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Is a Keto Diet Safe for Seniors?

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A selection of foods for the Ketogenic diet form in the word '' KETO".

It’s possible for a senior to eat a ketogenic diet successfully. But it’s important that they include their doctors and any community caregivers in the process. It’s quite possible a senior could even have access to a dietician if they live in an independent living or assisted living community.

There are certainly some disadvantages to a ketogenic diet, which we’ll look at in detail below. But it’s worth mentioning that when this type of diet is followed safely and under medical supervision in some cases, it can be a great way of managing weight, maintaining blood sugar levels, and lowering the risk of heart disease.

What Is a Keto Diet?

A common high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet today is the keto diet, also known as a ketogenic diet. As its name implies, this diet aims to put your body into ketosis and keep it there. Basically, when you starve your body of carbohydrates, it’s forced to burn fat instead of muscle.

The “keto diet” isn’t one specific diet. A more accurate way of looking at it might be a “ketogenic lifestyle choice.” Depending on a person’s diet goals and health, a senior’s healthcare provider can help them determine the right type of keto diet. 

A senior man  is holding a n avocado cut in half and preparing an avocado shake in the kitchen.

Can a Senior Adhere to the Keto Diet Safely?

There isn’t a simple yes or no answer to whether a senior can eat a ketogenic diet safely. Each person’s individual health and risk factors ultimately determine whether ketosis is safe for them or not.

It’s a good idea for older adults to consult with their healthcare provider before making a major lifestyle change like a keto diet. Many seniors can successfully eat a restrictive ketogenic diet if they take the proper precautions and have their doctor and caregivers in the senior community involved.

Following a Keto Diet

Following a ketogenic diet is as much a lifestyle shift as a list of foods you’re restricted from eating. Essentially a senior should follow whichever type of keto diet their doctor recommends. The two types of diet that have the most testing are a standard ketogenic diet (SKD) and the high protein ketogenic diet.

Typically, a standard ketogenic diet has a food ratio of 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs. The high protein version is similar, except usually, some fat is traded for more protein. For many seniors, a high-protein keto diet will likely be the doctor’s recommendation, as nearly half of seniors already don’t get enough protein in their diets.

This is a significant reason that programs such as assisted living, memory care, and respite care are all so important for many older adults—the teams of people that staff these communities can help ensure a senior gets the nutrition they need.

Foods to Avoid

When eating a ketogenic diet, the primary thing to remember is to avoid high-carb foods and include healthy fats and protein.

Some specific foods to avoid include:

  • Sugary food & drink: Soda, smoothies or milkshakes, candy, baked goodies, etc.
  • Fruit: Although most fruit is full of vitamins and other nutrients, they are also typically packed with sugar, which is a big no-no for a keto diet.
  • Grains & root vegetables: Pasta, rice, wheat-based product, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.
  • Low-fat & “diet” food: Diet soda, low-fat milk, low-fat salad dressing, etc.
  • Saturated fat: The goal of a keto diet is primarily fat and protein, but that doesn’t mean all fat goes. It’s important to include healthy fats, such as avocado, olive oil, whole milk, etc.

Advantages of a Keto Diet for Seniors

Weight loss is one of the most common benefits that most people have heard of with a ketogenic diet. And studies demonstrate that a low-carb diet is slightly more effective than a low-fat diet for long-term weight loss.

Other studies show us that a ketogenic diet can also help those with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugars. During this 2-year study, researchers noted over a 25% decrease in medically-controlled blood sugar among the participants.

Additionally, there is also evidence that ketosis can actually lower a person’s risk of heart issues, such as heart attack or stroke.

Disadvantages of a Keto Diet for Seniors

All that said, ketogenic diets aren’t without their risks. Flu-like symptoms, dubbed the “keto flu,” aren’t uncommon. However, these symptoms typically resolve themselves within a few days once your body adjusts to a new diet.

But more serious risks, such as low protein in the blood and micronutrient deficiencies, could develop for some people. Seniors could be especially at risk as many already have nutrient or protein deficiencies.

Find Out How We Can Support Your Health

Finding a community to spend your retirement in shouldn’t be a decision taken lightly. It may help to choose your new home based on your needs and how well a particular community can meet them.If you’re considering retirement in Amarillo, give our team a call at The Legacy at Town Square. We’re happy to answer all your questions and book you a community tour.

Written by LifeWell

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