Will The Keto Diet Raise Blood Pressure?

Many people all over the world seem to be leaning towards the keto diet, which is a low-carb, high-fat eating plan. The popularity of the keto diet stems from the fact that it helps prevent excessive weight gain, which is one of the leading causes of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. However, the big question is: Will the keto diet raise blood pressure?

Tests conducted on mice by Dr. Jennifer Sullivan – pharmacologist and physiologist at Augusta University, agree that it will, while an Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center – William S. Yancy, Jr., MD, says it will not. Researchers are currently undecided when it comes to determining whether the keto diet will raise blood pressure. 

Experts believe that the dangers of the keto diet seem to have been exaggerated since it causes ketosis, which is a state where the body gets energy by burning fat instead of glucose. In the rest of this article, I’ll talk more about the relationship between the keto diet and blood pressure.

Will The Keto Diet Raise Blood Pressure?

Keto is a diet plan that involves eating foods that are high in fat and low in carbohydrates. The ultimate aim of keto is to starve the body of carbohydrates but allow enough calories. This way, the body burns fat as an energy source instead of glucose thus;, there is a reduction in weight and prevention of the various diseases associated with obesity such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and even heart attack.

The keto diet allows meat, full-fat dairy, vegetables, especially leafy greens, nuts and seeds, avocados and berries, and other fats such as coconut oil. However, it doesn’t include grains such as rice and wheat, sugar, and variants such as maple syrup and honey, sweet potatoes, and most sugary fruit.

Experts have conducted several studies in medicine and nutrition/dietetics concerning whether the keto diet can raise blood pressure. 

According to US Government statistics, high blood pressure caused or primarily contributed to about 494,873 deaths in the US in 2018 alone. Also, statistics from the UK government show one in every four people worldwide are suffering from hypertension, which also refers to high blood pressure, and projections suggest that it will affect 1.5 billion people by 2025. 

High blood pressure occurs when blood flowing through an individual’s arteries gradually increases. This will cause damage to the inner lining of the arteries and can also lead to blood clotting, which causes internal bleeding when they rupture. Hypertension also prevents oxygen-rich blood from circulating to vital organs, leading to heart disease, kidney failure, stroke, or even erectile dysfunction.

A series of tests conducted on mice showed that the keto diet raised the blood pressure significantly in just four weeks. This research was conducted by Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, a pharmacologist and physiologist at Augusta University. It involved analyzing the effect of high-fat diets on Dahl rats, which have been bred to be hypersensitive to salt.

Male Dahl rats have shown a significant increase in their blood pressure after consuming a fatty or salty diet. However, no previous studies had been conducted on female Dahl rats. 

In an attempt to determine whether the keto diet will affect female Dahl rats the same way, the researchers fed both sexes with either a high-fat or a regular diet for four weeks. They did this because, according to Sullivan, a lot of people consume high-fat diets, but no one seems to have enough knowledge about its effects on females who are more likely to be obese than men.

At the end of the study, the researchers formed the opinion that the fatty diet caused an increase in the number of immune cells in the aorta, the largest artery in the body, and both sexes’ kidneys. They agree that kidneys play a significant role in the regulation of blood pressure on a long-term basis. They also said the immune cells could cause inflammation, which is related to hypertension. However, previous studies have shown that high-fat diets can only raise the blood pressure of other breeds of rats after about 32 weeks.

On the other hand, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center – William S. Yancy, Jr., MD, holds a contrary opinion. He says that a low-carb diet is equally as effective as Orlistat, a drug for weight loss and is the active ingredient in Xenical and Alli, for helping obese people lose weight, and a low-carb diet also causes a significant drop in the blood pressures of people that follow it.

He even advises that a low-carb diet is a better option than weight-loss medications for overweight people with high blood pressure. The research was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and it involved the study of 146 obese adults who were divided into two random groups. Many of these participants were also suffering from such diseases as diabetes or high blood pressure.

The first group had to follow a low-carb, ketogenic diet while the second group was administered Orlistat three times daily over a 48-week period. In the end, results showed that both groups lost weight similarly. The group on the keto diet lost about 9.5% of their weight, while Orlistat’s group lost about 8.5% on the average. Both methods also showed similar results in improving glucose and cholesterol levels.

Is The Keto Diet Safe With High Blood Pressure?

For people who have high blood pressure and have sought a keto diet as a solution, it may not be the safest option. Cardiologists from the renowned St. Elizabeth Heart and Vascular Institute believe that keto may not be the best option when dealing with blood pressure. 

Also, a research conducted by the American Journal of Physiology, Heart and Circulatory Physiology concluded that a keto diet, which recommends the consumption of about 75% fat, about 5% carbohydrates, and about 20% protein, can adequately burn body fat instead of the glucose contained in carbohydrates and use it as a source of energy for the body. The study also says that this phenomenon may also release hormones that can increase blood pressure.

What will work instead is a program that gradually reduces body weight over 12 months. Doctors agree that gradual weight loss is the best option for keto diets, which tend to cause rapid weight reduction. However, I must say that generally, it is relative and depends on an individual’s body system and other particular circumstances. There are cases where keto diets normalize blood pressure.

However, before going on a keto diet plan, two minor factors must be put into consideration:

  • Blood-pressure medication: If you are taking blood pressure medication and you embark on a low-carb and high-fat diet, there’s the tendency that the drug will now be too effective and you will end up with low blood pressure! This effect can happen in as little as a few days, but may also happen within a few months or even up to a year, depending on your body system. Low blood pressure will be below 120/80, and the symptoms include general weakness, dizziness, and debility. You should immediately consult your doctor if you have these symptoms.
  • Salt and bouillon: Before starting a keto diet plan, you should get extra salt and fluid, maybe in the form of bouillon, especially within the first two weeks of commencement. These will help minimize the early side effects, such as headaches. Bouillon may also cause a marginal increase in blood pressure, so you should only take it if your blood pressure is within a controlled level. However, the good news is that any side effect will pass within a few days as your body becomes accustomed to burning fat instead of glucose for its energy needs.

Why Is Your Blood Pressure High On Keto?

If you are on a keto diet and your blood pressure remains high, then there could be a wide range of underlying causes. The major ones will include:

  • What you eat: If you discover that your keto diet continues to impair a healthy cholesterol level, you may have to adjust what you eat. First, you need to replace your intake of saturated fats with sources that have been minimally processed, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Doing this will have a significant effect on lowering the levels of bad cholesterol in your body.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and NCBI recommends that to limit your intake of saturated fats, you need to restrict foods such as cuts of red meat containing fat, butter, palm oil, coconut oil, ghee, dark chocolates, and heavy cream. Instead, replace them with keto-friendly foods like monounsaturated fats – extra virgin oil, duck fat, avocado oil; proteins – seafood, fish, poultry, and eggs; full-fat cheese, high-fat fruits – olives and avocadoes; nuts and seeds – brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. You can also boost your ketones by consuming MCT oil.  

  • Family History/Lifestyle: Some families are more prone to high blood pressure due to their hormonal constitution. They are often predisposed to inflammatory conditions. Lifestyle issues such as excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking, and poor sleeping patterns can also mitigate the keto diet’s efforts to reduce high blood pressure.

As more studies are being done, there seems to be a swing towards keto being a healthy choice when it comes to high blood pressure. Check out the video below for more information.

Does Keto Clog Your Arteries?

It may seem like a shock to many keto followers that the diet may be able to clog their arteries. The reason given for this is that they can lead to a reduction in excess weight and can build muscle mass, but high-protein diets boost artery-clogging plaque, which could clog the arteries and result in cardiovascular conditions.

According to Babak Razani, senior author and associate professor at Washington University School of Medicine located in St. Louis, Missouri, studies on animals and some epidemiological studies in humans have established a link between high-protein diets and cardiovascular diseases.

However, another authority seems to have a different view. Audrey Fleck, RDN is both a dietitian/nutritionist and also a certified diabetes educator living in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, and she says that many times, inflammation is caused by elevated blood sugar and that a keto diet may help lower blood sugar and improving insulin function and can be anti-inflammatory as well.

The right thing to do is to try a keto diet under the direct supervision of a doctor who understands it. A registered Dietitian will also be of immense help as long as they have studied keto.  

Can Keto Cause A Heart Attack?

Again researchers remain undecided in this case. Research conducted on this subject has agreed that losses in weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels by eating keto diets can increase the risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke by 40%. 

However, according to another study conducted in 2017, even a moderate weight loss through a keto diet can help reduce the risks of cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure and obesity and will result in a lower LDL (bad) cholesterol level and a higher HDL (good) cholesterol level which helps prevent heart disease.

The specific kinds of foods chosen to be part of the keto diet matter too. In a September 2010 study conducted on men and women who were on the keto diet, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, it was discovered that those who preferred animal sources of protein and fat such as meat and cheese had about 43% risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who relied on vegetable sources like nuts and avocado. Those that rely on vegetable sources had about 20% and 23% lower risk of heart disease and early mortality.

Whether one will be predisposed to heart attack even while on a keto diet or whether the diet itself will trigger it depends on a set of variables. These will include lifestyle choices and physical activities such as exercising and avoidance of sedentary lifestyle patterns. With adequate exercising, adequate sleep, and a generally positive outlook on life, many diseases and health conditions can be avoided. Also, the intake of unpolluted air provides enough nourishment to the blood and enhances good blood circulation, which is a major step towards achieving optimum heart health.

Do Doctors Recommend A Keto Diet? 

One of the most common questions on the internet today, which has a range of answers, is whether the keto diet is healthy. The truth remains that while the keto diet, which is low in carbohydrates and high in fat, can help one lose weight, no randomized, long-term clinical study has been able to establish its long term effects on general health.

Most of the studies conducted have returned with both “yes” and “no” answers. Experts have even said that its effectiveness for use as a weight-loss method hasn’t been clinically proven. Personally, I know it’s effective and I know plenty of people who agree with me

However, one report shows that it improves blood sugar levels, especially for diabetic people, and reduces the chances of developing cardiovascular diseases related to high blood pressure. What we know is that different opinions abound by nutritionists and physicians about its effectiveness. 

According to medical director and associate professor of clinical medicine of the Sports Cardiology and Fitness Program at Penn Medicine, Neel Chokshi, MD, MBA, he is usually open-minded when patients come to them with questions about nutrition because, first, it is good that they care about their health. He further said that they do not have enough data to guide them on either the positive or negative side effects of these nutrition programs, so he is unable to assuredly say that this is right or that is wrong based on clinical evidence.

In a November 8, 2019 article published by Deepti Bhandare, a cardiologist, she says that the human body requires both the micronutrients and macronutrients in food to function correctly. That the body requires macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in large quantities and requires micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fatty acids, and antioxidants in trace quantities. She further states that keto diets are particularly beneficial for controlling blood sugar in people with diabetes. There is little evidence available to show that it will be both effective and safe over a long period.

What we can say is that nutrition is good, and deliberately cutting yourself off from the basic nutrition that your body needs to perform optimally could be both dangerous and counter-productive. However, adopting a comfortable keto diet plan, especially if you want to reduce your weight and control your blood sugar and prevent the related health conditions, including high blood pressure, is a great idea. The bottom line is that you should consult with your physician if you have any concerns before starting keto.

Related Questions

Can diabetics go on the keto diet? A person with diabetes can do keto. Studies have shown that type 1 and type 2 diabetics can implement a ketogenic diet and that there are also potential benefits related. However, as complications may arise, it is important to work closely with your doctor when beginning the keto diet.

Can keto cause my hands to shake? Keto can cause your hands to shake due to electrolyte imbalance. Since keto emphasizes healthy fats in place of carbs, the body’s supply of glucose is reduced and forces us to make adjustments to cope. These changes disrupt several systems resulting in side effects, but they fade in time.

Can your pancreatitis become worse from keto? Keto can make pancreatitis worse due to the diet’s high-fat content. Even healthy fats can cause a person to develop hypertriglyceridemia, which can trigger or worsen pancreatitis. Patients who have or have had pancreatitis should consult a doctor before going on the keto diet.


Derek Masters

Derek Masters is an Amazon best-selling author. After much research, he began keto at 381 pounds in the middle of 2019. Losing 60 pounds and counting, he wants to share what he's learned with others who wish to learn about the ketogenic lifestyle

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