The ketogenic or keto diet is an adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet that forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates.
In this form of diet, which has been causing quite a buzz in recent years, your body develops chemicals called ketones that send you into ketosis, which means you burn fat for fuel and that’s how you lose weight.
But how could those fatty foods possibly be good for someone with heart disease? The answer is, it’s complicated.
Good for the heart
A new report published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology concludes that ketone bodies can help protect the heart in people with cardiovascular disease.
The scientists researched by reviewing multiple studies. They point out that there is growing evidence ketones can have a therapeutic effect, but how you get them matters.
“Really what this paper is showing is that a byproduct of the ketogenic diet, ketone bodies, which can come from other means, are beneficial. They can reduce inflammation, reduce oxidative stress, and may be beneficial to the lining of the blood vessels,” said Dr. Andrew M. Freeman, a cardiologist and director of the Cardiovascular Prevention and Wellness Program at National Jewish Health in Denver.
“It has been known for a long period of time that ketone bodies seem to exert some positive health effects. The question is can you get ketone bodies in a way that doesn’t require you to eat just bacon-wrapped scallops,” Mr. Freeman said. “And how do you harness the therapeutic potential here? I don’t think this paper answers that, but it does give some ideas,” he added.
The researchers suggested that using exogenous ketones or ketone supplements could be an alternative to a ketogenic diet. Mr. Freeman, however, warns those are often bitter tasting and can lead to an upset stomach.
“This review article nicely summarizes the implications of using ketone bodies as treatment across a spectrum of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Senthil Selvaraj, a senior cardiology fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. His research team is investigating the use of ketosis in people with heart failure.
“This is a growing field, and many of the studies cited here are early in their lines of inquiry. While I agree that the therapeutic potential for ketone bodies to improve several cardiovascular diseases is real, more data are clearly needed to establish their role,” Mr. Selvaraj said.
Meanwhile, experts are warning consumers not to make hasty diet decisions based on a single report. More studies should be done to assess the impact of using ketones on people at risk of cardiovascular disease, they point out.