Low-Carbohydrate/Ketogenic Diet and Coronary Artery Disease: A Brief Review of the Limited Evidence Between Them

Cardiol Rev. 2024 Feb 1. doi: 10.1097/CRD.0000000000000652. Online ahead of print.


Nowadays there is a lot of interest among the general population regarding the ketogenic diet (KD) and its health benefits. Most people following this diet have a reduced intake of carbohydrates which gets replaced by calories coming from fat and protein. Even though KD has shown some limited health benefits, there is no consensus on long-term effects and cardiovascular safety profile, especially the relation of KD to coronary artery disease (CAD). This concern comes predominantly from increased fat intake in KD and other similar diets with decreased carbohydrate intake. One study has shown a link between type 1 diabetes and increased coronary artery calcium scores but, in addition to many other limitations, after adjusting for other cardiovascular risk factors, the association was not significant. Results from a subanalysis of the CARDIA prospective study found that progression of CAD measured by coronary artery calcium was more pronounced in people with low-carbohydrate intake, especially when the compensatory calorie intake was from animal sources as compared to plant-based sources. In addition, other studies have tried to find a link between this type of diet and other traditional cardiovascular risk factors that have been traditionally associated with CAD, especially comparing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglyceride (TAG) levels without clear clinical significance. Other studies found an association between KD and all-cause mortality, but no association with cardiovascular mortality. Lastly, there is an association between animal-based KD and all-cause mortality in patients who have already suffered a myocardial infarction. These findings are modified when accounting for saturated fat intake, which may give us an insight into possible mechanisms to explain these differences.