Keto Diet and Type 2 Diabetes: Health Benefits and Drawbacks

Keto Diet and Type 2 Diabetes: Health Benefits and Drawbacks

The role of carbohydrates is to act as a fuel for different bodily processes; however, for people battling Type 2 diabetes, carbohydrates might lead to a spike in blood glucose levels. This usually happens because diabetes lowers the body's capacity to use carbohydrates effectively. 

Therefore, when it comes to diabetes, monitoring one's diet can be very crucial. Here is where the benefits of the keto diet gain our attention. In this article, we shall discover the link between diabetes and the keto diet and tell you how keto regulates your condition. 

What is a ketogenic diet? 

A keto diet is a very low-carb, high-fat, and moderate-protein diet. This diet aims to restrict carbohydrates to 20 to 50 grams per day. Other than famously being used as a weight loss tool, this diet has also proved beneficial for managing Type 2 diabetes up to some extent. 

Studies show that a Keto diet can improve your glycemic control and insulin sensitivity. It has a therapeutic effect on weight and glycemic control. Taking a closer dig at the diet, it changes the way your body uses fuel. While on one hand, you cut back on carbs, on the other you include heart-healthy fats like eggs, nuts, avocado, and seeds, among others. 

It shifts the regular eating pattern from carbohydrates to fats. The Keto diet forces your body to utilise fat as energy instead of carbs. With the help of this diet, our body breaks down stored fats to produce ketones, which act as the fuel source.

Ketosis is a natural metabolic state.  Overnight sleep, short-term or long-term fasting, and increased physical activity can generate ketosis. In other words, when the body burns fat instead of glucose for energy; the breakdown of products of fat are ketones and the process is called ketosis. 

Ketones are also produced naturally every day in small amounts, while a person sleeps. However, when you follow a ketogenic diet by lowering your carbohydrate intake, you induce a state of ‘nutritional ketosis’. In this state, your glucose and insulin levels reduce and you receive other metabolic benefits. It takes around 2 to 4 weeks for the body to adjust and adapt to these changes.

Ideal food types to consider while on keto

Meal planning on a keto diet can be difficult for many people. Here is a list of nutritious foods that will keep you full during keto. 

  • Green leafy and non-starchy vegetables 

Vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, okra, mushrooms, broccoli, bell peppers, gourd vegetables, green beans, green onions, and leafy greens such as spinach, lettuce, and fenugreek, to name a few, are your perfect partner during a keto diet

  • Fish, meat and egg

Fish like tuna, salmon, and mackerel are a perfect go-to for keto. Eggs are low on carbs and an excellent source of protein. Fatty cuts of meats like lamb and pork belly are a versatile food option for keto dieters.

  • Dairy products 

Dairy products like yoghurt, cream cheese, sour cream, and heavy cream are a staple of ketogenic diets. 

  • Seeds and nuts

These are rich in fibre and magnesium. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, macadamia, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, melon seeds, sunflower seeds and flax seeds are good choices. 

Benefits of Keto diet on Type 2 diabetes

A Keto diet has several benefits and can be considered as a diabetic diet. Here is the list of advantages:

  • Decreases blood glucose levels

The keto diet has a positive impact on blood glucose levels. When a person already has high blood sugar, then too many carbs can be threatening. High carbohydrate consumption can spike your blood sugar levels, hence managing carbs in Type 2 diabetes is often advised. 

Restricting carbohydrates can help reduce blood sugar levels. Each diabetic person has a unique carbohydrate tolerance. Generally, a person with diabetes consumes 45% to 65% of calories from carbs. According to a clinical study, a patient can benefit from limiting their carb intake to 26% of daily calories in a diabetic friendly diet. 

  • Improvement in body weight

A keto diet may yield a higher rate of weight loss. According to studies, losing above 10% of your body weight may help with complete Type 2 diabetes remission. By reducing carb intake, one can promote the process of ketosis wherein the body burns fat rather than carbs as a source of energy. Losing weight forms an important factor in Type 2 diabetes management.

  • Drastic reduction in triglycerides

Triglycerides or the fat molecules that are present in the bloodstream are potential causes of diabetes. The presence of high triglycerides in the blood adds to the risk of heart disease. However, a low-carb diet like keto is linked to a significant reduction in triglyceride levels. 

  • Lowers insulin levels and improves glycemic control

Insulin resistance is associated with a variety of bodily disorders like obesity and Type 2 diabetes. One of the ways to significantly improve glycemic control can be by restricting carbohydrates. Studies suggest that by limiting or reducing carbs, one can lower insulin levels. Through nutritional ketosis, your body will need and produce less insulin. 

Some potential side effects

Along with several benefits, there are a few side effects which might occur in a few cases.  

  • Hypoglycemia

A keto diet is shown to lower blood sugar levels and help with the need for medication. However, in some cases, insufficient carbohydrate consumption might cause low blood sugar. This condition is known as hypoglycemia. It usually results when a diabetic follows a keto diet alongside insulin medication. The advice of the doctor is required to monitor the condition well.

  • Increased risk of heart disease

Diabetes patients are already exposed to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. While the keto diet has been shown to improve blood glucose, lower insulin levels, decrease inflammation, and lower HDL levels, the lingering concern is that long-term high fat intake is detrimental to heart health. Some people experience a rise in LDL levels on keto. Hence, it is always to follow the diet under medical supervision. 

  • Weak bones

A 2020 study showed that a keto diet for a few weeks leads to a decrease in markers of bone and an increase in markers of bone breakdown. A keto diet may affect bone health and might lead to impaired bones. Reduced levels of insulin may cause weak bone breakdown and the risk of getting more bone fractures. This may also lead to bone erosion. Therefore, people with weak bones need to consult a doctor before starting the diet. 

The bottom line

Based on the available literature, a ketogenic diet is a specialised dietary intervention meant for certain populations who have diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome. Though studies highlight some promising benefits. However, there are some negative effects of higher consumption of dietary fats. So if you're thinking of adopting this diet while being a diabetic, your safest bid is to consult with a doctor and then start with the diet.


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