A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet can be effective in improving blood sugar control, glycaemia and the need for medication in patients living with type 2 diabetes.
The ketogenic diet was actually used as the main way to treat diabetes up until insulin was developed in the 1920s. The keto diet works by reducing and maintaining blood sugar levels from controlled carbohydrate intake and high fat intake. Following this type of diet encourages the body to use fat as its fuel source rather than carbohydrates, which in turn reduces the need for insulin.
What’s the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Type 1: Often diagnosed in childhood.
Type 2: Often diagnosed in those over 30 years old.
Type 1: Caused by the body targeting and killing the cells in the pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin.
Type 2: Caused by the body being unable to respond to insulin, causing insulin resistance
Type 1: Not associated with excess body weight and can’t be controlled by taking insulin.
Type 2: Often associated with excess body weight and high blood pressure/cholesterol, can be controlled by insulin injections to keep blood sugar levels stable.
So what are the stats?
In 2014, an astonishing 387 million people were reported to have diabetes worldwide, with that figure expected to rise to 590 million by 2035 (!!!)
The World Health Organization estimates that up to 90% of patients suffer from type 2 diabetes. The primary contributing factor is of course diet and lifestyle, and almost 85% of complications and deaths associated with type 2 diabetes can be prevented, delayed or treated by diet, exercise and medication. With this in mind, it makes you wonder why more people with diabetes don’t use the keto diet to their advantage.
How can a keto diet help type 2 diabetes?
A study in 2005 published in the Nutrition and Metabolism journal monitored 21 people with type 2 diabetes who followed the keto diet over a 16-week period.
The results showed an improvement in blood sugar control by around 16%, with 6% seeing weight loss and a striking 17% able to reduce or discontinue the use of their diabetes medication.
Tests on animals have also concluded that a diet of limited protein and carbohydrates can reduce blood sugar levels and in turn, reduce complications associated with diabetes.
What do the experts say?
Well, diabetes experts are holding back on concluding that the ketogenic diet can cure diabetes as such, but there is definitely a shift away from high-carb to low-carb diets for those living with diabetes. The ketogenic diet undoubtedly improves blood sugar levels and reduces the need for insulin, which is beneficial for those living with the condition.
What are the risks?
Like any diet, there are inherent risks. By following the keto diet, ketones are produced in the liver and the body enters a state of ketosis. This is great for fat loss, however for those with type 1 diabetes, keto dieting can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). This is a dangerous condition that occurs when there is a build up of toxic acid in the blood. Those with type 1 diabetes with little to no insulin in their blood are mainly at risk, however it can also happen to those with type 2 diabetes.
Ketosis or ketoacidosis?
Before we go any further, let’s differentiate between ketosis and ketoacidosis.
Ketosis is a state whereby your body produces ketones, and your body uses fat for energy. During ketosis, the level of ketones can range from normal to high.
Diabetic Ketoacidosis is a state whereby the level of ketones ranges from high to very high. The level of ketones in the blood can turn the blood acidic, which is potentially a serious condition. Telltale signs include excessive thirst, vomiting, nausea, weakness, strong-smelling breath, frequent urination and confusion.
Monitoring your diet carefully can reduce the risk of Diabetic Ketoacidosis. Home keto-testing kits are a good idea to ensure you’re not at risk of developing DKA, and the American Diabetes Association recommends testing for ketones if your blood sugar level is greater than 240 mg/dl. Urine strips can be purchased at the pharmacy to test your levels.
Does the keto diet reduce the risk of developing diabetes?
Following a ketogenic diet can also dramatically reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. One key contributing factor is weight, as the more fatty tissue you have in your body, the more resistant your cells become to insulin. By following a keto diet and maintaining a healthy weight you significantly decrease your chances of developing diabetes, and lose fat at the same time.
A ketogenic diet can also improve your body’s ability to deal with glucose and by following a low-carb plan you reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance, a common contributing factor of type 2 diabetes.
What’s the low-down?
There are obvious benefits of following a keto diet to treat diabetes, such as controlled blood sugar levels, a reduced need for medication and weight loss. A diet high in fat and low in carbs will change the way your body uses energy, help with weight loss and most importantly for type 2 diabetes patients, decrease blood glucose levels.
While there is little hard evidence to show that the keto diet can fully cure diabetes, common sense indicates that it definitely helps. A keto diet promotes a healthy diet, weight loss and controlled blood sugar levels, which is ideal for those with type 2 diabetes.
If you’re considering a keto diet to treat diabetes, consult your doctor before you make any drastic dietary changes and ensure you continually monitor your progress.
Have you ever tried the keto diet to treat diabetes? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!