Keto diet and kidney stone, gout risk: how to avoid problems

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The keto diet lets people eat lots of fat but very few carbohydrates.

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  • The keto diet is a popular strategy for rapid weight loss and can help with certain medical conditions like seizures and Type 2 diabetes.
  • But kidney doctors say that if you’re not careful, it can be a recipe for kidney stones and other health concerns.
  • It’s not necessarily the diet itself that’s bad, but the way some people approach it.
  • Make sure you’re staying hydrated, and keep your intake of meats in check.

The keto diet, at its essence, is rather straightforward: stop eating carbs, munch on more fat.

It is a high-fat, low-sugar weight-loss strategy that forces the body into its natural starvation mode, causing it to rely on fat for fuel instead of on sugars and carbohydrates — typically what our bodies like to burn through first.

Some people say it lifts mental fog while slimming their waistlines. Different versions of the plan have picked up a string of celebrity followers, from Kim Kardashian West to LeBron James. The diet is especially popular among Silicon Valley tech workers, who see it as a path to better performance and reduced appetite, albeit with a side of bad breath.

But while decades of research suggest that a keto regimen can treat epileptic seizures and control blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 diabetes, there hasn’t been much study yet of what the diet can do for a wider population.

If keto dieters aren’t careful, they can quickly become dehydrated, ramping up the amount of protein and uric acid in their body to dangerous levels. The diet itself has not been linked to an increase (or decrease) in kidney stone diagnosis rates, but some doctors say they’re already seeing a shift as more of their patients go keto.

[Our reporter spent two months on the keto diet. Here’s what it was like]

Dr. Koushik Shaw, a urologist at the Austin Urology Institute, told a local Fox affiliate he had started noticing a worrisome trend.

“I’ve seen a huge spike in the number of kidney stones that we see,” Shaw said, adding that he hadn’t seen an uptick quite like this before in his 14 years of practice.

“A lot of it I attribute to a lot of these high-protein, low-carb, keto-type diets,” he said.

He hypothesized that many of his patients were probably eating more meat and fish than they used to, something that can increase calcium and uric acid levels and acidify their urine.

Keto dieters can eat meat, fish, butter, and cheese.
Flickr / @agentcikay

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