We’ve all heard about the keto diet.
This popular low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat approach is among the most popular weight-loss programs.
However, there are some people who should not be following a keto diet, such as pregnant or lactating women.
But, what about the elderly?
Can the elderly practice a keto lifestyle? And, if so, what benefits can one achieve (besides weight loss)?
Here, we’ll talk about the keto diet in seniors to determine possible health benefits, risks, and side effects.
Additionally, we’ll go over some tips on how to practice an effective keto diet on seniors.
A keto diet is a low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat approach. Typically, people consume 5-10% of the calories from carbs, 20-30% from protein, and 70-80% from fats.
The theory behind a keto diet relies upon metabolic adaptation.
The body’s natural energy source is glucose, which you obtain from starches, legumes, fruits, and other carb-based foods.
But, when the body suddenly gets cut from its main energy source, it needs to find a new one. Thus, the body turns to fat reserves for a new energy source. As a result, ketones are produced.
A high ketone content produces a ketosis state.
Now, the biggest benefit of keto is weight loss.
But, when it comes to seniors, this might not be the most important benefit you might obtain.
So, let’s take a closer look at the possible benefits seniors might obtain when following a keto diet.
As you age, there is an increased risk of chronic illnesses. More and more people suffer from insulin resistance, high blood pressure, or cholesterol problems.
The keto diet can help reduce cholesterol, decrease triglycerides, and regulate blood sugar levels.
Good bloodwork can decrease the risk of chronic issues like diabetes and heart disease.
Now, this benefit relies on the foods you include. If you have a high saturated fat consumption (butter, mayo, high-fat meats) and don’t balance it with healthier fats (avocado, nuts, and seeds), you might actually jeopardize your health.
If you are looking for weight loss benefits, you might be able to move around more with a reduction in weight.
Additionally, it seems that a keto diet might help reduce inflammation. So, it might have some positive effects on your joints.
Another benefit is seen in energy levels. At the beginning of a keto diet, you might experience a dump in your energy levels. After a couple of days (once the body is adapted), you might experience more energy.
This means you can have more energy to perform daily tasks and play with your grandkids.
Finally, there seem to be some positive effects on cognitive function while doing a keto diet.
Evidence suggests that following a low-carb diet can help improve memory. In fact, it seems that it can reduce early signs of Alzheimer’s.
However, more information is needed to determine the benefits of a keto diet on cognitive function in the elderly.
Even though there are several benefits to following a keto diet, there are still some risks. Here are some of the risks of a keto diet.
- Increased risk of nutrient deficiency. By reducing a food group, it increases the risk of nutrient deficiency. If not treated carefully can lead to problems like osteoporosis or other health issues.
- Increased risk of heart disease. In some people, excessive consumption of fried foods and high saturated foods can result in an increased risk of heart disease.
- Changes in gut health. Whenever there is a big change in eating habits, it can lead to changes in gut health. While this can sometimes be a good thing, sometimes it can cause more harm than good. So, if you are experiencing digestive issues while on keto, it’s better to analyze if it’s worth staying on it.
If you are thinking about making a change in your diet, make sure you talk with your doctor. They can help you determine if a keto diet is the best option for you. They can analyze your bloodwork, current medication, and anything else that might affect your health.
Besides some risks, there are a couple of side effects you need to know about when starting a keto diet.
The first side effect is called keto flu. When your body is adapting to ketones, it might produce flu-like symptoms like headaches, fatigue, foggy brain, nausea, and irritability. But, don’t worry. The symptoms typically go away after a couple of days.
The other possible side effect is constipation.
Constipation is a big problem for seniors, so the keto diet might not help this condition. It can actually make it worse.
But, there are ways to avoid any possible side effects and do a keto diet effectively if you are a senior.
If you are planning on doing a keto diet and you are over 60, as we’ve mentioned before, consult your doctor.
But, here are some things to make things smoother and decrease any possible risks.
- Focus on healthy fats. Don’t get tempted on a keto diet where you can eat any fat. You still need to be careful about the foods you add. Ensure 70-80% of your fats come from healthy sources like oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish.
- Increase your vegetables. Vegetables are high in fiber (which can help fight constipation) and high in nutrients (fighting nutrient deficiency). Make sure you have at least 4-5 servings of vegetables per day. And, include as many different colors as possible to get different nutrients.
- Start exercising. If you are not exercising, combine a keto diet with some cardio or strength training (talk to your doctor and coach for them to guide you). This can help preserve muscle mass and support bone health.
- Calculate your calories. Maybe weight loss is not your thing. If this is the case and you are doing a keto diet for health benefits, ensure you get enough calories throughout the day to prevent muscle loss.