A well-known weight-loss regimen is the ketogenic diet, which is rich in fat but very low on carbohydrates. However, new animal research suggests that this diet could be associated with a higher likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes during the initial few days following the diet.
While the study has been conducted in mice — which suggests it is necessary to conduct more studies to verify the effects on humans — experts believe the study indicates that the diet may pose health risks to humans.
Lose weight in short time
It proved to aid people in losing weight in the short term. However, the long-term benefits of this diet aren’t so evident, as per experts at Mayo Clinic. The diet’s name comes from ketosis, the state the body enters when it follows the diet. In ketosis, the body uses the ketone bodies or water-soluble molecules created by the liver and the breakdown of fat tissues to provide energy for cells instead of sugars in the form of ingested carbohydrates. In some, it results in weight loss.
However, the physiological consequences of ketosis remain unclear. It is why researchers from Switzerland determined to better comprehend how ketone bodies impact biological processes within the body by employing mice as their model. However, since the study was conducted on mice, further research is needed to determine how the findings can be applied to human beings.
In the study, researchers fed mice a ketogenic diet over some days. They expected to observe a positive result — possibly weight loss or another sign of health improvement. They found that the liver started resistance to insulin in a matter of minutes, and mice could not control their blood sugar level even after three days of the diet. (Insulin resistance, the term used to describe cells within the body that cannot react to insulin, is an essential feature of type 2 diabetes.)
“We were expecting beneficial effects, then to our big surprise it turns out this is not the case,” stated senior study researcher Christian Wolfrum, a biochemist at ETH Zurich in Switzerland.
If the liver is not responding to insulin, it negatively affects the rest of the body. Researchers wrote that it could indicate an increased chance of developing type 2 diabetes. These findings are worrying because overweight individuals looking to lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes through ketogenic diets could accidentally increase their risk of developing the disease at least during the first several days after starting their ketogenic diet.
However, it’s important to remember that it’s an animal research study Wolfrum said to Live Science. “One cannot make any assumptions without testing this in humans,” Wolfrum said.
In fact, “animal studies are wonderful when it comes to deciphering biological pathways but in translating [the findings] to humans, there’s a few more steps” required, according to Teresa Fung, a nutrition scientist and dietitian at Simmons College in Boston who did not participate in the research.
But Fung said on Live Science that she thinks this study clearly shows the possibility for the ketogenic diet to have adverse effects on humans. As long as scientists don’t fully comprehend the dangers of those negative effects, she suggested thinking about other methods to meet your health-related goals, such as taking a more moderate diet.
Wolfrum explained that he and colleagues do not want to hinder individuals from altering their diet if it’s required to achieve an ideal weight. Still, they feel it’s essential for people to be aware that “the [final] verdict on the ketogenic diet is not out yet.” Much research is still needed to comprehend the long-term consequences of a high-fat and low-carb diet. However, as said by Wolfrum, “more balanced food intake is probably the healthiest way to live.”