Keto diet ‘flu’ a reality

Changes in diet can often lead to people feeling worse in health before they start feeling better, as their body tries to adjust to its new intake – and the ketogenic diet is no exception.

In fact, recent research has confirmed that embarking upon the popular keto diet for weight loss or other reasons, can lead to flu-like symptoms in the first few weeks.

The new study published in Frontiers in Nutrition said symptoms, which differed in severity in individuals, included fatigue and decreased energy, nausea, dizziness, feeling faint and heartbeat alterations.

These symptoms, which generally peaked in the first seven days, decreased after two to four weeks and ranged in severity and longevity.

The five-month research project was based on an examination of the recorded experiences of and follow up interviews with 101 social media forum users.

Lead researcher Dr Emmanuelle Bostock, from the University’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research, said the study built on past academic literature which had shown those on the low-carb, high-fat, keto diet often experienced headaches, issues with concentration and gastrointestinal discomfort.

Dr Bostock said while the detailed causes of the keto flu symptoms were still unknown, the number of bodily processes which accompanied the change to this diet, went towards explaining these symptoms.

“In the ketogenic diet these changes include an increase of ketones in the body, a probable caloric deficit and also changes in the gut flora,” Dr Bostock said.

“Beyond the scope of the research is that there may also be an immune response triggered by the keto diet.”

The research was motivated by discrepancies in the findings between past academic literature and social media postings and aimed to give a more detailed overview of the keto flu.

“There are advantages for researchers to examine health conditions through social media reports whilst also considering the potential for bias,” Dr Bostock said.

“It is possible to gain a composite picture drawing on clinical observations, questionnaire responses and the method we used which harnessed the widespread use of social media – particularly online forums.

“We also were able to characterise the time course and severity of keto flu from some online forum posts. “

The study included College of Health and Medicine collaboration with expert input from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the Tasmanian School of Medicine.

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