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A Cheat Day on Keto Could Damage Your Blood Vessels (Here’s Why)

The ketogenic diet (keto) is a low-carb, high-fat diet that has gained popularity in recent years and is touted for its health benefits, including weight loss. The diet has been the topic of multiple studies, and recently, research has focused on the effect that a “cheat day” could have on the body—we all know that long-term diets take serious commitment.

To understand the effect of suddenly eating carbohydrates on this diet, we must first look at what the ketogenic diet is; the aim is to reduce the consumption of carbs and replace these with fat and protein. When the body does not have enough carbs, it will breakdown fat and protein to use as an energy source, and this process is called ketosis. So, what happens when people who follow a keto diet suddenly decide to snack on a high-glucose meal? This is what The University of British Columbia in Okanagan, Canada (UBCO) wanted to explore, and what they found was that a "cheat day" could damage the blood vessels.

The study involved nine healthy young males, who were asked to drink a 75-gram glucose beverage both before, and then after taking part in a seven-day high fat, low carb diet, Science Daily reports. The diet was similar to that of a normal ketogenic diet, with the majority of the calories coming from fat, then protein, and only 10 percent from carbs. The findings were published in the journal, Nutrients, and according to Science Daily, the results indicated that “just one 75-gram dose of glucose — the equivalent a large bottle of soda or a plate of fries — while on a high fat, low carbohydrate diet can lead to damaged blood vessels.”

Researchers found that even though these individuals were otherwise healthy, when they observed their blood vessels' reaction to the glucose drink, “the results looked like they might have come from someone with poor cardiovascular health," senior author and associate professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at UBCO, Jonathan Little, said. He added that "It was somewhat alarming."

Of course, it is a small study, which is why further research is required. Everyday Health also notes that the long-term implications are not clear, and the damage to the blood vessels in the short-term was temporary, lasting an hour when the glucose spiked, then returning to normal. But it does suggest that those who are considering doing keto should be dedicated and Amy Kubal, RDN, a registered dietitian, told the publication that individuals either need to stay on keto or not do it at all because it is not something that can be done half-heartedly.

Plus, cheat days may satisfy the cravings, but they could be undoing all the good of being on the keto diet. "My concern is that many of the people going on a keto diet—whether it's to lose weight, to treat type 2 diabetes, or some other health reason—may be undoing some of the positive impacts on their blood vessels if they suddenly blast them with glucose," Little said, according to Medical News Today.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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