The ketogenic diet – widely known as keto – is a high-fat, low-carb, restrictive eating plan that promises to help you lose weight.
But a new study, published in Frontiers in Endocrinology, has found that the diet may weaken athletes’ bones during intense training.
Researchers from the Australian Institute of Sport and Australian Catholic University looked at 30 elite race walkers over three and a half weeks of athletic training.
They found that the athletes on the keto diet showed greater signs of bone breakdown than they had at the start of the study. Athletes on a high-carb diet, however, showed no significant difference, according to the test results.
The new findings come amid other criticisms of the diet, with experts suggesting that keto is only safe and effective over a short period of time. Some experts have even warned that a long-term keto diet can damage the heart muscle.
The point of the ketogenic diet is to force the body into a state of ketosis.
This is when low carbohydrate levels cause blood sugar levels to drop and the body begins breaking down fat to use as energy. Hence the weight-loss.
Ketosis is actually a very mild form of ketoacidosis, which is a dangerous complication of type 1 diabetes.
‘The keto diet should not be a long-term plan,’ Nutritionist and founder of Nosh Detox, Geeta Sidhu-Robb tells Metro.co.uk.
‘While the upside of this plan is that people end up eating healthier fats, less sugar and see their insulin levels mellow, it can often mean that people become reliant on saturated animal fats in meat.
‘The diet will see its best rewards when implemented between one and two weeks at a time. It certainly shouldn’t be a long duration diet method.’
The researchers found that when the keto athletes reintroduced carbs into their diet, they saw some improvement in their bone health, but they weren’t back to full strength.
Study author Louise Burke said that the keto diet may affect bone metabolism due to the ‘downstream effects of low-carbohydrate availability on certain hormones’.
The results of the study suggest that the diet somehow prevents athletes from recovering properly after intense training, although it isn’t clear exactly how.
Previous studies on mice and children have found that the keto diet could have negative effects on bone health when combined with exercise.
But it’s also important to note that the study took place over a three-week period, so it isn’t clear how the diet may impact bone health over a longer duration. Experts say that the keto diet can take time for your body to adjust to.
But if you’re an athlete, or you train a lot in the gym, this study may suggest that the keto diet isn’t the best option for you.
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