Keto Diet: 10 Benefits (& Potential Drawbacks)

Keto diets work. Even among patients initially doubtful, once they get into ketosis and see impressive, gratifying, often times instant results, they become believers.

If you didn’t read my previous blog on the significant health benefits of an alkaline diet, please consider reviewing that here. And after you learn more about the health effects of a keto diet (in this blog), my next blog will talk about the power of combining the two in my Keto-Green

You can also download my free ebook on Keto-Alkaline principles entitled, “The Secret Science of Staying Slim, Sane and Sexy After 40” here, as well!

Experts have used keto diets since the 1920s for epilepsy, beginning in the 1960’s for obesity, and over the last decade for numerous conditions including diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), acne, neurological diseases, cancer, respiratory disease, and cardiovascular disease.[1]

Keto Diets Can Address Numerous Health Conditions

During her initial consult, my 47-year-old patient Margaret expressed concern about several of these issues. She had done several commercial diets over the past decade with varying results.  She’s not alone, right?  None had remedied her polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and her doctor remained baffled about how to treat it.

Acne, a history of depression, familial Type 2 diabetes, and about 40 extra pounds accompanied those frustrations.

While getting to a point where she felt happy took about a month, a keto diet became Margaret’s remedy. She reversed PCOS, her acne cleared up, she had more steady moods, and the scales started moving in her favor.

She’s not alone. In my practice, I’ve witnessed how keto diets can benefit numerous conditions, including these 10:

  1. Weight loss. When patients complain they’ve “tried every diet in the book without results," I feel assured that Keto is the answer.
    weight loss and keto
    I discuss the fat-burning magic of a keto-diet in this earlier blog on the benefits of getting into ketosis
    . Along with a keto diet’s fat-loss benefits, it can suppress your appetite, partly by stabilizing appetite-modulating hormones like ghrelin and leptin.[2]
  2. Aging. You can’t turn back the clock, but you can be proactive about slowing down aging’s devastating consequences. Among the aging process’s many culprits include elevated levels of glucose, insulin, and triglycerides. A keto diet steadies insulin levels and improves your lipid profile, providing powerful anti-aging arsenal. One study among 31 middle-aged patients found a keto diet with nutritional supplementation improved age-related serum factors.[3]
  3. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Insulin resistance is a hallmark of this common, challenging-to-treat female endocrine disorder. In fact, insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia affect about 65–70 percent of women with PCOS. Other symptoms of PCOS resemble metabolic syndrome and include obesity, glucose intolerance, Type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, and chronic inflammation.[4] As Margaret learned, a keto diet normalized many of these issues, eventually helping her reverse her PCOS.
  4. Acne. Studies show a high-glycemic-load diet – read: high-sugar, processed Western diet – contributes to acne by stimulating insulin, androgen bioavailability, and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) activity. Low-glycemic-load diets, a hallmark of keto, improve blood glucose levels and skin quality.[5]  Snacking can also contribute to this by increasing insulin resistance, lowering sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) which will lead to an increased circulating testosterone levels which are already elevated in PCOS clients.
  5. Neurological issues. Oxidative stress, created by excess free radicals, play a role in neurological damage. Studies show ketones protect neurons by, among other variables, reducing oxidative stress, improving outcomes of various neurodegenerative conditions including Alzheimer’s disease,Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and spinal cord injuries.[6]
  6. Cancer. Because of higher levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), cancer cells increase glucose utilization. A low-glucose ketogenic diet would theoretically selectively create metabolic oxidative stress in cancer cells. That increased metabolic oxidative stress would subsequently selectively sensitize cancer cells to conventional radiation and chemotherapies. Researchers argue keto diets are a “safe, inexpensive, easily implementable, and effective approach to selectively enhance metabolic stress in cancer cells versus normal cells.”[7]
  7. Diabetes. A keto diet optimizes blood sugar and insulin levels. One study among people with Type 2 diabetes found such dramatic glucose improvements that they could discontinue or reduce diabetes medications.[8] (Please never reduce or discontinue any medication without your doctor’s approval.)
  8. Depression. A higher-carbohydrate diet spikes and crashes your blood sugar, leading to lethargy and erratic mood swings. Step away from those prescription drugs: A keto diet could be your best mood stabilizer. One rat study using the Porsolt test (an animal model of depression) found a keto diet offered antidepressant properties compared with the moods of rats on a control diet.[9]
  9. Energy. Mitochondria, the little power plants in your cells, prefer ketones as fuel. I mentioned earlier keto diets could reduce your brain’s free radical levels in the brain. Other research shows ketones can significantly decrease mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species (ROS).[10]
  10. Menopause. One of estrogen’s jobs is to get glucose into your brain for fuel. That becomes a problem during menopause, when estrogen drops and so does its ability to get glucose to your brain. A keto diet eliminates that glucose problem beautifully by utilizing ketones as fuel, reducing miserable menopausal symptoms like hot flashes (which Maria Emmerich, author of Keto-Adapted, calls your brain trying to protect you against starvation).

Potential Downfalls Of A Keto Diet

Despite its efficacy, not everyone gets keto.

“The Keto Diet Is Gaining Popularity, but Is It Safe?” asks Liz Seegert in a Healthline article earlier this year.

Some experts didn’t think so. In the general population, [Francine Blinten, R.D] said a keto diet should only be considered in extreme cases. 

“It can do more harm than good. It can damage the heart, which is also a muscle,” she explained. Lisa Cimperman, R.D.N., a clinical dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, also didn’t think a keto diet was good.

“Once your body enters ketosis, you also begin to lose muscle, become extremely fatigued, and eventually enter starvation mode. Then it actually becomes even harder to lose weight,” Cimperman told Healthline.[11]

What do I think?

Much of this fear and misinformation stems from misunderstanding ketosis. Medical experts confuse nutritional ketosis with diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening complication of Type 1 diabetes where ketones are produced rapidly, overwhelming the body’s acid-base buffering system.

At the same time, I’m aware about a keto diet’s initial limitations. “The diet’s strictness, unpalatability, and side effects limit its use, adversely affecting patients’ compliance and clinical efficacy,” researchers in one study wrote.[12]

Some opponents and doubters argue weight loss and other benefits are only temporary.

Recent studies do show a keto diet superior to low-calorie diets for suppressing hunger. One study found two brief periods of ketogenic diet separated by longer periods of maintenance of Mediterranean diet created long-term weight loss and improved health without weight rebound.[13]

Here’s what I’ve seen among my patients. Once they get into the swing of things and see results, keto becomes much easier. They understand what foods to eat and avoid, their cravings and hunger disappear, and they start losing weight and feeling fabulous. Sometimes people even ask if they’ve “had some work done.”

But The Rumor Mill Still Raises Questions About Keto

At the same time, some urban legends persist. One is that keto diets could impair bone mass density. Consider, however, that things like obesity, Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and inflammation – the very things keto diets improve – increase your risk for fracture and poor bone health.[14]

Another rumor is that keto diets are somehow bad for your thyroid. I’ve encountered no research to support keto diets trigger or exacerbate hypothyroidism or any other thyroid issues. Traditionally T₃ is lower in people doing keto diets, but that does not suggest hypothyroidism and might actual provide benefits like sparring muscle loss.[15]

So Where Do I Stand On Keto?

Most identified problems with keto are practical and easily remedied. One study using keto diets for epilepsy found dehydration posed the biggest problem, for example. Patients also noted nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. Most complications were temporary and successfully managed with careful follow-up and conservative strategies.[16]

Nutrient deficiencies like selenium and vitamin D as well as acidosis are also keto concerns.[17]  You can remedy the former with eating plenty of fiber-rich plant-based foods, but even so, optimal amounts of some nutrients like vitamin D can become a challenge to get strictly from food. That’s why, at the very least, my clients take a quality multivitamin-mineral to complement the nutrients they aren’t always getting from food.

There needs to be a way to address acidosis concerns in a keto diet

Acidosis is a real concern with traditional keto diets. From my experience, dehydration, nausea, and other issues stem from eating too many acid-forming foods on a traditional keto diet.

My Keto-Green plan, which I’ll address more fully in my next blog, remedies that by incorporating plenty of plant-based alkaline foods. Combining an alkaline diet and lifestyle with a keto diet.

Studies show alkaline diets result in a more alkaline urine pH, which can benefit bone health, reduce muscle wasting, increase in growth hormone, increase magnesium levels, and overall reduce morbidity and mortality of chronic disease.[18]

Have You Tried A Keto Diet?

What benefits or potential drawbacks have you discovered if you’ve used a keto diet?

Were you able to overcome those obstacles and stick with your plan? 





















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Dr. Anna Cabeca

Dr. Anna Cabeca

Certified OB/GYN, Anti-Aging and Integrative Medicine expert and founder of The Girlfriend Doctor. During Dr. Anna’s health journey, she turned to research to create products to help thousands of women through menopause, hormones, and sexual health. She is the author of best-selling The Hormone Fix, and Keto-Green 16 and MenuPause.

Learn more about my scientific advisory board.