Ketogenic Diet's (negative) Effect on Varicose Veins?

(Debbie T) #1

Hi everyone, this is my first post, so hopefully I get it right! I have been keto for seven weeks and my husband now for about three weeks. I came across this article ( last night because I was hoping to find info on the keto diet helping/healing varicose veins. My husband developed varicose veins on his legs (a lot of them!) in his early twenties during his university years. He’s even had surgery for them many years back. Still has lots of them to this day. Can anyone with more science-brains than myself, have a look at this article and give me an opinion, please? I’m not sure if we should be concerned about keto effects on his existing varicose veins or his chances of developing even more? Thanks in advance! – D


This was a study of epileptics. So I would presume by ‘ketogenic diet’ the article refers to the therapeutic ketogenic diet developed for treatment of epilepsy. This is not stated in the article, but until nutritional keto became a popular thing, this is what ‘keto’ meant in the mainstream medical world. In some contexts, still does.

The therapeutic ‘ketogenic diet’ is different from the nutritional ketogenic diet the vast majority of us eat.

Without knowing exactly what and how much the folks in the study were eating, we don’t know whether or how much the results are applicable to the rest of us. Different amounts and varieties of fats and proteins make a difference. For example, a diet high in PUFAs will have significantly different effects on overall health and well-being than one with low PUFAs. Many studies of ‘ketogenic diets’ still use PUFAs to boost fat intake - simply because they’re cheap, easily added and measured to the chow.


Honestly, I’d completely ignore it. Aside from them saying in the article that it shouldn’t dissuade you from doing the diet, the article was on an epilepsy page, the “real” Ketogenic diet that’s done as a medical intervention for Epileptics isn’t what any of us are doing, to me, that’s comparing apples and bowling balls.

Even at the beginning, the most common denominator is the 20g carbs things since it’s the “Safe” number to start at, past that, our protein and fat intakes are all over the place vs what others are doing, none of us are really doing the same thing, we just all have ketosis in common. Pretty impossible to compare what’ll happen when that’s the case. Best thing to do is just pay attention, maybe even take pics of his veins for comparison later.

(Bacon is better) #4

Two points, here. First, the ketogenic diet for epilepsy is extremely deficient in protein, being mostly fat. The epileptic diet has stunted the growth of a number of children because they were not given enough protein during their pubertal growth spurt. So any stories about how a ketogenic diet can be damaging usually arose from this context. Fortunately, more recent research has shown that a ketogenic diet that permits a normal protein intake does not interfere with seizure control.

Secondly, there appears to be a big genetic factor involved in the presence or absence of varicose veins. They are prevalent in my father’s family, but not in my mother’s. While I appear to have inherited my father’s poor blood circulation in legs and feet, I seem to have inherited my mother’s non-varicose veins. When my father was my age, his varicose veins were already troubling him.

While I am certainly willing to grant the possibility that a protein-deficient diet might exacerbate a tendency to varicosity, I have never heard of varicose veins resulting from a ketogenic diet that included an adequate protein intake.

(Michael) #5

As an n=1 here, I had some varicose veins in my legs pre-keto (first noticed around 5-10 years ago). It/they were not severe, so that was probably in my favor. Every single varicose vein has disappeared within this (my) first year of keto/carnivore. I think the idea @lfod14 of taking some pictures now, and then again in a few months to compare was a great idea - wish I had now to compare/demonstrate.

(Bacon is better) #6

Well, certainly cutting the carbs helps lower blood pressure, so that might have been part of the reason your veins improved. Nevertheless, I’d still be careful about claiming that “keto did it.” But on the other hand, your experience does offer some hope for the OP.

(Debbie T) #7

Thank you for the quick reply! Yes, I guess it’s a problem with the definition of ketogenic diet. The article looks good and I will also pass it onto my husband. He looks back on his time in university when it all started and remembers his ridiculous diet with so much sugar, fast food, and alcohol – and also depression - during those six years. So genetics plus inflammation equals NOT GOOD! — D

(Debbie T) #8

Very good point about the variables, thank you for replying! And good idea bout pics, I think we’ll do that! – D

(Debbie T) #9

Good points, thank you! It’s so strange how early my husband developed such a large amount of varicose veins at such an early age, even with genetics; but I’m guessing his inflammation from diet and lifestyle must have really pushed him over the edge. It will be interesting to see how his body and mind reacts to the keto diet, in terms of inflammation. – D

(Debbie T) #10

Yes, will definitely take pics – I appreciate the encouragement, thanks! – D

(Debbie T) #11

I must admit I’m often tempted to attribute anything positive to Keto, as well – but I agree with the caution about misleading ourselves or others! I guess we all need a good about of real science, along with our dollop of hope :slight_smile: Thanks! – D

(Debbie T) #12

UPDATE: You guys are fantastic on this forum! So refreshing to have intelligent and non-snarky answers! My past history (with FB) has had me cringing at asking questions, for fear of “stupid snark” – so thank you, thank you, thank you! – D

(Bob M) #13

I was thinking that keto might help vericose veins, through an insulin connection, but the material I’m finding online is…not helpful. There’s more info relating weight gain to vericose veins, but nothing saying what happens if you lose weight.

If your husband does keto, let us know what happens with his veins.

(Bacon is better) #14

This is why I’d say to be careful about ascribing either an improvement or a deterioration in varicosity to keto. It might very well help indirectly by causing fat loss, but who really knows? I suppose it’s even possible that β-hydroxybutyrate might possibly help heal venous valves somehow, but that sounds really farfetched to me. We need data!

(Bob M) #15

Although this could be a tough one. Often, the benefits due to keto are attributed to weight loss, but I think things like HbA1c get improved well before there’s much weight loss. So, I’d argue that improvements there are due to keto and not weight loss.

In the case of vericose veins, though, weight loss could be a factor, but it’s going to be confusing. I don’t know about you, but I gained very little weight on my legs (where most vericose veins are). Heck, I still have a belly, yet almost no fat on my legs. Can’t quite make out the 4 muscles in my quadriceps, but it’s close, and I’m still obese (all the weight in my belly).

I would think if vericose veins improved for most people (mainly men?), it’d have something to do with keto and not weight loss. But it could depend on whether you have an apple or pear shape, or even lipedema.

Maybe we could agree that it’s highly unlikely keto would make vericose veins worse? Or at least I can’t think of a plausible mechanism by which keto would make these worse.

(Bacon is better) #16

I agree. The weight loss thing is because the standard hypothesis is that obesity causes diabetes, when the research actually shows that obesity and diabetes are both caused by metabolic dysfunction (i.e., insulin-resistance).

My legs got thick, late in the process of gaining fat. They were among the first spots to get thin again. But my dad’s varicose veins don’t seem to be related to weight gain, since he’s been pretty much 180 lbs./81.8 kg since I was a child. Of course, his body composition has shifted over time, and that might be relevant, I don’t know. But as I posted earlier, he started having problems with his veins before he was my current age, 65. On the other hand, even at my heaviest, 300 lbs./136.4 kg, I never had varicose veins. This is why I believe there is a strong genetic component to the condition.

Absolutely agree on both counts.

(Rebecca ) #17

I must say I am one who has noticed no improvements with my varicose veins. They are hereditary from my Mother’s side, but didn’t notice any until my pregnancies ( 31 and 33 years ago)
I have been following a Ketogenic Lifestyle since mid- January…I have reaped many benefits, but none concerning my leg veins. I guess I’ll have to live with them.

(Eric) #18

I know that I had varicose veins long before I started Keto. The ones on my right calf are more noticeable now but I chalk that up to having lost 125+lbs and less fat to hide them and not actually getting worse from Keto.

(Bob M) #19

125+ pounds? Holy crapoly! Way to go.

(Rebecca ) #20

Wow, that could be why they are more prevalent!! Fat loss!!