Any diabetic will tell you: following a healthy diet is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle when you have diabetes. While it is contrary to what we traditionally believe to be “healthy”, the ketogenic diet has become increasingly popular among diabetics.
What is the Keto Diet?
The keto diet involves a very high consumption of dietary fats, and very low carbohydrate consumption. Through these nutritional changes, the body reduces its use of glucose for fuel, and increasingly uses ketones (derived from fats). The diet was first used to control epileptic seizures, but there is growing body of research showing positive effects on Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, inflammation1, and diabetes.
Benefits of the Keto Diet for Diabetics
When you are diabetic it is vital to discuss nutritional changes with your doctor prior to starting a new diet. If you are a diabetic considering the ketogenic diet, here are a few potential benefits to bring up with your doctor:
Weight Loss on the Ketogenic Diet
Type 2 diabetes and obesity are closely linked: 90% of people with type 2 diabetes are also overweight or obese. The CDC recommends weight loss as a means to maintaining a healthier body for those struggling with diabetes because it can positively affect blood sugar levels and reduce risks of other related health conditions3.
Because weight loss can have such a dramatic positive impact for those struggling with type 2 diabetes, most of the diets prescribed to diabetics focus on weight loss. The ketogenic diet is no exception, and often leads to substantial weight loss and improved body composition. It’s also interesting to note that the ketogenic diet may contribute to a greater preservation of muscle mass during weight loss than other diets.
Improved Blood Glucose Levels
Most doctors will recommend limiting sugars to diabetic and pre-diabetic patients. The ketogenic diet involves the strict limitation of sugar and other carbohydrates, which can reduce blood sugar spikes immediately after eating. Over time, replacing dietary carbohydrates with fats can reduce blood sugar levels.
Increased Insulin Sensitivity
Another potential benefit of the ketogenic diet is that it is thought to improve insulin sensitivity5,6. Prediabetics and diabetics are often referred to as “insulin resistant” because their muscle, fat, and liver tissues do not respond properly to insulin. When the pancreas can’t meet the body’s need for insulin, excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream, contributing to diabetes and other medical conditions7.
Other Health Benefits of the Keto Diet
Diabetics may also be interested in other health benefits that are commonly associated with the ketogenic diet8. Those on the keto diet may see an improvement in cholesterol levels, mental performance, satiety and food cravings, blood pressure, and yeast infections9.
Many doctors recommend or prescribe the ketogenic diet to diabetic patients, and with good reason! Research shows its benefits in weight loss, blood sugar, and insulin sensitivity, all which are closely related to diabetes.
However because of the complexity and gravity of type 2 diabetes, diabetics must approach the ketogenic diet with extreme caution. It is important to consult your doctor prior to making dietary changes so that they can advise you and closely monitor your health.