Ketogenic Diet May Benefit Some People With Type 2 Diabetes

People who have type 2 diabetes, are overweight, or want to enhance their metabolic health might benefit from going on a ketogenic diet.

The ketogenic diet, sometimes called “keto” for short, involves cutting back on carbohydrates, eating more fat, and a reasonable amount of protein. This diet puts us in a state of ketosis where the body is burning fat for energy, in contrast to glycolysis where blood glucose provides most of our fuel.

Ketosis is a normal metabolic process and should not be confused with ketoacidosis, a toxic buildup of ketones in the bloodstream that can occur in people with diabetes— though it’s rare in those with type 2.

Keto Benefits

A study completed in partnership with Indiana University Health provides evidence that a ketogenic diet improves insulin sensitivity and promotes weight loss in adults with type 2 diabetes.

The 262 people in this study were both overweight, and had type 2 diabetes; 90 percent of them were on at least one diabetes medication. For ten weeks their carb intake was restricted to 30 grams per day, plus fat and protein consumption were increased. The participants continued their medications, and made no other lifestyle changes.

At the end of the ten-week trial:

  • Participant A1C levels averaged a 1.0 percent drop; 147 of the participants showed A1C readings below 6.5 percent.
  • Participants lost about 7.2 percent of their body mass.
  • More than half the participants, 56.8 percent, had lowered one or more diabetes medications, or eliminated one medication altogether.

There were no reports of severe hypoglycemia during the trial period.

Supervision and Support

Earlier studies, many of them smaller, also suggest a ketogenic diet improves insulin sensitivity, and helps with weight management. The diet may also lower heart disease risk by improving HDL, triglyceride, and blood pressure levels, and reducing belly fat.

However, sticking to any diet requires discipline, and the Indiana study participants did not stay the ketogenic course alone. They received excellent support, including intensive nutrition guidance, behavior counseling, digital coaching, digital education, and doctor-guided medication management.

Anyone with diabetes, or other health issues, should research ketogenic diets carefully, and consult with their physician before making dietary changes. Though eating more meat, fish, eggs, butter, nuts, and healthy oils may sound appealing, most of us will - at least initially - miss our usual load of carbs.

A safe, successful transition to a low-carb, higher fat diet should include medical supervision, and will likely require ongoing support.

Planning and Side-Effects

Two things ketogenic novices may need support for are meal planning, and navigating the potential, temporary side-effects of the diet:

  • Meal Planning. Most of us are used to cooking and eating plenty of grains, starches, fruits, legumes, root veggies, low-fat products, and some sugary treats. Going on a low-carb diet means cutting back on these familiar staples, and rethinking what we reach for at the grocery store.
  • Side Effects. Though the ketogenic diet is safe for generally healthy individuals, people may experience side-effects as their body adjusts to the change. The side-effects, sometimes called “keto flu,” include reduced energy, foggy thinking, increased appetite, problems sleeping, nausea, and digestive discomfort. These issues usually resolve within a few days.

While a ketogenic diet may benefit many, it's not for everyone. It might be less suited to elite athletes, or individuals wanting to put on muscle, or weight. It also requires a willingness to consistently stick with ketogenic protocols over the long haul. Without consistency over time, the diet’s benefits will not be realized.

Source: A Sweet Life; JMIR Diabetes; Authority Nutrition; Very Well
Photo credit: Ralph Daily

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