Though the keto diet may reduce insulin resistance and improve heart disease risk factors, other dietary patterns may be easier to adhere to.
Q: Is the high fat content of the keto diet a concern for people with certain health conditions like insulin resistance or heart disease?
The ketogenic or keto diet is a very low carb, high fat diet that many people use to promote weight loss and manage their blood sugar levels.
For example, studies show that the keto diet may aid weight loss, enhance blood sugar control, and improve heart disease risk factors like triglyceride and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. The keto diet may also increase heart-protective HDL cholesterol (1).
Additionally, the keto diet may help reduce insulin resistance, a condition in which cells become resistant to the blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels and an increased risk of diabetes (2).
Therefore, the high fat content of the keto diet might not necessarily be a concern for people with certain conditions like insulin resistance and heart disease.
However, although evidence suggests that following a keto diet may have metabolic benefits, such as reducing blood sugar and triglyceride levels, high quality, long-term studies exploring the relationship between keto dietary patterns and overall health are lacking (2).
Plus, the keto diet is highly restrictive and not typically necessary to promote weight loss, improve insulin sensitivity, or reduce heart disease risk factors. In fact, less restrictive dietary patterns that focus on nutrient-dense foods and overall diet quality rather than macronutrient composition are usually a better option.
This is because keto diets are so low in carbs — typically under 10% of your total calorie intake — that they’re generally not sustainable long term (3).
On the other hand, the Mediterranean diet, a dietary pattern that’s rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, has decades of scientific research supporting its ability to promote weight loss and reduce chronic disease risk — not to mention good adherence scores (4).
While the keto diet may offer some health benefits, the same benefits can likely be achieved by following a less restrictive eating pattern that can be followed for life.
Jillian Kubala is a Registered Dietitian based in Westhampton, NY. Jillian holds a master’s degree in nutrition from Stony Brook University School of Medicine as well as an undergraduate degree in nutrition science. Aside from writing for Healthline Nutrition, she runs a private practice based on the east end of Long Island, NY, where she helps her clients achieve optimal wellness through nutritional and lifestyle changes. Jillian practices what she preaches, spending her free time tending to her small farm that includes vegetable and flower gardens and a flock of chickens. Reach out to her through her website or on Instagram.