How a ‘cheat day’ from the keto diet could damage your blood vessels: Just ONE plate of fries while on the high fat, low carb regime ‘could overwhelm the body’
- The keto diet allows for only 20-50g of carbs – such as a banana – a day
- Study shows a sudden intake of glucose could cause stress on the body
- Blood tests in keto dieters indicated damage to vessels after one fizzy drink
- Scientists said the findings were ‘alarming’ and cheat days should be avoided
If you’re trying to stick to a low-carb diet – keep going.
Stopping may result in damage to your blood vessels, according to a study.
‘Cheat days’ cause blood sugar spikes that are too overwhelming for the body to deal with and therefore should be avoided, scientists said.
Damage could be caused by as little as a plate of fries or large bottle of soda, the research suggested.
Experts today said it’s not a good idea to pause the diet, considering the ‘alarming’ findings.
Having a small amount of glucose – such as a plate of fries or large bottle of soda – could cause damage to blood vessels in people who follow the keto diet, a study at the University of British Columbia showed in nine participants
A person following the ketogenic – or keto – diet would typically eat 70 per cent fat, 20 per cent protein and 10 per cent of carbohydrates.
That would mean keeping it to less than 50g per day of net carbs, ideally below 20g – the equivalent of a banana.
Like any popular diet, many people will skip a day, often weekly, to gorge on the foods they have missed.
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Researchers at University of British Columbia recruited nine healthy males. They were interested to see what would happen with a small dose of sugar.
They made them consume a fizzy drink with 75g of glucose before and after a seven-day high fat, low carbohydrate diet.
WHAT IS THE KETO DIET?
The Ketogenic diet defines a low-carb, high-fat way of eating.
Following this eating plan forces the body into a metabolic state, known as ketosis, which starves the body of carbohydrates but not calories.
Carbs are shunned in the keto diet as they cause the body to produce glucose, which is used as energy over fat.
Keto diets therefore lead to weight loss as they make the body burn fat as its primary energy source.
On the diet, followers can eat:
- Leafy greens and most vegetables
- Full-fat dairy
- Nuts and seeds
- Avocadoes and berries
- Fats, such as coconut oil
People cannot eat:
- Grains, including rice and wheat
- Sugar, like honey and maple syrup
- Most fruit
- White or sweet potatoes
Study author Cody Durrer, a PhD student, said: ‘We were originally looking for things like an inflammatory response or reduced tolerance to blood glucose.
‘Since impaired glucose tolerance and spikes in blood sugar levels are known to be associated with an increased risk in cardiovascular disease, it made sense to look at what was happening in the blood vessels after a sugar hit.
‘What we found instead were biomarkers in the blood suggesting that vessel walls were being damaged by the sudden spike in glucose.’
Dr Jonathan Little, the study’s senior author, said the blood results were so shocking, they could have been taken from someone far unhealthier.
He said: ‘Even though these were otherwise healthy young males, when we looked at their blood vessel health after consuming the glucose drink, the results looked like they might have come from someone with poor cardiovascular health.
‘It was somewhat alarming.’
Dr Little said the reason for damage is most likely the body’s own metabolic response to excess blood sugar, which causes blood vessel cells to shed and decay.
The researchers pointed out that their study was only on nine people, but that people on the keto diet should reconsider their ‘cheat days’.
Dr Little said: ‘My concern is that many of the people going on a keto diet – whether it’s to lose weight, to treat type 2 diabetes, or some other health reason – may be undoing some of the positive impacts on their blood vessels if they suddenly blast them with glucose.
‘Especially if these people are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease in the first place.’
People with diabetes may use the keto diet to manage their weight or symptoms as it improves their blood sugar levels.
Dr Little said: ‘It consists of eating foods rich in fats, moderate in protein, but very low in carbohydrates and it causes the body to go into a state called ketosis.’
Ketosis is when the body burns its fat stores as it no longer has its preferred source of glucose.
‘Our data suggests a ketogenic diet is not something you do for six days a week and take Saturday off,’ Dr Little said.
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