People who are obese can reduce their risk of developing diabetes by eating a balanced, nutritious diet. Following a diet that is full of vitamins and minerals and low in added sugars and unhealthful fats can help people to lose some of the extra weight.
People who lose 5-10 percent of their body weight can lower their risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent. For people with diabetes or people with pre-diabetes, losing the same amount of body weight can help provide a noticeable improvement in blood sugar.
For some people, the ketogenic diet is an effective way to control their diabetes. It has been shown to lower blood glucose levels as well as reduce weight.
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What is the ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet involves eating foods high in fat such as meat, fish, nuts and cheese, and eating a very low amount of carbohydrates.
Foods containing carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, and fruit, are the body's main fuel source. The body breaks the food down and uses the resulting sugar (glucose) for energy.
A ketogenic diet is a high-fat, very low carbohydrate diet. It was initially developed and recommended for children with epilepsy.
The diet recommends that people eat 30 grams (g) of carbohydrates or below per day. The goal is to eat 3 to 4 g of fat for every 1 g of carbohydrate and protein.
Impact on blood sugar levels
Because the ketogenic diet restricts carbohydrates, there is not enough sugar available for the body to use as fuel, so it resorts to using fat. The process of breaking down fat is called "ketosis," and it produces a fuel source called ketones.
A ketogenic diet helps some people with type 2 diabetes because it allows the body to maintain glucose levels at a low but healthy level. The reduced amount of carbohydrates in the diet helps eliminate large spikes in blood sugar, reducing the need for insulin.
Studies surrounding ketogenic diets have found that they can be helpful in the reduction of HbA1c. This is a 3-month average of blood glucose levels.
Impact on need for medication
Ketogenic diets may help to reduce blood sugar levels. As such, some people with type 2 diabetes following a ketogenic diet may be able to reduce their medication.
However, those following the ketogenic diet, as well as an insulin regimen, may be more at risk of developing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar levels fall to 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less.
Impact on weight
The ketogenic diet helps the body burn fat, which is beneficial when trying to lose weight. This may be helpful for those with type 2 diabetes, as well as prediabetes.
Research has shown that people undertaking a ketogenic diet show an improvement in blood sugar level management. They have also been shown to experience noticeable weight loss.
Potential side effects
Some short-term side effects of the ketogenic diet may be mental fogginess, fatigue, and headaches.
The ketogenic diet may be a viable treatment option for some people with type 2 diabetes. However, it does have some potential side effects.
Short-term side effects
As the ketogenic diet entails switching to a different source of energy, it can lead to some side effects. These may include:
- loss of salts
- noticeable change in bowel habits, such as constipation
- uncomfortable leg cramps
- noticeable loss of energy
- mental fogginess
- frequent urination
In most instances, the side effects are just temporary and people experience no long-term problems.
Long-term side effects
Children may also experience stunted growth due to reduced levels of an insulin-like growth factor that can lead to bone erosion. This can mean weak bones that are highly susceptible to fractures.
Benefits of ketogenic diet
The ketogenic diet can lead to a variety of other benefits including:
- lower blood pressure
- improved insulin sensitivity
- less dependency on medication
- noticeable improvements in cholesterol levels
Ketogenic diets are strict, but they can provide a nutritious diet if followed properly. The idea is to stay away from foods, such as carbohydrates, that could spike insulin levels.
People should focus on developing a diet plan that consists of low carbohydrates, moderate protein, and high-fat content. It is also important to avoid highly-processed foods and indulge in minimally processed and real foods instead.
A ketogenic diet should consist of the following types of food:
- Low carb vegetables: A good rule of thumb is to eat vegetables at every meal. Beware of starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and corn.
- Eggs: Eggs are low in carbohydrates as well as an excellent source of protein.
- Meats: Fatty meats are acceptable but avoid too much protein. A high level of protein combined with low carbohydrates may cause the liver to convert the protein into glucose, causing the person to come out of ketosis.
- Healthy fat sources, such as avocados, nuts and seeds, olive oil.
- Fish: A good source of protein.
Alternatives to the ketogenic diet
A healthcare professional may help to choose the correct healthful eating plan for people with type 2 diabetes.
The ketogenic diet is one healthful eating plan that may help people with diabetes, but there are other diets that may also help.
The Atkins diet is another low-carbohydrate eating plan developed in 1972 by cardiologist Robert C. Atkins.
Similar to the ketogenic diet, the Atkins diet focuses on restricting carbs and eating plenty of protein and fats. Dr. Atkins demonstrated how a reduction in carbohydrates and sugar could help control type 2 diabetes.
The Atkins diet doesn't involve counting calories but instead focuses on tracking carbs. It is one of the first diets identified to help control type 2 diabetes. The Atkins diet can also help to control cholesterol levels.
The diet entails four stages. The first involves sticking to 20 g of carbohydrates per day. Each phase focuses on gradually increasing the range of foods.
The final phase involves putting tips for lifetime maintenance into practice. In this way, it is a lifestyle change rather than a diet.
Criticisms of the use of ketosis
Critics of the Atkins and ketogenic diets argue that a diet focused on ketosis is too excessive. This is because they believe prolonged exposure to ketones may potentially lead to kidney damage.
It is also difficult to maintain these types of diets long-term because they are so restrictive of carbohydrates. It may also lead to weight gain later, particularly if a person starts to eat carbohydrates again in an unbalanced manner.
Regardless of the diet chosen, a healthful eating plan is essential for people with type 2 diabetes.
A doctor or dietitian can help an individual choose the plan that best fits their lifestyle. It is also important that people find a diet that works for them and makes them feel good.
The ketogenic and the Atkins diet may not be right for all people. However, it is hard to deny that they do promote weight loss and can help to regulate blood glucose levels.
Both of these things are beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes and can help them to manage their condition.