The ketogenic diet is a popular eating plan that has gained attention recently for its potential health benefits. One area of interest is how it can help manage diabetes. With an estimated 422 million people worldwide living with diabetes, finding effective ways to support the health of those with this condition is crucial.
This article will explore the connection between the ketogenic diet and diabetes and how it can support overall health and wellness.
What Is the Ketogenic Diet?
Dr. Russel Wilder at the Mayo Clinic developed the ketogenic diet in the 1920s. The ketogenic diet aims to mimic the effects of fasting by inducing a metabolic state called ketosis to produce ketones as an alternative energy source for the brain.
The low-carbohydrate, moderate-protein, high-fat diet puts the body in a metabolic state of ketosis, which means the body burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.
The keto diet typically limits carbohydrate intake to 20 to 50 grams daily and increases fat consumption to achieve ketosis. This often includes healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty cuts of meat while limiting or avoiding high-carbohydrate foods like whole grains, sugar, and starchy vegetables.
This type of macronutrient intake forces the body to use fat as its primary fuel source and produce ketone bodies, molecules that are made in the liver when the body breaks down fat.
Ketones provide more adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules per unit of oxygen consumed. Cells use ATP to store and transport energy––the more ATP produced, the more energy the cells have to perform their functions.
With a standard diet, the body converts carbohydrates into glucose as an energy source for most cells. However, glucose requires more oxygen to produce ATP than ketones, so cells need to work harder to create the same amount of energy.
One way to make the transition to a low-carbohydrate diet easier is by incorporating keto-friendly foods into your diet. That’s where Dr. Kellyann’s keto-friendly collection comes in. This collection of high-quality, keto-friendly foods and supplements can support your body’s transition into ketosis and makes sticking to a keto diet more enjoyable.
It’s worth noting here that starting the keto diet may come with some short-termside effects — specifically, you may experience the “keto flu.” This is a collection of flu-like symptoms that might spring up as your body switches over to ketosis.
If you experience the keto flu, don’t worry — it’s very normal. If you’re worried or your symptoms persist, make sure to see a doctor to discuss whether or not a low-calorie diet is right for you.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic medical condition where the body either cannot produce enough insulin or cannot use it effectively. Insulin is secreted by the pancreas, which plays a crucial role in controlling the body’s blood glucose (sugar) level. When insulin levels are too low or the body develops insulin resistance, glucose builds up in the bloodstream, resulting in high blood sugar levels.
High blood sugar levels can cause damage to the body’s organs and tissues over time. Low blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia, can also occur in people with diabetes who take certain medications to lower their blood sugar levels.
There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.
Type I Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a condition in which the immune system attacks cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, and without it, the body cannot use glucose for energy effectively. Those with type 1 diabetes require lifelong insulin therapy.
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults but can occur at any age. Its exact cause is unknown, but genetics and environmental factors may play a role. Some common symptoms of type 1 diabetes include frequent urination, increased thirst, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, and blurred vision.
Managing type 1 diabetes requires closely monitoring blood sugar levels, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and using insulin therapy. Failure to manage type 1 diabetes can generally lead to serious health issues such as nerve damage, kidney disease, vision loss, and cardiovascular disease.
Type II Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes mellitus affects how the body processes blood sugar (glucose). Type 2 diabetes generally occurs because of genetic and lifestyle factors, such as obesity and physical inactivity.
This type of diabetes occurs when the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin to regulate glucose absorption into cells or resists the effects of insulin, leading to abnormal blood sugar levels. Instead of being absorbed into the cells, glucose can build up in the bloodstream, leading to various health problems over time.
Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of adult cases. Lifestyle changes, such as engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, and losing weight, can often help manage this form of diabetes. Some with Type 2 may also need oral medications or insulin injections to help manage their blood sugar levels.
This type of diabetes occurs during pregnancy when the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin. The result is high glucose levels in the bloodstream, which can lead to complications for the mother and baby.
Women who are overweight, have a family history of diabetes, or have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after delivery, but women with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
How Can Keto Benefit Those With Diabetes?
The ketogenic diet can benefit those with diabetes in several ways. However, working with a healthcare provider to adjust insulin doses and monitor blood sugar levels while on the diet is vital.
While the ketogenic diet isn’t a cure for diabetes, it can be a valuable tool for supporting overall health alongside medical instruction.
Supports Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
The ketogenic diet supports healthy blood sugar levels in several ways, making it a promising option for those with diabetes. First, the diet restricts carbohydrate intake, which can help support healthy blood sugar levels and glycemic control.
When carbohydrates are limited, the body produces fewer insulin hormones to regulate blood sugar. Ketosis can support proper insulin sensitivity, which describes how much insulin it takes to move glucose into cells.
By encouraging healthy blood sugar levels, the ketogenic diet can help those with diabetes support their health more effectively.
Supports a Healthy Metabolism
Encouraging the body to use fat instead of carbs for energy can also support a healthy metabolism and encourage weight loss. The ketogenic diet can also help support healthy levels of other metabolic markers, such as high blood pressure and triglycerides.
A low-carb, high-fat diet can support healthy HDLcholesterol levels while also supporting healthy levels of LDL cholesterol, which can help protect against heart disease.
Encourages Weight Loss
The ketogenic diet can effectively support weight loss by prompting the body to use fat instead of carbohydrates as a primary energy source. Excess body weight is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, and shedding weight can support healthy insulin sensitivity and blood sugar management.
Moreover, following a low-carb, high-fat diet like the ketogenic diet may stave off appetite and cravings, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Plus, cutting out carbs can help you eat more nutrient-dense foods like leafy greens, nuts, and fish, which are also great sources of essential fatty acids.
What About Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a medical condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than average but not high enough to be categorized as type 2 diabetes. Without intervention, prediabetes can progress to full-blown diabetes.
To monitor your prediabetes, your doctor may order blood tests for insulin, glucose, and hbA1c.
The ketogenic diet can help support the health of those with prediabetes by addressing the underlying issues that cause insulin resistance. The lower carbohydrate intake means that there’s less glucose triggering insulin production, and sticking with it can help to reset your insulin sensitivity.
The Bottom Line
The ketogenic diet shows promise in addressing symptoms of diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. While more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects and risks of a low-carb diet, it may be able to help support healthy blood sugar alongside diabetes medication and healthcare.
As with any dietary changes, consult your healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your diet.
If you’re looking for keto meal plan ideas and ways to enjoy your favorite foods while sticking to a keto diet, Dr. Kellyann can help. With a wide selection of keto-friendly bone broths, smoothies, and shakes, we can help you satisfy your cravings while still pursuing your health.
Ketogenic Diet Benefits to Weight Loss, Glycemic Control, and Lipid Profiles in Overweight Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials | National Library of Medicine