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Low-Carb or Keto Diet: Which Is Better for Type 2 Diabetes?

Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen · Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Ira Sagad · Updated Apr 20, 2022

    Low-Carb or Keto Diet: Which Is Better for Type 2 Diabetes?

    Diabetes is a metabolic condition that is characterized by the presence of high glucose levels in the bloodstream. Because of the important role of controlling consumption of carbohydrates in managing diabetes, you might ask, “Low-carb diet vs keto? Which is better?” We take a closer look at the answer.

    Diabetes, Glucose and Carbohydrates

    When you consume carbohydrates, the digestive system breaks it down into glucose, which then enters your blood and is metabolized to produce energy. Under normal circumstances, your body will be able to effectively use the glucose in your blood. However, in diabetes, this  cannot be done because of either impaired insulin production or a high insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that plays a role in the absorption of glucose into your tissues. And without it, there will be a buildup of glucose in your blood.

    This increase in blood glucose levels, when not treated adequately, eventually results in adverse effects that may range from mild to life-threatening, which is why it is important for people with diabetes to watch their sugar intake and regularly monitor their blood glucose. One of the most effective approaches in the management of diabetes is diet modification, which involves restricting the consumption of carbohydrates.

    The Role of Diet in Type 2 Diabetes

    Low-carb and keto diets are two popular weight loss diets which enable you to limit your carbohydrate consumption. A low-carb diet restricts carbohydrate intake to about 10 to 30% of your overall daily calories. If you are following a low-carb diet, you must cut back on foods high in carbohydrates, such as whole grains and root vegetables, but must increase your intake of protein and healthy fats.

    Keto diet, on the other hand, limits your carbohydrate to about 50 grams each day. The goal of keto diet is to achieve a state of “nutritional ketosis,” in which your body uses fat as a source of energy instead of carbohydrates. In keto diet, your body will produce “ketones” as a byproduct of fat metabolism.

    Low-Carb Diet vs Keto

    Let’s talk about low-carb diet vs keto diet in the management of type 2 diabetes.

    Low-carb diet has shown benefits in people with type 2 diabetes. Research suggests that following a low-carb diet helps in weight loss – an important aspect in restoring blood sugar within the normal range. A low-carb diet is also effective in lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Both are factors that play an important role in diabetes management and in achieving overall health.

    Similarly, studies show that people with type 2 diabetes can benefit from keto diet. Keto diet, like low-carb diet, helps in weight loss. In addition, being in a state of nutritional ketosis helps lower the body’s insulin requirements because there is not too much glucose to absorb. One study concluded that people with type 2 diabetes who followed the keto diet for a year achieved a lower glycohemoglobin – a measure of glucose in the blood – and relied on less medication to control their glucose.

    While both low-carb and keto diet help restrict carbohydrate consumption, both diet plans require a regular assessment. Moreover, these meal plans may not be suitable for certain groups of patients, such as people with type 1 diabetes, pregnant or lactating women, patients with kidney disease, and patients suffering from eating disorders. Lastly, there is little data available about these diets’ long-term safety, efficacy, and sustainability.

    Low-Carb Diet vs Keto? No Quick Answers for Diabetes

    Given this data, the latest recommendations for the management of type 2 diabetes do not support any special diets. An individualized evaluation of treatment goals and current eating patterns must be done. That way, doctors and nutritionists can come up with a diet plan that would be best for each individual.

    While there are a number of dietary approaches that can be explored in the management of diabetes, emphasis should always be placed on the importance of the source of carbohydrate. Choosing nutrient-dense, high-fiber carbohydrates is best. Likewise, limiting consumption of high-sugar products such as sweetened beverages.

    Before choosing a low-carb diet vs keto or beginning any diet, it is best to speak with your healthcare team. Both of these diets can significantly reduce your blood sugar levels, and your doctor might need to adjust the dosing or frequency of your current medications to avoid hypoglycemia.

    Key Takeaway

    Low-carb diet vs keto? There are no simple answers when it comes to diabetes management. Both diets come with signficant risks. Your doctor will best be able to answer if either of these diets is right for you.

    Sticking to diabetes management basics is probably best. Being mindful of both the amount and source of carbohydrates in your diet can have positive effects on health. This includes improved metabolic control, prevention of complications, and reducing diabetes-associated mortality.

    Learn more about Type 2 Diabetes here.


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

    Expertly reviewed by

    Chris Icamen

    Dietetics and Nutrition

    Written by Ira Sagad · Updated Apr 20, 2022

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