Following a keto-like diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in fats could more than double the risk of cardiovascular issues such as chest pain (angina), blocked arteries requiring stents (tiny coils that open arteries), heart attacks, and strokes, according to a new study.
The findings, presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session, suggest that a keto-style eating plan could lead to increased levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) — also known as “bad” cholesterol — which in turn may heighten the likelihood of cardiovascular disease.
“If you are following a carbohydrate-restricted diet, our data suggest that it may be important to monitor your cholesterol levels,” says senior study author Liam Brunham, MD, medical lead with the Healthy Heart Program Prevention Clinic at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver and associate professor in the department of medicine at the University of British Columbia in Canada.
“If cholesterol levels are super high, consult with your doctor because there may really need to be careful attention paid to managing the risk of heart disease,” Dr. Brunham adds.
To conduct the study (which is considered preliminary because it has not yet been peer-reviewed for publication in a medical journal), Brunham and his research team analyzed information from more than 70,000 people in the United Kingdom who’d completed a one-time, self-reported, 24-hour diet questionnaire. At the same time, the researchers did blood draws to check the subjects’ cholesterol levels.
From the questionnaire responses, 305 participants indicated they followed a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet.
How a Low-Carbohydrate, High-Fat Diet Works
When people restrict their consumption of carbohydrates (found in foods such as bread, pasta, baked goods, and certain fruits and vegetables) and proteins, the body uses its own fat reserves for fuel; this produces chemicals called ketones that the body then uses as energy. Because this process, called ketosis, burns stored fat, it can help people lose weight.
The International Food Information Council estimates that as many as 8 percent of Americans were on a ketogenic diet in…