive diet. So although people lose weight initially, maintaining it and keep it off long term is a real challenge on a keto diet.”

Hensrud recommended exercise, portion control and increasing fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the diet for long-term health.