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What is Ketosis and How is it Connected to Diabetes?

What is Ketosis and How is it Connected to Diabetes?

Ketosis might be a term that’s familiar to you if you’ve read up on, or even tried the ketogenic diet. And you might have chanced upon it if you’ve read up on diabetes. But what exactly is ketosis? And what is its relationship with diabetes?

What is ketosis?

In order to understand what is ketosis, we first need to understand how the body gets energy.

Typically, our body takes advantage of carbohydrates, which the body breaks down to simple sugars that cells can utilize for energy. But what if you’re not eating enough carbohydrates? What’s going to happen?

First, your body will try to use up the glycogen found in the liver in order to provide energy. When the stores of glycogen are not enough, the body utilizes an alternative source of fuel known as ketone bodies or ketones. This state is what’s known as ketosis1. It’s a way for the body to still get energy even if it is starving.

Though, the ketogenic or keto diet tries to induce this by only eating specific foods and taking out carbohydrates in the diet.

How is ketosis related to the ketogenic diet?

The goal of the keto diet is to keep the body in ketosis. This is because when the body is in this state, it also starts to break down fats, which are then converted to ketone bodies. This means that constantly being in a ketogenic state can help a person lose weight.

This happens whenever the body is deprived of carbohydrates, and this is the reason why the ketogenic diet takes out most sources of carbs in the diet.

There is still a lot of debate ongoing as to whether or not the keto diet is safe, especially when done long-term. However, ketosis is generally safe for most people, though it is still a good idea to consult your doctor before going on this type of diet.

But what happens if your body has too much of these ketones? Can it cause serious problems?

What is diabetic ketoacidosis?

As with most things in the body, too many ketones can be harmful. This is because having too much ketones in the blood can drastically change its pH level. Persons with diabetes are particularly at risk for this condition, called diabetic ketoacidosis2.

This means that there are too much ketones in the blood that it starts to lower the blood pH beyond the safe levels. And this condition can be extremely dangerous3.

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious problem among persons with type 1 diabetes. This can happen if they don’t take enough insulin, and the levels of sugar in their blood drastically go up4. But since there is not enough insulin to make use of this sugar, the body thinks that it is starving. What it does is it starts to produce ketones instead, and this combination can be very dangerous.

This is why diabetics also need to take note of their ketone levels. Thankfully, there are glucometers that can also test for levels of ketones in the body. By using these devices, diabetics can stay on top of both their blood sugar levels and ketone levels.

It is also important to know that even non-diabetics can experience ketoacidosis5. In particular, there has been a case of a lactating woman with a low-carb diet, who experienced ketoacidosis. However, this is an extremely rare condition that can be caused by starvation.

Key Takeaways

Knowing what is ketosis and how it relates to diabetes and ketoacidosis can allow people to take better care of themselves. In particular, persons with diabetes can greatly benefit from this information, since they are more prone to the risks of diabetic ketoacidosis. Always consult your doctor.

Learn more information about Diabetes Complications here.

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Sources
  1. Ketogenic Diet – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/, Accessed November 25, 2021
  2. Ketones :: Diabetes Education Online, https://dtc.ucsf.edu/types-of-diabetes/type2/understanding-type-2-diabetes/how-the-body-processes-sugar/ketones/, Accessed November 25, 2021
  3. Diabetes and Ketones, https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-and-ketones.html, Accessed November 25, 2021
  4. Diabetic ketoacidosis – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-ketoacidosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20371551#:~:text=Diabetic%20ketoacidosis%20is%20a%20serious,can’t%20produce%20enough%20insulin., Accessed November 25, 2021
  5. Ketoacidosis associated with low-carbohydrate diet in a non-diabetic lactating woman: a case report, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4591635/, Accessed November 25, 2021
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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated 2 days ago
Fact Checked by Kristel Lagorza