Is Keto Diet Good for Diabetics?
Most people with diabetes will ask themselves this question before embarking on the highly popular keto diet. The ketogenic diet was originally designed by Dr. Russell Wilder in 1924 to treat epilepsy, but it didn’t take long for experts to recognize the long-term health benefits associated with low-carb dieting.
Experts in the diabetes community have designed their own variations of the keto diet to not just lose weight but also help with blood glucose levels and insulin levels.
The Keto Diet – A Refresher for People with Diabetes
Simply put, it’s a low-carbohydrate diet that focuses on cutting down on carbohydrates and introducing more fats into the body. Choices of food include avocados, fatty fish, almonds, and peanuts.
The keto diet also prioritizes moderate protein intake by consuming more lean and fatty meats such as chicken breasts and bacon. Those embarking on the keto diet are required to strictly limit their carbohydrate intake. This rule also applies to healthy sources of carbs such as whole grains, milk, and vegetables. The goal is to reduce total carb intake to less than 50 grams of carbohydrate per day – or less than the amount found in a single apple (at 25 grams of carbs).
A growing body of evidence shows that a low carb diet is best suited for managing the symptoms of Type I and Type II diabetes. The restrictive diet has been shown to strongly correlate with healthier blood sugar levels. A study conducted on individuals with diabetes found that consuming less than 90 grams of carbs per day significantly improved blood glucose and there was less likelihood of low blood sugar due to their lower insulin dosages.
Another study of participants on a low-carb diet confirmed that the majority of patients were able to reduce or altogether stop taking their diabetes medication. A recent 2021 study published in BMJ found that keto may be able to bring a person with diabetes into remission. Remission is defined as having an AC1 test result of less than 6.5% or a fasting glucose of under 7.00 mmol/L. However, it has been determined to be an unreliable marker of long-term blood sugar control. It is worth noting that people with Type I and Type II diabetes should work with their doctor and nutritionist to adjust their medications to prevent the risk of hypoglycemia.
Note: These studies looked at the impact of low-carb diets on various health markers, not keto diets specifically. Moreover, participants find it difficult to stick to a ketogenic diet in the long run – which may explain why the results are not consistent when the study sample is conducted over 2 or 3 years.
So for instance, a reduction in carbohydrates has been correlated with improved blood glucose control during the short term (3 months). The same cannot be said about any long-term benefits (1 year).
In other words, the keto diet can lead to improvement in blood glucose and rapid weight loss, but there is no clear indication if the results are carried over in the long run. Most participants stop the keto diet once they’ve achieved their weight goals.
Can We Use Keto to Prevent Diabetes?
There is anecdotal evidence that hints at reversing diabetes with keto diet – but there is no solid evidence available. A meta-analysis of several studies of participants on a keto diet found that after six months, nutritional ketosis improved A1C levels – as long as people adhere to their diabetic medications. However, this reversal effect was not found in people who stopped using their medications. This is why it is hard to attribute the reversal of diabetes to the keto diet alone. Furthermore, the reversal effect was not sustained after 12 months.
Is the Keto Diet Safe for Diabetics
You must be wondering, “is keto dangerous for diabetics” – and there is no definitive answer to this question.
A diabetic who isn’t used to the keto diet may notice the following symptoms:
- Increased dehydration and excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Low blood sugar (by taking certain types of medications for diabetes)
Talk to your doctor before starting a keto diet. Your provider will make necessary medication adjustments to prevent your blood sugar from plummeting. You should also work towards a well-designed diabetic keto diet plan for diabetes management.
It is worth pointing out that some people are more predisposed to some of the serious side effects of the keto diet. This is because a state of ketosis can strain the body’s organs. People who may be at risk of symptoms associated with the keto diet include:
- Pregnant women
- Patients with kidney disease
- Diabetics with Type I diabetes
If you fall under one of the above situations, talk to your doctor before switching to nutritional ketosis to make sure it’s safe for you.
Why is Keto Diet Bad for Diabetics
There are promising studies that show improvement in health markers for the heart – such as improved cholesterol levels – by switching to a ketogenic diet. However, many studies suggest otherwise. One meta-analysis found that the ketogenic diet could increase LDL cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
Patients predisposed to heart disease may want to avoid ketogenic diets altogether or consult with their doctor before switching to it. This is because when someone reduces their carbohydrate intake, they have to increase their fat and dietary protein intake to meet their calorie count for the day. A high-fat diet is not suited to heart health.
There are other concerns suggesting that keto diet may not be good for diabetics in the long run because it is hard to predict how low the blood sugar levels will drop. More research is needed to study the long-term impact of the ketogenic diet. The current body of research is mostly limited to under 12 months and experts need to take a look at other health conditions associated with diabetes such as cardiovascular disease.
Mover, a high-fat diet can negatively affect how our body processes carbohydrates. A 1927 study compared participants on a high-fat diet for only 2 days compared to those who ate regularly. It was found that a high-fat diet significantly results in blood sugar spikes once they started eating carbs. This was confirmed in a more recent 2000 study published in Atherosclerosis.
Therefore, it is important for diabetics to consider the long-term effect of the ketogenic diet. Blood sugars will improve when someone regulates their intake of carbohydrates. More research is needed before the scientific community can arrive at a conclusive consensus.
Based on the above studies, keto can be a healthy diet that goes a long way in improving insulin sensitivity for patients with type I and II diabetes. But there is a catch.
The Difference Between Keto and Diabetes Diet
Although nutritional ketosis is the popular form of low-carb diets available today, it is not the only option for diabetics. You should work with a dietician and your doctors to create a diabetic keto diet plan to manage your symptoms.
Diabetes Diet and its Risks
In general, a diabetics diet focuses on eating nutritional foods, including carbohydrates. The duet should include lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, high-fiber food, and other energy sources. Moreover, diabetics are advised to avoid junk food because it can disrupt their blood sugar levels.
The overall risk profile of a diabetic diet is minimal as long as you consult with your doctor and registered dietician.
Keto Diet and Risks
It is possible for the ketogenic diet to induce ketoacidosis. Note that despite the similarity in their names, ketosis and ketoacidosis are two different conditions. The low-carb high-fat diet depletes the body of sufficient carbs, which results in ketone formation to power the body. This process is known as ketosis.
Ketoacidosis is a condition when the body has dangerously high levels of ketones, and is often a complication associated with type I diabetes. Ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition that increases the pH value of the blood and disrupts the normal functioning of key organs such as the liver and kidneys. It is a dangerous condition that develops due to excessively high levels of ketones. if not treated early, ketoacidosis can prove to be fatal.
Keto Shakes for Diabetics
If you’ve decided to hop on the keto diet, then keto shakes should be your go-to solution for nutrition intake. Ketone shakes for diabetes are easy to make and great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They are also ideal for use at the gym (both pre- and post- workout) to help with muscle recovery.
We’ve narrowed down our pick of the best keto shakes for diabetes here:
- Diabetic Friendly Friendly Blueberry Lemon
Ingredients are as follows:
1/4 cup of blueberries
1 tsp Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp of lemon zest
2 tbsp of Cream Cheese
Directions: Toss all ingredients in a blender and process the mixture until it is smooth. Enjoy!
- Low Carb Avocado Shake
The ingredients are as follows:
Half of a large avocado
1/2 cup of strawberries
Half cup of ice
1/4 cup of fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 cup of coconut milk
1/2 cup of water
1 scoop of Stevita Extra Sweet Organic Stevia
Direction: Toss all ingredients in a blender at high speed until you get a smooth mixture. Enjoy!
- Green Tea Smoothie (low carb)
Ingredients are as follow:
1 tbsp of Matcha green tea powder
2 ¼ tbsp of keto sweetener
1 tbsp of mint extract
Directions: Mix hot water with green tea powder until it forms a thick paste. Toss all the ingredients and green tea paste in a blender and process until the mixture has s smooth consistency. The mint extract is used to make the smoothie more delicious.
Quick Question: Are keto pills safe for diabetics?
We recommend sticking to a ketogenic nutritional plan instead of using keto pills, especially if you are not entirely sure of the ingredients used in making them.
Wrapping Up: Is Keto Good for Diabetics?
There is no one-word answer to suggest that keto for diabetics is a good or bad idea. In general, most clinical studies suggest that it may be difficult for participants to adhere to the keto diet in the long run. This is why there the literature studying the long-term impact of the keto diet on diabetics is limited.
However, switching to a keto diet is ideal for glycemic control, especially in the short run. Just make sure to stay in touch with your doctor and nutrition on a regular basis to monitor your health markers.
We hope this blog answered the question, “are keto diets safe for diabetics”.