There are many ways to prevent and reverse heart disease, one of which is a diet to combat high blood sugar, high insulin, obesity and inflammation. These are all factors that are strongly associated with cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality. With that in mind, you may be wondering, is the keto bad for your heart health?
Studies and opinions from health experts show mixed results. We will explore them in this article and delve into the science of the keto diet. This will help you establish the link between ketosis and heart disease and then decide if it is the right approach for you.
What is the Keto Diet?
A keto diet is a diet plan that is very low in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and rich in fat.
By restricting carbohydrate intake, your body begins a process known as ketosis, in which stored fat is broken down into ketone bodies and released into the bloodstream. These ketone bodies are then used as a source of energy rather than carbohydrates.
Is the Keto Diet Heart-healthy?
Our skeletal muscles are fueled primarily by glucose, a form of sugar derived from the carbohydrates we eat. Conversely, our hearts get up to 70% of their fuel from fat.
Ketone bodies are an alternative fuel source that your liver makes from fat. So if you want to train your body to switch from using glucose to using ketone bodies, you must reduce your carbohydrate intake and replace it with lean protein and unsaturated fats. This is the essence of the keto diet.
For people who are at risk of heart disease, the success of the keto diet for short-term weight loss can be helpful. When following a keto diet, you tend to feel less hungry – and therefore, help with weight loss.
Other benefits of the keto diet include:
- Lowering blood sugar (helpful in preventing diabetes).
- Lowering triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood that increases the risk of heart disease and stroke).
While these short-term benefits can make you feel better, the long-term effects of the keto diet remain unclear.
If you’re thinking of starting the keto diet, beware of certain side effects, like:
- Nausea and vomiting.
As for heart-health, the jury is still out on whether or not this diet is actually beneficial.
Does Keto Diet Benefit for Cardic Patients?
Losing weight and reducing health indicators such as blood sugar, insulin and triglycerides through a keto diet will help reverse heart disease and reduce your likelihood of having a heart attack. So, yes, the keto diet can be used as a way to support heart function.
If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease and are interested in restricting carbohydrates, it’s best to go on a keto diet under the supervision of your doctor. This will ensure that your ketone levels are properly monitored along with your meal plan and medications.
Recommendations for Heart Patients on the keto diet
It’s possible that some patients will benefit from a keto diet, but some may get worse.
Because of the potentially harmful effects of the keto diet on heart disease patients, heart failure experts recommend a less strict approach.
For heart patients, experts ( and aligning to the American Heart Association’s latest clinical guidelines for dietary advice) recommend:
- Eating a balanced diet that contains complex carbohydrates, unsaturated fats and lean proteins.
- Controlling portions.
- Choosing fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Limiting red meat and adding in more fish.
- Skipping processed foods.
- Cutting back on sugars, simple carbohydrates, saturated fats and trans fats.
- Replacing sodium with flavorful herbs, spices and vinegars.
People with any of the conditions listed below should not start a keto diet:1
- Severe hypertriglyceridemia
- Pancreatitis attributed to high triglyceride levels
- Genetic conditions causing severe hypercholesterolemia
- Conditions affecting enzymes involved in fat metabolism
- Liver failure
- People taking SGLT2 inhibitor medication
The keto diet has become a mainstream diet, especially when it comes to weight loss, but its long-term effects on heart health remain unclear. When starting a keto diet, it is best to speak with a healthcare provider or dietitian to ensure that there are no side effects for you.