Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body cannot regulate blood sugar levels properly, either because cells do not respond to insulin or because the pancreas does not produce enough insulin.
It is a serious and progressive condition that can be managed with diet, exercise, and medication.
A ketogenic diet has been shown to have many benefits for those with type 2 diabetes as it helps control both blood glucose and weight loss; it also reduces appetite, so people are less likely to overeat. (1)
When combined with an appropriate dose of medication and regular physical activity, this diet may help you achieve better glycemic control than taking medications alone. (1)
This article will discuss how type 2 diabetes is managed with the ketogenic diet and what outcomes one may expect.
What is the keto diet?
The ketogenic diet is a type of nutritional program in which the body produces ketones to generate energy.
This type of diet aims to increase blood levels of ketone bodies for use as fuel rather than glucose, hence its name “ketogenic” or keto.
Ketones are produced in the liver from fat, and when ketones levels are high enough, they can be used as energy instead of glucose. When this happens, you go into a state called “ketosis,” hence how this type of diet got its name.
You can call this type of eating plan a low carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet. It typically restricts carbohydrate consumption to less than 50 grams of carbs and encourages people to eat more fats, which the body will use for energy.
Understanding Why Keto Works
Type 2 diabetes often accompanies obesity, and the high-fat ketogenic diet might seem like it doesn’t help.
The ketogenic diet regulates blood sugar and insulin levels by using fat for energy in place of carbohydrates or glucose. The keto diet provides a lot of your energy from fats and cuts carbs drastically. (1)
In type 2 diabetes, your pancreas either does not produce enough insulin, or cells in the body do not react to the insulin, and glucose cannot be absorbed by muscle and fat tissues.
Keto reduces blood sugar levels as it causes the liver to convert stored triglycerides into ketones that other parts of the body can then use.
The ketogenic diet is one of the most powerful tools for managing type 2 diabetes, but you should always maintain a healthy fat intake through heart-healthy fats.
Some examples include:
- Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
- Fish like salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna
- Meat and poultry (beef, chicken breast, lamb)
- Full-fat dairy (cheese, sour cream)
- Nuts and seeds (macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts)
If you are dairy intolerant, find an alternative to full-fat dairy, such as coconut milk or almond milk.
You should eat a variety of food sources that are high in good fats. However, not all fats are created equal.
How Keto Affects Blood Glucose
Diabetes is not a type of food allergy but instead an issue with how your body processes sugar.
The ketogenic diet has been shown to help type 2 diabetics control blood glucose levels and improve symptoms related to type 2 diabetes.
Some of the benefits that type 2 diabetics can derive from the keto diet are:
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Improved lipid profile
- Weight loss
- Reduced type 2 diabetes medication
Keto reduces blood sugar levels by changing the source of energy from carbohydrates to fat, which helps type 2 diabetics manage type 2 diabetes better.
Your cells need energy to function and go about their daily tasks like repairing damaged tissues or secreting hormones.
Every cell type can use two energy sources for fuel: ketones or glucose.
Ketone bodies are produced in the liver from fat, so this type of diet is often called a low carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) diet.
Therefore, when you are on a ketogenic diet, your cells will have increased access to ketones as a type of fuel and will not depend on glucose.
When ketone levels are high enough, they can be used by the cells in place of glucose, and this type of diet often causes higher ketone levels than found in type 1 diabetics.
People with type 2 diabetes have a pancreas that does not produce enough insulin, or the cells in their bodies do not react to it.
As a result, your blood sugar levels spike, and type 2 diabetics often suffer extreme complications like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, neuropathy, vision problems, and more.
Ketoacidosis is a type of condition that type 1 diabetics experience when the body does not produce enough insulin. Ketoacidosis is different from ketosis as it is often caused by an underlying type 1 diabetes issue and can be fatal in type 1 diabetics if left untreated.
This type of diet has been shown to improve lipid profiles, which leads to type 2 diabetics having better control of type 2 diabetes when compared with high carb type 2 diabetic diets.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is very different as it is not related to the ketogenic diet. Instead, it is caused by elevated blood glucose levels, which triggers insulin release that leads to toxic amounts of acetone or acid buildup in the blood.
Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis type 1 diabetes include:
- Extreme dehydration
- Breathing problems
- Fever and chills
- Stomach pain
- Fast heartbeat
The ketogenic diet is one of the most powerful tools for managing type 2 diabetes, but you should always try to maintain a healthy fat intake through heart-healthy fats.
Some examples include avocados, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, fish like salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna, meat and poultry (beef, chicken breast, lamb), eggs, full-fat dairy (cheese, sour cream), nuts and seeds (macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts).
If you are dairy intolerant, find an alternative such as coconut milk or almond milk. You should eat a variety of food sources that are high in good fats. Not all fats are created equal – avoid trans fat and saturated fat as much as possible.
If you have type 2 diabetes and are interested in trying a keto diet, please consult your doctor first; they can help you understand if this diet is safe for you.
If your doctor gives you the thumbs up, then you’re good to go!