Benefits and Side Effects of the Keto Diet

Benefits and Side Effects of the Keto Diet
By Florence Milano

Some diet plans will need you to reduce your food intake by suppressing your appetite, while others recommend calorie and carbohydrate or fat restriction.

You’ve probably heard of keto, are doing it or know someone. Keto diets are one of the most popular diet plans these days. But what is it and what are its benefits and side effects, exactly?

We spoke with MercyOne Waterloo Medical Center’s Dr. Stephen Riggs, a certified ketogenic nutrition specialist, to help RENPHO users learn more about the pros and cons of the keto diet.

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Keto Diet and Ketosis

Ketogenic diets use an extremely stringent low-carb diet to put the body into a state of ketosis, a metabolic condition in which the body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. This happens when you drastically restrict your carbohydrate intake, decreasing the glucose that’s present in your body that’s the primary source of energy for the cells.

The ketogenic diet is characterized by high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrate consumption is highly controlled, with the goal of keeping carbs to less than 50 grams per day which necessitates significant dietary changes for most people.

What are the Benefits of Keto?

During ketosis, your body can burn stored fat as fuel which leads to weight loss and the calories consumed can be more filling which reduces binge eating tendencies. “The well-formulated ketogenic diet is a whole foods diet that eliminates sugar and processed foods.

As such, it is really good for almost anyone, being very low in carbohydrates,” says ketogenic nutrition specialist Dr. Riggs. “It is especially good for those with high insulin resistance, such as type 2 diabetes, and produces mind-blowing diabetic control."

Reduced Metabolic Syndrome

The carbohydrate-heavy foods we normally eat are broken down into sugar which produces insulin that causes blood sugar levels to rise. The more insulin our body produces, the higher the chance of developing an insulin tolerance which can lead to health complications associated with metabolic syndrome—a group of health conditions known to increase heart disease and negatively impact blood vessels within your body—this includes diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Production of Ketones

When eating a healthy and balanced carb-driven diet the risk of insulin tolerance is low; however, food junkies and those with a sweet tooth will need to monitor their macronutrient intake to avoid spiking it on a consistent basis. Keto simplifies the rules by having the body consume mostly fat foods which produce ketones instead of insulin.

Certain forms of cancer use insulin to create cells which keto actively reduces because ketones are used to break down fat instead of the insulin used to break down carbohydrates. “There are some strong anti-cancer benefits and there are over 20 clinical trials going on right now in the U.S. using the ketogenic diet to augment cancer treatment,” explains Dr. Riggs.

However, it is worth noting that it is still too early to professionally recommend keto as a prevention or cure for cancer at this stage.


Research surrounding keto has exploded over the past decade and uncovered positive benefits for gastrointestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, heartburn and fatty liver diseases.

Explains Dr. Riggs, “[keto] is strongly anti-inflammatory and is used to treat many such conditions including rheumatoid and other forms of arthritis, as well as many neurologic conditions like dementia—Alzheimer’s is now being called type 3 diabetes), Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) and others.”

What Are the Side Effects of Keto?

Keto is one of the strictest diets to adhere to and is filled with many challenges of mental toughness. Those considering keto should be aware that they may feel worse before entering ketosis which can take up to two to three weeks.

The Keto Flu

Coming off carbs can be like resisting any other craving, says Dr. Riggs. “As their body switches over to becoming a fat burner, they may experience headache, fatigue, upset stomach, etc. which is commonly called the keto flu.”

Essentially, the body is reconfiguring itself to be fueled on fat rather than carbohydrates, “this occurs because insulin causes your kidneys to retain water and salts, especially Sodium, Potassium ion and Magnesium. These need to be appropriately replaced as people make this change.”

Increased Cravings

Sugar addiction can also be a real struggle and the transition away from processed or sugary foods can be just as challenging as not using your mobile phone for even one day!

The good news is that those who stick through these side effects will enter a state of ketosis and eventually notice increased energy, mental clarity, and eventually reduction in pain and improved gastrointestinal symptoms incredibly irritable bowel and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Is Keto Right for You?

While shifting to the keto diet is one of the most effective weight-loss strategies, it may also serve as a guideline for improving your practices, concentrating on your well-being and living a more healthy lifestyle. Make sure to do some research and consult a doctor before beginning a diet plan to determine if it’s best for your body and day-to-day routines.

If you want to make a change to your current diet plan by switching to keto, the RENPHO Smart Body Fat Scale can help you in the process! Make the most out of your keto diet plans now.