Does Ketogenic Diet Improve Your Cardiovascular Risk Profile?

Keto diet

To date, there is no clinical trial available to conclude the effects of ketogenic (or keto) diet on the performance of the heart. There are, however, a few studies done in children with seizure. As some of you may know, keto diet is one of the treatments for seizure. One study followed kids on keto diet for seizure for a period of 1 year and found no negative impact of keto diet on the heart function [1].

While we may still have to wait for future research to give us insight on how keto diet directly affect the heart, in this article, I will cover what we know about keto diet and cardiovascular risk factors.


Ketogenic Diet and Obesity

You should have heard that keto diet is recommended for weight loss, and that is true. But let’s look a little further into the details.

I found one study very interesting. The study assigned participants to eat keto diet for 20 days at a time, for 2 periods of time. Then, they were switched to eat low-carb but non-keto diet. Besides, in between the assigned diets, they maintained their eating with Mediterranean diet. After all, the study found significant weight and fat loss only during the ketogenic periods. Also, there was no rebound after 1 year if they followed Mediterranean diet correctly during the maintenance phases [2].

Average weight loss from eating keto diet was reported at around 5% in 6 months [3-5]. It’s also important to note that keto diet may not reduces only fat mass, but also lean mass [6]. As a result, combining keto diet with exercise is a sound way to accelerate weight loss while maintaining your lean component.

The Bottom Line

Keto diet has proved to be an effective weight loss strategy. Alternating keto diet with Mediterranean diet is always an option, if it will help to make your healthy diet plan and weight control more sustainable.


Ketogenic Diet and Diabetes

When it comes to diabetes, keto diet, which is low in carbohydrate composition, makes perfect sense. We have seen good results of keto diet in lowering blood sugar [7-10] as well as hemoglobin A1c, which reflects blood sugar control over a longer period of time [7,8,10,11]. As well, patients on keto diet could even reduce their diabetic medications [11-16].

While the short-term outlook of keto diet on diabetes is promising, the question remains whether these effects will last. Notably, most of the studies are of short duration, with only one observed sustained benefits after 1 year [17].

The Bottom Line

Keto diet improves blood sugar control in diabetes and helps reduce the need for medications, in the short term at least. Further research is needed to assess long-term outcomes.


Ketogenic Diet and High Cholesterol

For some people it may sound contradicting that food high in fat content will reduce cholesterol levels. Indeed, we have a great deal of data to support it.

From various keo diet studies, we see reductions in the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) [17] and triglyceride [4,5,12,17-19]. Not only that, it increases the “good” cholesterol (HDL) [5,12,17-21], which is a good thing.

Although, some studies might see no difference in cholesterol levels [5], to my knowledge none has shown an unfavorable outcome of keto diet on cholesterol profile.

What about types of fat? Unsaturated or saturated fat? We have heard all bad things about saturated fat for decades. Is that true? Okay, I will cover this in the future topic.

The Bottom Line

Keto diet doesn’t raise your bad cholesterol or lower your good cholesterol that are the major risk factors for heart disease. The other way, it potentially improves your overall lipid profile.


Ketogenic Diet and Blood Pressure

There is not a lot of data out there, as keto diet seems to have little or no effect on blood pressure.

Some studies reported a slight decrease in blood pressure from keto diet, without any change in the use of blood pressure medications [4,5]. Another study found lower blood pressure but only up to 3 months with keto diet regimen [7].

The Bottom Line

We don’t have any scientific data to recommend keto diet as a measure for lowering blood pressure. But you can be quite certain that it will not raise your blood pressure.


Take-home Message

Ketogenic diet has great potential for improving your cardiovascular risk profile, and hence preventing heart disease. It is a scientifically supported diet option among other recommended healthy diets such as Mediterranean diet.


[1] Ozdemir R, Kucuk M, Guzel O, et al. Does ketogenic diet have any negative effect on cardiac systolic and diastolic functions in children with intractable epilepsy?: One-year follow-up results. Brain Dev. 2016 Oct;38(9):842-7.

[2] Paoli A., Bianco A., Grimaldi K.A., Lodi A., Bosco G. Long term successful weight loss with a combination biphasic ketogenic Mediterranean diet and Mediterranean diet maintenance protocol. Nutrients. 2013;5:5205–5217.

[3] Partsalaki I., Karvela A., Spiliotis B.E. Metabolic impact of a ketogenic diet compared to a hypocaloric diet in obese children and adolescents. J. Pediatr. Endocrinol. Metab. 2012;25:697–704. doi: 10.1515/jpem-2012-0131.

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