Is the Keto Diet Bad for Your Heart?

One of the main concerns people have about the ketogenic diet is that the fat intake will harm their heart. After all, cardiovascular disease usually takes place because of the accumulation of large amounts of fatty deposits in capillaries.

When excessive fat builds up in your capillaries, your heart is prone to anemia (absence of oxygen to myocardial cells) due to lackluster circulation.

However, not all dietary fats are the same. In fact, many of the fat sources that we recommend for the keto diet are healthy for your heart! By the same token, there is no literature that we are aware of suggesting ketones are bad for the heart. If anything, individuals who follow the keto diet tend to have better cardiovascular function than those on a high-carb diet.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the common questions and concerns you might have about the keto diet and heart health.

Does Eating High Amounts of Fat Damage the Heart?

It’s not always the quantity of fat that you should worry about for lasting well-being (though that is still important). However, on the keto diet, your aim should be to consume heart-healthy fats.

In general, this means fats that come from foods like nuts/seeds, MCT oil, lean meat, fish, butter, coconut, and avocado. 

Also, since your carb intake will be low on the keto diet, many healthy fats can be consumed in large amounts without harming your heart. Keep in mind, fat is your body’s primary source of long-lasting energy and a necessary macronutrient.

When your carb intake is low, such as on a ketogenic diet plan, then it’s imperative to increase your fat intake appropriately. (And it will not damage your heart to do so.)

But which fats are bad? Of critical note, you should be wary of consuming synthetically-produced trans-fatty acids. There’s a large body of evidence suggesting these types of fats have substantial repercussions on heart function.

Due to their unconventional chemical structure, trans-fatty acids are hard for the body to absorb appropriately; the result is that they have a propensity to build up in your capillaries. These trans-fats are typically abundant in foods like lard and hydrogenated vegetable oils. 

Does the Ketogenic Diet Cause Inflammation?

Inflammatory markers in the body turn ‘on’ and ‘off’ due to myriad factors. The idea that the ketogenic diet causes inflammation to increase is baseless. In fact, research indicates the contrary: high-carbohydrate diet plans are inherently pro-inflammatory (especially if they include excessive amounts of sugar). 

Furthermore, research indicates that ketone bodies play an important function in lowering inflammatory response by effectively inhibiting inflammasomes (a class of proteins). Also consider that bounties of clinical evidence show certain fats, especially omega-3s, are important for controlling the inflammatory response.

This is why eating omega-3-rich foods like fish is great for the heart and battling inflammation. Furthermore, certain food oils are excellent for enhancing cardiac fitness.

For instance, macadamia nut oil has the greatest concentration of monounsaturated fats in any food oil. Research indicates that diet plans rich with macadamia nut oil significantly reduce LDL (” bad”) cholesterol and support the heart by decreasing inflammation.

In short, if you’re following the keto diet, you’re likely to notice less inflammation.

Will the Keto Diet Increase Blood Pressure?

Ketone bodies in and of themselves do not elevate blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase due to a wide range of factors, whether it’s bad dietary/lifestyle options, ethnicity, genetics, tobacco/alcohol intake, and so on.

High blood pressure is most likely to develop from excessive intake of salt and/or low potassium intake. When you eat large amounts of salt, you hold onto more fluid, and high blood pressure can result.

Additionally, being physically inactive and/or obese are significant risks for developing hypertensive blood pressure. In this regard, keto diet plans are actually great for easing high blood pressure as the majority of people find it much easier to remain in a healthy weight range.

It’s important to remember that the high fat intake on the keto diet does not always suggest you will experience hypertension. If anything, numerous fat sources are exceptional for lowering high blood pressure as they enhance your cardiac fitness by reducing inflammation.

In truth, data reveals that people who do not have sufficient quantities of omega-3s in their diet plan are most likely to have high blood pressure problems.

Are Whole-Grain Foods Actually Good for the Heart?

There appears to be a great deal of misinformation in pop culture regarding whole-grain foods and their health appeal. Historically speaking, human beings of previous centuries ate very little in the way of grain-based food; they were likewise the less overweight and type-2 diabetes was uncommon.

However, that merely suggests that there is a correlation between high-carbohydrate diet plans and obesity/type-2 diabetes, which isn’t the same as causation.

Nevertheless, there are oodles of data connecting high-carbohydrate diet plans to insulin resistance, which in turn manifests into weight problems.

While additive sugars are normally the offender behind insulin resistance, there’s still heightened risk by consuming whole-grain foods. It’s crucial to keep in mind that many food companies nowadays make “whole-grain” products that are loaded with additives and sugar. 

Basically, that “heart healthy” box of cereal at the supermarket isn’t so great if you really look at the ingredients. Odds are, the first two ingredients are whole-grain corn and sugar.

Take-Home Message

Being on the keto diet is not going to raise your risk of heart attack or cardiovascular disease. Consuming dietary fat isn’t bad for your heart either. It’s crucial to bear in mind the sources of fats you ingest, as well as the quantities, are what matters most.

Remember, avoid synthetic trans-fats whenever possible. 

Moreover, making certain you’re getting the proper micronutrients for heart health is key while on the keto diet.

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Elliot received his BS in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota and has been a freelance writer specializing in nutritional and health sciences for the past 5 years. He is thoroughly passionate about exercise, nutrition, and dietary supplementation, especially how they play a role in human health, longevity, and performance. In his free time you can most likely find him lifting weights at the gym or out hiking through the mountains of Colorado. He will also host the upcoming BioKeto podcast. You can connect with him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/elliot.reimers) and Instagram (@eazy_ell)

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