Study Shows Keto Diet Causes Flu-Like Symptoms Initially

A ketogenic diet may cause several flu-like symptoms within the first few weeks on the diet with very low-carbohydrate and high-fat content, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, found that these symptoms peak in the first seven days and dwindle after four weeks and range in severity, as reported by users on social media. These reports reveal common but yet unknown symptoms, such as flu fatigue, nausea, dizziness, decreased energy, feeling faint and heartbeat alterations, the researchers said.

The experiences of symptoms by many people strengthens the evidence for side-effects following the initiation of a ketogenic diet.

The effectiveness of the keto diet has only been established for intractable epilepsy.

A ketogenic diet is often self-administered for weight loss, cognitive and memory enhancement, type 2 diabetes or cancer.

Keto Flu
  • A commonly discussed side effect of this diet is the so-called “keto flu”, a cluster of transient symptoms that occur within the first few weeks on the diet.
  • To better understand how these symptoms evolve, researchers identified 43 online forums referring to “keto flu” and manually gathered personal experiences of 101 people describing symptoms, severity and time course.
  • They focused on social media because of its widespread use for discussion of health topics, which makes it practical to harness the experience of people who have tried the treatment in question.

In the present study, researchers used public domain online forum posts and analysed their content to produce new insights into side-effects of the ketogenic diet.

The researchers found reports of headache, difficulty concentrating and gastrointestinal discomfort, following the initiation of a keto diet. They also reveal further common symptoms, such as flu, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, decreased energy, feeling faint and heartbeat alterations.

Consumers often experienced more than one symptom, with differing degrees of severity, the researchers said. However, there is also good news for people experiencing such a “keto flu”. The results of this study were limited to conversation threads in online forums and therefore lack of any confirmatory evidence that ketone levels were raised, according to the researchers. Experiences of online forum users may not be representative of the larger pool of individuals on keto diet.

What’s a Ketogenic Diet?

“Ketogenic” is a term for a low-carb diet (like the Atkins diet). The idea is for you to get more calories from protein and fat and less from carbohydrates. You cut back most on the carbs that are easy to digest, like sugar, soda, pastries, and white bread.

How It Works

When you eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day, your body eventually runs out of fuel (blood sugar) it can use quickly. This typically takes 3 to 4 days. Then you’ll start to break down protein and fat for energy, which can make you lose weight. This is called ketosis. It’s important to note that the ketogenic diet is a short term diet that’s focussed on weight loss rather than the pursuit of health benefits.

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