Keto diet can kill? Actress’ death is a grim reminder to understand ‘fad’ diets first

On Friday, Bengaluru-based actor Mishti Mukherjee died due to kidney failure. The young actress was only in her mid-30s.

In a statement to the press, her publicist announced that she was on a keto diet; and developed a renal infection. After ‘suffering a lot of pain’, the actress breathed her last when her kidneys failed.

With keto and intermittent fasting all the rage today, what is the truth behind how the body responds to these ‘fad’ diets?

“With diets like keto and intermittent fasting, social and popular media has been flooded with claims, promises and warnings that are at best unverified and at worst harmful to your health,” said Andrew Freeman, MD, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health.

What is the KETO diet?

The ketogenic diet involves a low carbohydrate, high fat and high protein intake diet.

According to most keto information repositories, of the total daily calorie intake, 70 to 80% should come from fat, 20% from protein and 5% from carbohydrates.

In a short span of time, the lack of carbohydrates pushes the body into ketosis, which is a state where fat becomes its primary fuel source.

However, despite its ability to cause rapid weight loss, this dieting approach doesn’t find many supporters among medical professionals.

The risks

Research reveals that while those who follow it initially lose weight, it tends not to be sustainable, according to 12-month data. It is also unclear whether the weight loss is caused by ketosis or simply by calorie restriction.

Researchers also have concerns about the type and amount of fat consumed by those following a keto diet. While existing studies strictly controlled the type of fat and foods participants consumed, many who try keto consume high amounts of unhealthy saturated fat, which is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and high lipid levels in the blood.

There is also evidence that eating a keto diet for an extended period of time may lead to stiffening of the arteries, and several studies found that those who eat a keto diet have a greater risk of death.

Vasanti Malik, an assistant professor of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, expressed her concern regarding this extreme system of eating. “You want to be mindful because these foods – whole grains, fruits and vegetables – carry a number of beneficial nutrients – vitamins, polyphenols, fibre – that have been shown time and time again to be beneficial for cardio-metabolic health,” Malik told USA Today.

Jeffrey Mechanick a medical director at Mount Sinai Heart’s Marie-Josee and Henry R. Kravis Center for Clinical Cardiovascular Health, frankly stated to USA Today that, “I wouldn’t recommend the keto diet to anybody.” According to Mechanick, depletion of carbohydrates compels the body to scavenge upon its fat and muscle tissue to keep everything up and running. “In theory, the Keto diet basically mimics starvation. If you don’t eat carbohydrates but you eat an excessive amount of fat and protein, you’re still going to waste tissue. The tissue is still going to burn off,” explained Mechanick.

Keto a saviour for diabetes?

Keto does, however, show promise as a potential treatment for diabetes, with studies showing improved glucose levels, as well as lower fasting glucose and insulin levels in mice, fed a keto diet. Further research is required to confirm these benefits and assess risk before keto is clinically recommended.

What is the answer?

Experts all agree that the key to a healthy weight loss and overall health is to include more grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts in your daily diet.

In the same way, saturated fat, added sugar and added sodium must be reduced. Take a look at the dietary information in the packages while you make your choice on what to buy.

Tidy up your menu, adopt a daily physical exercise, keep your mental health fresh – these are enough to create a solid foundation for health.

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