There is a debate raging on about the potential effects of ketosis on the kidney, and this has been a deterrent to many people interested in the diet because of the fears of hurting their kidneys. It is a valid concern and we would like to point out that if you are interested in reaping the benefits of ketosis, if you do it correctly and as recommended by the experts, then you will have nothing to worry about as far as negative side effects to your kidney is concerned. There are very few studies that have given a correlation between the diet and damage to the kidney and they are not adequate to a draw a line and declare ketosis hard on the kidney.
Ketosis happens to be one of the most misunderstood and maligned concepts when it comes to dieting and nutrition in general. This is particularly the case with researchers who don’t take time to interact with patients or those in need of actual nutrition and dietary advice. In most cases, ketosis is confused with ketoacidosis – a condition characterized by an unusual buildup of ketones as a result of muscle wasting and dehydration which is usually occasioned by Type 1 diabetes.
With such a condition, the lack of insulin in the body would lead to the buildup of toxic blood glucose as well as the excessive breakdown of muscles and fat tissues. With such, if you were to use a ketone breathe meter or ketone breathalyzer to check for the presence of ketones, you would find the levels to be very low, to indicate that the body is not in the state of ketosis. It is important to point out that ketoacidosis is a serious health condition and those suffering from it will always be monitored keenly in intensive care units. However, individuals in ketosis happens to be amongst the healthiest and most active members of the society.
The process of dietary ketosis is simply a natural adjustment of the body following the reduced intake of carbohydrates, as the body now shifts its focus on the utilization of stored fats. The presence of insulin in the body will ensure that the production of ketones in the body are kept in check, which leads to mild beneficial ketosis. The process will also lead to the normalization of the blood glucose levels without any unnecessary breakdown of healthy muscle tissues.
As it stands at the moment, it is not easy to establish a credible argument against ketosis when it comes to kidney damage. The process has yielded exceptional results for healthy individuals seeking to improve their fitness, as well as nutritionally fragile kids suffering from various conditions such as diabetes, cancer and epilepsy. Indeed, it is true that there are rife speculations that ketosis can put undue pressure on the kidneys, but there are not enough studies to give credence to this claim.
In what is considered as perhaps the highest protein intake ever studied, an average of 2,263 calories was consumed by an average bodybuilder for 10 weeks, out of which 71% was from proteins. It was observed that the bodybuilder’s weight dropped from 168lbs to 139lbs and his body fat also reduced from 16% to 4.4%.
When blood analysis was conducted, there was a notable increase in blood urea nitrogen, commonly known as BUN, from 16 to 53 (the normal range of BUN is between 6 and 25), and there was no indication of any damage to the kidneys. Of course, such a high intake of proteins for a prolonged period would not be advisable, but this is just a subtle pointer at how far people are willing to go without any notable damage to the kidneys.
It should be noted that almost everyone is always in some degree of ketosis at some point during the day. The most effective way to know whether or not you are in ketosis is to carry out any of the ketosis tests available, with the most popular ones being NMR or simply use the ketone breath test to detect the presence of ketones in your breath in real time.
For instance, anyone off the streets who is not dieting or exercising and who has just taken a meal were to be tested, they would record a ketosis reading of between 0.003 and 0.01, and for most people, when you wake up in the morning with the last meal being dinner, you would record a ketosis reading of about 50. For marathon runners, it is possible to record readings of up to 100 and for those dieting, readings of between 200 and 300 are possible within the very first week. In essence, there is no precise levels which can be used to constitute ketosis.
The relationship between ketosis and liver
In order to further understand if ketosis can be any harder to the kidney, it is vital to understand the relationship between ketosis and liver, and the actual process that takes place in ketosis. When ketosis diet is observed, the liver will convert the medium chain triglycerides into ketones after just a few hours of consumption. The MCT avails readily available source of ketones for the liver. The other portion of the diet which the livery will be dealing with is the BHB salts which will also be absorbed into the blood as ketones. The BHB salts also provide another source of ketones, only that they are not dependent on the liver for their production.
As noted earlier, there is a lot of literature suggesting that neither the kidney’s nor the liver’s functions will be affected negatively by ketosis. The main role played by the kidney with regards to ketones is to remove the excess ketones from the urine. This removal is likely to be high during the first few days of adaptation to ketosis, but with time, the body will begin to retain more of the ketones, and it will start to preferentially burn the ketones as one progresses in the diet. For endogenous production of ketones, the liver is the main site of action and as it stands at the moment, there is not enough clinical evidence to suggest that ketosis is hard on either the kidneys or the liver.