The Keto Diet: Are the risks worth the benefits?

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The Keto Diet: Are the risks worth the benefits?

Diet trends have continued to evolve throughout the years with a strong influence from celebrities. Beginning in the 1930s the grapefruit diet aka the “Hollywood diet” started which encouraged eating a grapefruit with every meal. More recently an increasing amount of extreme diet trends have emerged. In 2004, Beyoncé started the master cleanse involving a concoction of hot water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper and even crazier was Reese Witherspoon’s “baby food diet”. The newest trend to materialise is the keto diet favoured by celebrities including Halle Berry and the Kardashians. However, the results for long term weight loss and the safety of the diet is still questioned.

What is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet is a low carb diet which involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. Initially, the purpose of the ketogenic diet was not to aid weight loss but was prescribed to aid in the treatment of tough-to-control epileptic seizures that were unresponsive to drugs. In the 1920s the diet was found to significantly reduce the frequency of seizures in children. However, the benefits for weight loss have also been realised as the carbohydrate reduction kicks the body into a natural fat burning state called ketosis. By starving the body of carbohydrates and sugars, the first fuel the body burns, the body looks for another source of fuel to retrieve its energy. The body becomes efficient at burning fat for energy whilst also turning fat into ketones in the liver which can supply the brain with energy.


The metabolism of fatty acids in the liver results in the production of ketone bodies. These comprise of three chemicals consisting of acetone (2%), acetoacetate (20%) and D-3-Hydroxybutyrate (78%) and this production is called ketogenesis. The ketone bodies are produced by the chemical acetyl-CoA predominantly in the mitochondrial matrix of liver cells. This process is necessary in small amounts particularly when carbohydrates are scarce, and glucose is not available as a fuel source.  

The ketone bodies are water soluble allowing for the transportation across the inner mitochondrial membrane as well as across the blood brain barrier and cell membranes. This allows them to source the brain, heart and muscle with fuel. Interestingly, during starvation they are the major energy source for the brain, providing up to 75%.

The excess production of ketones can accumulate in the body creating a state of ketosis. This stage, although abnormal, is not considered harmful, which is why it is being promoted as a diet craze. However, due to the acidic nature of the ketone bodies, particularly D-3-Hydroxybutyrate, larger amounts of ketone bodies can cause the pH levels in the body to drop to dangerously acidic levels creating a state of ketoacidosis.


The benefits of the keto diet have been well advertised and received a lot of celebrity support. With powerful celebrities such as Halle berry ‘swearing by it’ as it allows her to manage her diabetes, it is easy to see why so many are keen to try it. However, with little to no information about the long-term effects, should we be finding out more before trying it ourselves?

In 2006, a study was conducted reviewing the influence of a low-carbohydrate diet can have on ketoacidosis. In this study the patient who had no history of diabetes was placed on a strict low carbohydrate diet for four years. Although the patient showed a significant decrease in weight on the diet, they also experienced four episodes of ketoacidosis. Each time an episode occurred the patient was administered intravenous fluids and insulin which lead to their recovery, however each time they returned to the diet it wasn’t long before another ketoacidosis episode occurred. When the patient was placed on a diet containing normal amounts of carbohydrates their glucose levels returned to normal, preventing a ketoacidosis episode from occurring again. The more ketones in the blood, the more ill a person with ketoacidosis will become. Left untreated ketoacidosis can cause potentially fatal complications such as severe dehydration, coma and swelling of the brain.

Randox D-3-Hydroxybutyrate (Ranbut) Reagent

Randox Reagents offer a D-3-Hydrobutyrate assay designed to measure the major ketone lvels in the body, D-3-Hydroxybutyrate, allowing for an efficient diagnosis to be implemented. The superior methodology provides more accurate, reliable and specific results compared to the traditional dipstick method of ketone body measurement.

The benefits of the Randox D-3-Hydroxybutyrate (Ranbut) assay include:

  • Excellent precision of less than 3.5% CV
  • Exceptional correlation coefficient of r=0.9954 when compared against other commercially available methods.
  • A wide measuring range of 0.100 – 5.75mmol/l, comfortably detecting levels outside of the healthy range, 0.4 – 0.5mmol/l.
  • Enzymatic method for accurate and reliable results
  • Reconstituted stability of 7 days when stored between +2 to +8⁰C


  1. Ketoacidosis during a low-carbohydrate diet. Shah, Panjak and Isley, William. s.l. : The new england journal of medicine, 2006, Vol. 354.

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