The high-protein, low-carb approach has become one of the most popular ways to lose weight, but you
should be aware of these risks before you give it a shot. The ketogenic diet typically reduces
carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams per day — and calls for increased protein and fat intake.
Roughly speaking, on keto you’ll get 70 to 80 percent of your calories from fat, about 20 percent from
protein, and as little as 5 percent from carbs.
How Do Low-Carb Diets Work?
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body. Without enough carbs for energy, the body
breaks down fat into ketones. The ketones then become the primary source of fuel for the body. When
ketones become the primary source of fuel, this puts your body in a state called ketosis. When your fat
stores become a primary energy source, you may lose weight.
The Risks of High-Protein, Low-Carb Diets
Some experts have raised concern about high-protein, low-carb diets.
• High cholesterol – Some protein sources — like fatty cuts of meat, whole dairy products, and
other high-fat foods — can raise cholesterol, increasing your chance of heart disease.
• Kidney problems – If you have any kidney problems, eating too much protein puts added strain
on your kidneys. This could worsen kidney function.
• Osteoporosis and kidney stones – When you’re on a high-protein diet, you may urinate
more calcium than normal. There are conflicting reports, but some experts think this could
make osteoporosis and kidney stones more likely.
Keto Can Put Stress on the Kidneys and Possibly Give You Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are a well-noted potential side effect of the ketogenic diet. Research published in
the Journal of Child Neurology observed that among children following the keto diet as a treatment for
epilepsy, 13 out of 195 subjects developed kidney stones. Children supplementing with potassium
citrate in the study noticed a decreased likelihood of kidney stones. Speak with your healthcare
practitioner about supplementing if kidney stones are a concern.
If you’re going to do keto, there’s a better and a worse way to do it,” “Loading your plate with meats,
and especially processed meats, may increase your risk for kidney stones and gout,” which is a painful
type of arthritis. “High intake of animal proteins makes your urine more acidic and increases calcium and
uric acid levels. This combination makes you more susceptible to kidney stones, while high uric acid can
increase your risk for gout,”
And the ketogenic diet can be dangerous for people with kidney disease, as people with kidney disease
need to follow an individualized diet as prescribed by their doctor. people with kidney disease often
need to consume a low-protein diet, which may not align with the type of keto you’re following.
Fatty keto options like butter and meat can increase your blood pressure, while a higher protein intake
can put added stress on kidneys, because it adds more acid to them and messes with the body’s balance
Those with more advanced kidney disease need careful monitoring from a specialist who can ensure
they are getting proper amounts of protein within a narrow range of safety and that their electrolytes
are appropriately managed. Patients with advanced kidney disease should NOT attempt a low-carb diet
without careful supervision.
A well-formulated low-carb diet is completely safe for people with normal kidney function. A low-carb or
ketogenic diet helps prevent diabetes and high blood pressure. Because these diseases are the biggest
causes of kidney damage, a low-carb diet is not just safe for kidneys, it may actually help prevent kidney
damage in those with normal kidney function or early-stage kidney disease.
But there are two major exceptions:-
First, those with a history of kidney stones, or who experience an episode of kidney stones after starting
a low-carb diet, should ensure their diets minimize consumption of oxalates, optimize fluid and mineral
intake, and include moderate (rather than high) amounts of protein. These steps will help prevent
further kidney stones.
The second and most important caveat is for individuals with advanced kidney disease: a low-carb diet
might be dangerous, so consultation with a nephrologist or dietitian is necessary prior to making any
changes to your current diet.