Is keto a cure for COPD? Or are we getting a little too excited about possible benefits?

Human lungs anatomy form lines and triangles, point connecting network on blue background. Illustration vector

As covered in Yahoo Lifestyle, pulmonologist Dr. Raymond Casciari is promoting the use of a keto diet to help people with COPD (chronic obstructive lung disease, or emphysema). Although there are no published studies to back his claim, he cites his clinical experience with his patients improving.

He hypothesizes that since burning fat for fuel creates less carbon dioxide than does burning glucose, our bodies do not have to work as hard to expel that carbon dioxide through the lungs when in ketosis. This creates a potential mechanism for why a keto diet could help people with COPD breathe better, but we are still missing the all-important evidence.

Could there be other explanations? Of course. As we know, a keto diet is effective for weight loss and improving energy in general. These effects could also lead to improved breathing.

It was interesting to see Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, acknowledge keto as potentially helpful for COPD, while acknowledging that this is based on patient anecdotes, not studies.

It is certainly premature to claim that a keto diet is beneficial for COPD. However, we can see a trend that helping people lose weight and feel better can impact their health in many different ways. I look forward to more data in the future helping guide the use of nutritional ketosis as treatment for multiple disease processes.

Thanks for reading,
Bret Scher, MD FACC

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