A new mother developed a life-threatening condition due to eating a low carbohydrate diet while breastfeeding, doctors claim.
The 32-year-old Swedish woman was rushed to hospital with nausea and vomiting, heart palpitations, trembling and spasms in her limbs.
When questioned, she said she had been following a a strict low carbohydrate high fat diet (LCHF) in order to lose her baby weight, doctors describing her case in the Journal of Medical Case Reports said.
The regime saw the woman, who is unidentified, eating less than 20g of carbohydrate day, the equivalent of a medium-sized potato, or a thick slice of toast, while breastfeeding her 10-month-old son.
In the UK, adults are advised to get half of their daily energy intake from carbohydrates, according to a report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, who advise the Government.
This is the equivalent of 200 – 240g of carbohydrates in a person eating 2,000 calories a day.
The woman said she had lost 4kg on the diet but had begun to feel very ill.
In hospital, medics carried out tests and discovered she was suffering from ketoacidosis, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition normally seen in people with type 1 diabetes.
‘The primary diagnosis was thought to be ketoacidosis due to starvation induced by the LCHF diet,’ doctors writing in the journal.
Dr Magnus Ekelund, head of endocrinology at Helsingborg Hospital, Sweden, told MailOnline: ‘If you don’t eat any carbohydrates the body starts eating fat.
‘That’s ketosis. Most of us can handle that for some time.’
However ketoacedosis is a more ‘severe’ form of ketosis, he said.
He continued: ‘If you have diabetes or are starving due to lack of carbohydrates, the body burns too much fat.
‘The waste products from that process are ketones. Ketones are acidic.’
Ketones build up in the blood, causing it to become acidic, which can lead to coma or death if left untreated, he said.
The woman was given a glucose (sugar) infusion, and the following day, she was administered with small doses of human insulin.
This way, doctors were able to bring her out of ketoacidosis and she was able to be discharged after three days.
Dr Ekelund warned her that breastfeeding takes up a lot of energy, and so eating a low carbohydrate diet had caused her body to starve and begin eating its own fat, triggering the condition.
To the best of his knowledge, this is the first reported case in medical literature of a non-diabetic patient suffering from ketoacidosis while lactating, he said.
‘It has been reported in other situation in extreme starvation, that it might happen,’ he said.
Dr Ekelund said the case is worrying given the rising popularity of low carbohydrate diets, including Paleo, Atkins and Dukan.
He said: ‘This woman didn’t realise the risks.
‘People should be aware of the potential danger of these kinds of diet, especially when breastfeeding or when the body is under any other kind of stress, such as when they are ill.
‘That’s the take-home message.’
Writing in the paper, he added: ‘New diets are popular and with our modern communication, through the internet and blogs, the information spreads fast and is easily accessible.
‘Authors on the internet might be people supporting the diet or advertisers with commercial interests’.
If someone is following a low carb diet and begins to feel nauseous, or their breath begins to smell of acetone, they may be going into ketoacidosis and should see a doctor immediately, he said.