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10 Dangerous Side Effects Of A Low-Carb Diet

You experience weight loss when your body is in ketosis. But you simply cannot miss these dangerous side effects of ketosis.

10 Dangerous Side Effects Of A Low-Carb Diet

Low-carb diet and ketosis has short-term health benefits


  1. Low-carb diet can help in weight loss
  2. But there are side effects of getting your body in ketosis
  3. Low-carb diet can lead to dehydration

People on a weight loss regime often resort to eating a diet low in carbohydrates. The Institute of Medicine says that around 45 to 65% of a person's daily calories come from carbs. A low-carb diet is designed in a way that it creates a deficiency of carbs in the body in order to encourage it to switch to a different fuel source. This eventually leads to significant weight loss and also stabilises blood sugar. Side effects of reducing carb intake can be experienced during the initial phase of low-carb diet.

On eating a low-carb diet, also known as a keto diet, a process called ketosis occurs in the body. It happens when ketones build in the blood stream. Low levels of carbs in the body result in a drop in blood sugar levels. This in turn leads to breaking down of fat in order to use energy. You may find yourself feeling forgetful, find it difficult to concentrate, sleep may be fitful. You may end up being irritable and short tempered.

exercise weight loss

However, a low-carb diet is considered to be beneficial and safe but only when it is continued for a short term. In the long term, ketosis and carbohydrate deficiency can be dangerous for the body.

Read below to know the side effects of ketosis:

1. Erosion of bones

A major side effect of ketosis is bone erosion. To be in ketosis, you tend to reduce consumption of calcium. You eliminate carb containing fibres. Fibres contain crucial phytochemicals such phytic acid, oxalates and tannins and this is the reason why gut refuses to absorb calcium. This leads to weakened bones and you become more prone to fractures. 

Also read: Eat Fat To Lose Fat With The Ketogenic Diet

2. Leg cramps

To get in ketosis, you eliminate sources of important nutrients and minerals which are required for proper functioning of muscles. These minerals include potassium, calcium and sodium amongst others. Not being careful about getting these minerals from low-carb foods, can make your leg muscles cramp.Losing minerals may also lead to a ‘racing heart’.

3. Fatigue

Insulin production tends to be very low on low-carb diets, leading to hypothyroid-like symptoms like sluggishness. When your body is in a state of ketosis, it makes you feel extremely tired and fatigue. This because the body works hard in order to use alternative source of energy apart from glucose. Workout routine suffers too when you're on ketosis. In order to fight the lethargy and fatigue, you need to increase your intake of water and salts.



4. Disturbed menstrual cycle

Following a low-carb diet makes you lose a lot of weight. Your body remains under stress most of the time this can disrupt your menstrual cycle. In some extreme cases, you can also experience amenorrhea which refers to complete absence of periods.

5. Kidney stones

Another side effect of ketosis is that it reduces your blood pH levels, this making your blood acidic. Acidic blood causes waste products in the blood to crystallise in kidneys and form kidney stones.

6. Bad breath

When on ketosis, you will get bad breath. This is because break down fat releases certain chemicals which cause bad breath.


bad breath

Also read: How The Keto Diet Helped Comedian Tanmay Bhat Lose Oodles Of Weight

7. Constipation and hunger

You become constipated when your body is in ketosis because fibrous foods such as whole grains, beans and legumes all contain carbohydrates. Fibre is the most important component which makes you feel full for longer and ensures smooth bowel movement. Being in ketosis means skipping foods rich in fibre which makes you constipated and hungry.

8. Dehydration

Being in a state of ketosis leads to excess build-up of ketones in the body. Excess ketones can be harmful health and are passed through the body via urine. Excessive sodium in the body is also passed through urine when your body is in ketosis. Excess urination can cause dehydration in the body. Symptoms of dehydration include  dizziness, exhaustion, dry mouth, extreme thirst, dark coloured urine, dry skin, confusion and head aches.

9. Anxiety and headaches

A few days into the low-carb diet and you will begin to experience splitting headache. This happens because your brain prefers running on glucose and burns the last stores of glucose before it switches to ketones for energy. You tend to feel anxious and experience difficulty in concentration as the brain is constantly focusing on using an alternative source of energy. Nutritionist Pooja Malhotra says, "extremely low carb diets trigger anxiety and emotional stress. Since carbohydrates help the body to produce feel good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, low-carb diets can lead to depressive moods and reduced motivation".

Also read: Keto Diet For Weight Loss: Who All Can Follow And Why? Our Expert Tells

10. Easy bruising

Ketosis can change your blood composition and lower your platelet count. It can also affect functioning of platelets that can make you get easily bruised.

Hence, as long as you are following the low-carb diet with caution and keeping sure of your nutrient intake, it is safe to follow it in the short term.

In a nutshell, as per nutrionist Pooja Malhotra, "ketogenic diets are fad diets, in fact any diet which has a ‘name’ is a fad diet. They are best avoided, and certainly not meant for long-term use. Keto diets should definitely not be attempted by people suffering from diabetes, kidney disease, any pre-existing liver, or pancreatic conditions, pregnancy, nursing women, and anyone with a history of gestational diabetes".

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(Pooja Malhotra is a clinical nutritionist based in Delhi)

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.

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