Dr. Stephen Phinney: Is a ketogenic diet safe for your heart?

Dr. Stephen Phinney: Is a ketogenic diet safe for your heart?

I’m not a physician but my opinion as a researcher I would say it’s looking pretty promising in terms of cardiovascular health. We have already talked about reducing A1c without medications and how that’s going to benefit maintaining a lower when C is beneficial in terms of cardiovascular risk. And if you look at all of the independent risk factors of cardiovascular disease – A1c, weight, markers of inflammation, blood pressure – and you look at our trial outcomes you see all those things improve after a year. Triglycerides are going down, HDL is going up, weight is going down. Inflammation is going down when we measure high sensitivity CRP. If we’re seeing all of those markers that are generally markers of cardiovascular risk improve over the air as a result of eating a low carbohydrate diet, then I would think that this is pretty beneficial for cardiovascular health.

The other marker that we didn’t study or haven’t analyzed so far in the one your study is the blood level of saturated fat. It’s been a lot of debate about saturated fat and heart health and the idea that eating saturated a lot of saturated fat is dangerous for you is, as you know, the diet heart hypothesis, has been seriously questioned if not completely disproven in the last few years. But we know that the amount of saturated fat in the bloodstream is strongly correlated with heart attack risk and diabetes. So Jeff Volek and I, in a previous study not with diabetes but patients with metabolic syndrome over a 12 week period of time – one group was assigned to a low fat high carbohydrate diet and the other group was randomized to a well formulated ketogenic diet and the one that people whom we can do turns out were doing three times as much saturated fat as the people on low fat diet.

After 12 weeks guess what happened to the blood levels of saturated fats. They were higher in the people on the low fat diet and lower than the people on the high fat diet. And how can you explain that? You know because we’ve all been told you are what you eat. Actually you are what you save from what you eat and when you’re keto-adapted the body’s ability to burn fat is markedly enhanced and saturated fats are rapidly oxidized so they can’t build up in the body. So that other risk factor which is harder to measure…you know…we physicians can’t typically write up for a patient order a blood test for fat. And so it’s a specialty test. But when we made the effort to look at that it’s clear that when people are keto-adapted they’re perfected or are prevented from accumulating saturated fats and even that factor will will be eliminated as well. .