One of the newest diet fads is the keto diet, a restrictive eating program that increases fat intake to reduce or eliminate carbs to support weight loss. Many people wear by this diet, including celebrities. But there’s been a lot of controversy over whether it’s safe in pregnancy. Here’s what you need to know about eating keto while expecting, including the benefits and possible dangers.
How The Keto Diet Works
The ketogenic diet – often called the keto diet – is a low-carb diet that instructs followers to eliminate nearly all carbohydrate from their diet. This includes many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. ideally, People on a keto diet should be getting 75% of their calories from fat, 15-20% from protein, and 5-10% from carbs.
The keto diet may be extreme, but it can be effective. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. They provide glucose (sugar) for the body’s cells. When there are no more carbs left to burn, the body must turn to other energy sources – like fat. It’ll enter a state of ketosis in which it transforms fat into ketones, which can lead to rapid weight loss.
It’s important for people on the keto diet not to eat too much protein, which can be converted into glucose when consumed in high amounts. This can prevent the body from entering ketosis.
Many people on this diet will practice intermittent fasting to enter ketosis faster. For example, this could involve limiting one’s self to eating during 8 hours of the day and fasting for the rest.
Benefits Of Eating Keto
Many people have experienced immediate results from the keto diet, including the following benefits.
One of the main benefits of the keto diet is that it can help you lose weight quickly and efficiently. Many people find the diet convenient because you don’t have to count your calories, just stick to a certain type of food.
One review that considered the results of 13 separate studies determined that the keto diet is more effective in the long-term than low-fat diets. A separate study found that people who followed the keto diet for 8 weeks lost 5 times the body fat as folks who followed a low-fat diet.
Reduces diabetes risk
Research has found the keto diet can help reduce diabetes symptoms as well as the risk of diabetes, prediabetes, and metabolic symptoms developing, largely because the diet helps stave off excess fat and helps to balance blood sugar levels.
For example, one study found people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes who stick to the keto diet have better blood sugar levels in the long-term. Other research has determined that the keto diet can improve insulin sensitivity by 75%.
Improve many health conditions
In general, the keto diet has been found to be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of a variety of health conditions, including the following:
- Heart disease
- Brian injuries
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Keto Diet Isn’t Safe In Pregnancy
In general, medical experts don’t recommend sticking to a keto diet while pregnant. There’s limited research on the impact of the diet on maternal and fetal health, largely because testing on pregnant women is risky and controversial.
But the limited studies that have been conducted warn that a keto diet and pregnancy may not be compatible. For example, What to Expect refers to a study that tested the keto diet on mice. In the end, the offspring were born with disrupted growth rates and developmental problems, including to their organs.
It makes sense that the keto diet would be harmful to fetal development and growth. The glucose in carbohydrates it the primary source of energy for the fetus, and so its ability to get the necessary nutrients is compromise if the body is in ketosis and relying on burning fat to energize itself.
WebMD explains that most doctors pregnant women to eat a well-rounded diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy, but cutting most of these out on the keto diet can deprive your baby of important nutrients, including encourage the following:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Folic Acid
Folic acid, for example, will be significantly limited if sticking to a keto diet in pregnancy, since it’s found in carbohydrate-rich foods like bread and cereal. It’s essential to fetal brain and spine development, so removing it from your prenatal diet can be disastrous.
Negative Effects Of The Keto Diet
Even if you’re not pregnant, the keto diet can be dangerous to your overall health. You may experience the following negative side effects:
Some people report feeling very sick with -like symptoms after switching to a keto diet. This is often called the ‘keto flu’ for how common it can be. Symptoms can include:
- Stomach irritation
In some cases, these symptoms go away within a matter of days. It can be helpful to take natural remedies to combat nausea as well as exhaustion. These symptoms can be dangerous in pregnancy because it can prevent you from retaining the nutrients needed to support the growing fetus.
Health warns that some people experience a decline in athletic ability while following the diet. Since the body is in a more acidic state when in ketosis, it can limit its ability to physically perform. While losing weight via the keto diet may improve performance in the short-term, it can have long-term consequences.
In pregnancy, the more athletic and fit you are, the smoother things tend to go. By reducing your athleticism, the keto diet may make pregnancy more challenging in a physical sense.
This is a condition in which the body has stored too many ketones (the acidic result of burning fat for energy). This can cause the blood to become acidic, which can cause organ damage. If left untreated, this condition can be fatal. There’s a higher risk of ketoacidosis in folks with diabetes, but it can also develop in people without the condition. Side effects include dry mouth, bad breath, frequent urination, and trouble breathing.
If you have a history of gestational diabetes, keto diet is likely not a safe option for you.
Loss of muscle mass
If you’re eating more fat than protein, a natural consequence will be a reduction in muscle mass. In fact, much of the weight you lose can be muscle. This can decrease your metabolism, since muscle burns more calories than fat does, which can contribute to re-gaining more fat later down the line.
For more information on the keto diet and pregnancy, please direct any questions to your doctor.
Sources: Healthline, PubMed, PubMed, NCBI, NCBI, NCBI, What to Expect, Health,
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