Is a Ketosis Diet Bad for Your Arteries?

by Berit Brogaard

About Berit Brogaard

Dr. Berit Brogaard has written since 1999 for publications such as "Journal of Biological Chemistry," "Journal of Medicine and Philosophy" and "Biology and Philosophy." In her academic research, she specializes in brain disorders, brain intervention and emotional regulation. She has a Master of Science in neuroscience from University of Copenhagen and a Ph.D. in philosophy from State University of New York at Buffalo.

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Ketosis is a metabolic state in which ketone bodies, a byproduct from fat metabolism, serve as the brain’s primary source of fuel. Ketosis is a sign that the body burns fat rather than sugar. Ketosis by itself is not bad for your arteries, but the diet that you choose to induce this metabolic state could be.

Ketone Body Metabolism

It is less costly for the body to turn glucose, or blood sugar, into energy than to metabolize fat. So, when glucose is available in the bloodstream or in a stored form in the muscle and liver cells, the body prefers to use it as a source of energy instead of fat. When glucose is limited, the body is forced to burn fat or protein to survive. Except in cases of starvation or excessive intakes of protein, the body prefers to use protein to maintain muscles and connective tissue. So, when glucose is limited, the body turns to fat metabolism. The brain can only use glucose or ketone bodies as a fuel. So, when the glucose levels are low, the brain switches from using glucose to using ketone bodies as its primary source of energy.

Ketosis and Your Arteries

Fat is stored in fatty tissue as triglycerides. When your body burns fat, fat cells release triglycerides into the bloodstream. The cells that need energy convert them to fatty acids and glycerol. Elevated levels of triglycerides can cause plaque to form in your arteries. However, when the body is in ketosis, the triglycerides that fat cells release into the bloodstream do not stay in the bloodstream. They convert into energy before they can cause harm to your arteries.

Low-Carb Diets

Ketosis doesn’t occur when your blood glucose levels are high. To induce ketosis, you must follow a diet that restricts carbohydrates, the main source of glucose. When successful, regular low-carb diets, such as the Atkins diet, induce ketosis. Diets that restrict refined carbohydrate foods, such as white bread, white rice, white pasta and sweets, can also induce ketosis. These diets keep blood glucose at low, steady levels by substituting carbohydrates with a high fiber-content, such as whole-grain products, legumes and vegetables, for refined carbohydrates.

Low-Carb Diets and Your Arteries

Which diet you choose to induce ketosis may make a difference to the health of your arteries. Saturated fats and trans fat may have a negative effect on cholesterol and triglyceride levels. So, a diet high in these fats could lead to plaque formation in your arteries, a risk factor for blood clots. However, whether successful low-carb diets high in saturated fats and trans fats have this effect or not is a matter of controversy. Many individuals who follow a high-fat, low-carb diet have better cholesterol and triglyceride levels than before they started the diet. To play it safe, however, it may be better to choose foods high in protein and unsaturated fats.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.