With all the hype surrounding low-carb diets, such as Keto, Paleo and Atkins, it's easy to think that changing up your diet is a simple low-risk, high-reward scenario when it comes to losing weight.
However, it's important to note that any diet that substantially limits or restricts one particular food group aren't always best when it comes to our long-term health and wellbeing. That's why it's important to always speak with your healthcare professional, before jumping on the next big wellness trend.
Recently, there's been an increase in conversation surrounding some of the potential risks associated with limited carb diets, particular in the long term, in relation to kidney health. To learn more about the potential risks, we spoke to Dr Vincent Candrawinata, a researcher in the area of health and nutrition, to find out more.
Can Low Carb Diets, Such as the Keto Diet, Be Dangerous to Our Kidneys?
The Keto diet requires people to cut out foods such as bread, rice, potato and sugar-based products such as soft drinks, cakes, lollies and biscuits and instead load up on protein-rich, high-fat foods such as meat, dairy and oils. The idea is that the body uses fat as its biggest source of fuel, breaking it down into Ketones in a process known as Ketosis. However, these increased portions of protein in the diet can result in higher levels of Ketones, which is linked to kidney failure.
For most healthy people a high-protein diet generally isn't harmful, particularly when followed for a short time, however studies have confirmed that there are significant ricks of strictly following a high-protein diet with carbohydrate restriction for the longer term. Those with existing kidney issues are at higher risk.
Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy. In their absence, your body will use protein and fat for energy. However, when the body begins to burn fat, it also begins to burn the muscle as well. Once your body begins to burn large amounts of body fat, compounds called Ketones are accumulated in the body.
What Symptoms or Signs Should We Be Aware of When Doing a Low Carb Diet?
Changes in urine, tiredness or fatigue, feeling dehydrated, feeling constipated. In some cases, puffiness or persistent water retention may be a sign as well. This puffiness around your eyes can be due to the fact that your kidneys are leaking a large amount of protein. Decreased kidney function can lead to sodium retention, causing swelling in feet and ankles.
How Can You Look to Support Optimal Kidney Health?
Eating a balanced diet, exercising, heaving a healthy cardiovascular system, maintaining proper hydration, controlling blood sugar levels and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake.
Are There Certain People More at Risk When Participating in a Low Carb Diet?
Yes. As with every disorder and disease it is always a combination of nature and nurture and the percentage of each differs from one person to another. Some people have a higher risk of developing kidney disease or failure and these people are at higher risk of triggering it through imbalanced diet, such as high protein or no carbs.