A ketogenic diet, also known as the “keto diet,” is a diet that is high in fat and low on carbs. When it comes to diabetes, most diets consist of weight loss, as a result the idea of a high-fat diet helping control and ease diabetes symptoms might seem a little concerning. However, it can potentially chance the way our bodies store and use energy.
According to an article posted on healthline.com, “How the Ketogenic Diet Works for Type 2 Diabetes,” your body converts fat, instead of sugar into energy. This diet was created in 1924 as a treatment for epilepsy, but the effects of this eating pattern are also being studied for type 2 diabetes. A ketogenic diet is said to possibly improve blood glucose levels while also reducing the need for insulin. However, according to the article, the diet also does come with risks. Before you make any dietary changes to your everyday life, always consult your physician before doing so.
The primary goal and focus of the Keto diet is to have the body use fat for energy, instead of using carbs or glucose. People who choose the keto diet tend to get most of their energy from fat, with very little of the diet coming from carbs. Since most people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, this type of diet may seem unhelpful, but the keto diet, healthline.com, say that it’s actually very helpful. The keto diet suggests the use of healthy fats, meaning that the diet doesn’t call for loading up on saturated fats. It is the heart healthy fats that are key to sustaining overall health. These heart friendly, healthy fats foods include: eggs, fish, cottage cheese, avocado, olives and olive oil, nuts and nut butters, and seeds. (1.)
According to healthline, “The ketogenic diet has the potential to decrease blood glucose levels. Managing carbohydrate intake is often recommended for people with type 2 diabetes because carbohydrates turn to sugar and, in large quantities, can cause blood sugar spikes. If you already have high blood glucose, then eating too many carbs can be dangerous. By switching the focus to fat, some people experience reduced blood sugar.” (1.)
According to “A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes,” a study published on PubMed.com, performed by William S Yancy, Jr, Marjorie Foy, Allison M Chalecki, Mary C Vernon, and Eric C Westman, with the Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA, Private Bariatric and Family Practice, and Clinical Faculty, University of Kansas School of Medicine and the Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care, Department of Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center, the method was performed as follows: “From an outpatient clinic, we recruited 28 overweight participants with type 2 diabetes for a 16-week single-arm pilot diet intervention trial. We provided LCKD counseling, with an initial goal of <20 g carbohydrate/day, while reducing diabetes medication dosages at diet initiation. Participants returned every other week for measurements, counseling, and further medication adjustment. The primary outcome was hemoglobin A1c.” (2.)
The subjects had a mean BMI of 42.2, mean age of 56 years, and were of either African-American or Caucasian descent. In their intervention, subjects consumed a LCKD diet with the goal of eating less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day while reducing dosages of diabetes medication. Subjects also received nutritional counseling and medication adjustment every two weeks.
Of the 21 subjects who successfully completed the study, scientists observed a 16% decrease in Hemoglobin Ac from baseline to week 16. Subjects experienced an average decrease in body weight of 8.7 kg (19.2 lbs.). Additionally, their average blood glucose levels decreased a total of 16.6%, and their average triglyceride levels decreased 41.6%.
The results concluded as follows: ”The LCKD improved glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes such that diabetes medications were discontinued or reduced in most participants. Because the LCKD can be very effective at lowering blood glucose, patients on diabetes medication who use this diet should be under close medical supervision or capable of adjusting their medication.” (2.) Ruled.me.com has several studies highlighted in an article published to their website, “The Ketogenic Diet and Diabetes.” The information from this study is further supported by other studies provided that have been conducted, all favoring and proving that a low carb, high “healthy fat” diet can actually ease the symptoms of diabetes, induce weight loss and actually revert the disease to a point that patients are able to actually stop using regular medications, like insulin, to help treat their diabetes. (3.)
But just exactly what does the keto diet entail? According to dietdoctor.com, “A ketogenic diet is similar to other strict low-carb diets, like the Atkins diet or LCHF (low carb, high fat). These diets often end up being ketogenic more or less by accident. The main difference between strict LCHF and keto is that protein is restricted in the latter. A keto diet is designed specifically to result in ketosis. (Ketosis is a metabolic process that occurs when the body does not have enough glucose for energy (5)). It’s possible to measure and adapt to reach optimal ketone levels for health, weight loss, or for physical and mental performance.”
The dietdoctor further tells us that, “The “keto” in a ketogenic diet comes from the fact that it makes the body produce small fuel molecules called “ketones” (1). This is an alternative fuel for the body, used when blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply. Ketones are produced if you eat very few carbs (that are quickly broken down into blood sugar) and only moderate amounts of protein (excess protein can also be converted to blood sugar).
Ketones are produced in the liver, from fat. They are then used as fuel throughout the body, including the brain. The brain is a hungry organ that consumes lots of energy every day, and it can’t run on fat directly. It can only run on glucose, or ketones.
On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run almost entirely on fat. Insulin levels become very low and fat burning increases dramatically. It becomes easy to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is obviously great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, like for example less hunger and a steady supply of energy.
When the body produces ketones it’s said to be in ketosis. The fastest way to get there is by fasting – not eating anything – but obviously it’s not possible to fast forever.
A ketogenic diet, on the other hand, can be eaten indefinitely and also results in ketosis. It has many of the benefits of fasting – including weight loss – without having to fast.” (4.)