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Keto Diet: Is It The Solution To Diabetes?

Medically reviewed by Janie-Vi Villamor Ismael-Gorospe, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Fred Layno · Updated Aug 20, 2022

    Keto Diet: Is It The Solution To Diabetes?

    The Ketogenic diet or “Keto diet” is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate eating plan originally used to treat epilepsy in children. It requires you to eat only a small amount of carbohydrates per day, around 30 grams or below. And for this reason, the Keto diet has recently become popular for weight loss. The diet is also recommended in cases of cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.  In particular, for people suffering from type 1 and type 2 diabetes, this diet can help in lowering the body’s demand for insulin. 

    How Does a Ketogenic Diet Work? 

    When on a keto diet, your blood glucose levels are maintained at a low but healthy level. In doing so, your body is encouraged to get its energy from stored body fat. Doing so produces chemicals known as ketone bodies which act as an alternative fuel source. This process of breaking down body fat is known as ketosis. 

    Ketosis and the burning of body fat helps with weight loss. They can also benefit people who are at risk of type 2 diabetes or already have prediabetes. Since an excess of carbohydrates also leads to high blood glucose levels, a keto diet aims to maintain a low consumption of carbohydrates while keeping a moderate intake of protein and food with high fat content.

    This will determine the nutrient density of the ketogenic diet as well as how to follow it. Different kinds of food will have different effects on insulin and blood sugar levels.

    There are various types of keto diets. These depend on the amount of carbohydrates and proteins an individual is allowed to eat, or the time they have to spend in ketosis. 

    Note that some types of keto diets have been designed specifically for athletes. Make sure to talk to your doctor first to see if the diet fits your lifestyle or if there are any precautions you should be aware of before starting the diet. 

    keto diet

    Benefits of a Keto Diet

    Aside from weight loss, going through a keto diet helps lower blood glucose, and reduces one’s reliance on diabetes medication. A keto diet also helps to: 

    • Lower high blood pressure
    • Reduce triglyceride levels to help prevent risks of heart attack, stroke and pancreatitis. 
    • Raise levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (also known as the “good cholesterol”
    • Improve mental performance

    Studies on Keto Diet and Diabetes

    Some clinicians may recommend low-carb and ketogenic diets. But if you are considering a keto diet, you should still find out if reducing intake of carbohydrates is appropriate for your lifestyle. Currently there is still debate as to whether a keto diet is effective and safe for those who are obese or have diabetes. 

    According to a 2013 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the keto diet may be beneficial for type 2 diabetes patients as it helps to better manage blood sugar levels. The lower intake of carbs prevents large spikes in blood sugar, which reduces the need for insulin. 

    While this is true for some people, a low-carbohydrate diet may not be appropriate for all. People with type 2 diabetes still need to watch out for the risk of cardiovascular problems. Also, there are still doubts whether a long-term, low-carbohydrate diet is feasible. 

    For individuals with type 1 diabetes, studies show no evidence that keto diets can prevent the onset of the disease. While it can improve metabolic control, there is still the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) occurring. DKA is a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when there are too many ketones in the body. 

    However, if you have Type 1 Diabetes and would like to try out the keto diet, always seek guidance from your doctor and nutritionist.

    The impact of the keto diet on the growth of children is also still unknown. 

    Is Keto Safe for Diabetics? 

    Experts say that while diets like keto work in some cases, people with diabetes should not quickly jump at the good news. “First, the studies are too small to make sense of the differences between the groups,” says Michael J Gonzalez-Campoy, MD, PhD, medical director and CEO of the Minnesota Center for Obesity, Metabolism, and Endocrinology. 

    “We recommend against ‘dieting’, which is invariably a short-term solution,” Dr. Gonzalez-Campoy says, “and since weight loss may be accomplished by a reduction in calories by any means, a ketogenic diet that restricts carbs is simply shifting the calories away from foods that typically demand insulin…”

    For diabetes and weight management, Dr. Gonzalez-Campoy instead recommends portion control and making sure that food items in every meal are fresh or made from fresh ingredients.

    Learn more about Diabetes here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Janie-Vi Villamor Ismael-Gorospe, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Fred Layno · Updated Aug 20, 2022

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