Ketogenic diet is extremely successful in achieving the two most common yet important aims of diabetes control, lowering blood glucose levels and reducing weight. Let’s get to know more about this ketogenic diet for diabetes.
What is the ketogenic diet?
A ketogenic diet has very low carbohydrate content. When you follow a ketogenic diet, you consume nearly 30 mg or less carbohydrate each day. When the body has an inadequate amount of carbohydrate to produce energy, it starts using fat as a source of energy which helps in lowering down the body’s requirement of insulin. Burning fat for energy results in production of ketones. Therefore, this diet is known as ketogenic diet.
This diet is known to be extremely beneficial for people with diabetes type I and II. However, it is important to consult a doctor before starting this diet.
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How a ketogenic diet for diabetes works?
When a person is on a ketogenic diet, its blood glucose level is maintained low but within the healthy level that encourages the body to burn fat for producing energy. On burning fat, there is production of ketones and the process known as ketosis. Those people who are on ketogenic diet will typically require a lesser dose of insulin which will go a long way in avoiding the risk of large dosing errors.
This diet helps the body in burning body fat and hence is particularly advantageous for people who are looking to shed some weight, and those who are at a higher risk of developing prediabetes and those who are at a higher risk of developing type II diabetes.
Understanding “high-fat” in the Ketogenic Diet for Diabetes
There are many people with type 2 diabetes who are obese or overweight. For these people, it is not recommended to consume fat rich diet. Ketogenic diet utilizes fat as a source of energy instead of glucose and complex carbohydrate. A person who is following keto diet derives most of its energy from fat instead of carbohydrates.
This does not mean that you should start loading up on saturated fats though. The key to maintaining a healthy life is consuming heart healthy fats. Some of the healthy foods that can be consumed while on ketogenic diet include:
- fish such as salmon
- olives and olive oil
- cottage cheese
- nuts and nut butter
How to follow a ketogenic diet?
Following a ketogeni diet is easy. All you must do is understand the basic fact that carbohydrate is the primary macronutrient found in your food that is responsible for increasing your blood glucose level. Therefore, main goal of ketogenic diet is to reduce the consumption of carbohydrates, with moderate consumption of proteins and high amount of fat.
Which Foods to Eat in A Ketogenic Diet?
There are several types of ketogenic diet which vary in the amount of protein and carbohydrate allowed in the diet. Another distinguishing factor is the amount of time a person is willing to spend in ketosis. This is because some of the ketogenic diets are designed especially for people who are athletes or have a vigorous workout routine.
Advantages of a Ketogenic Diet for Diabetes
Burning fat results in production of ketones in the body that has been found to assist weight loss, lower blood glucose level and decrease people’s dependence on anti-diabetic medicines.
Following are some of the advantages of ketogenic diet:
- Reducing high blood pressure
- Raising HDL cholesterol levels (a good sign of heart health)
- Improving mental performance
- Reducing triglyceride levels
Side effects of a Ketogenic Diet for Diabetes
Whenever you make a change in your dietary habits, there is a short window of time in which your body adapts to it. With ketogenic diet this window is especially crucial because the body must switch from carbohydrate as a source of energy to fat. When this happens, it is not uncommon to observe a few side effects known as ‘Keto-Flu’ for nearly 4 weeks. After that, the body fully adapts to the new diet plan and your blood glucose levels gets under control.
Do I Need to Measure Ketones?
You can achieve significant blood glucose level control and weight loss even by a slight state of ketosis. There are a few ways by which you can measure the levels of ketones in your body- blood, breath or urine, with each method having their own pros and cons.
Effects of Keto Diet on Blood Glucose
By following a ketogenic diet, you can decrease your blood glucose level. For people with type II diabetes, it is recommended to count the number of carbohydrates in a day because carbohydrates are converted into glucose. This can result in potential spikes in blood glucose level which will continue to remain high when a person has unmanaged diabetes. Therefore, eating too much of carbohydrates is dangerous for people with diabetes. By making a switch to fat as a source of energy, people see a reduction in the blood glucose level.
Potential Dangers of Ketogenic Diet
When you change your body’s primary source of energy from carbohydrate to fat, here is increase in the level of ketones in the body. This dietary ketosis is a lot different from ketoacidosis which is a much graver situation. When there are a lot of ketones in the body, you put yourself at a high risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), especially if you have type I diabetes. If you are ill and you start a keto diet, your chances of developing DKA are more.
While following a keto diet, make sure that you test your blood glucose level throughout the day and make sure it is within range. You can also try to test the level of ketones in your body and determine whether you are at a high risk of developing DKA.
As per the American Diabetes Association , diabetic patients should test the levels of ketones using a urine strip at home if their blood glucose level is higher than 240 mg/dL.
DKA is a condition of medical emergency and therefore, you and your family must be aware of the symptoms of DKA:
- consistently high blood sugar
- frequent urination
- dry mouth
- breathing difficulties
- breath that has a fruit-like odor
If immediate steps are not taken, you can slip into coma and several other dangerous complications can arise. Therefore, it is important that you keep yourself updated and start any special dietary practice only after consulting with your doctor.
Monitoring Your Diabetes
The ketogenic diet looks quite straightforward. However, unlike a typical low-calorie diet, a diet high on fat content requires regular monitoring. Therefore, if you wish, you can start the keto diet while you are in hospital where your sugar level as well as ketones can be easily monitored to make sure that none is causing any adverse effect on the body. After your body acclimatizes to the diet, you will still need to pay a visit to your doctor once or twice every month for test and medicine alteration.
Even after your symptoms improve, it is equally important to monitor your blood glucose level on a regular basis. If you have type II diabetes, the frequency at which you need to monitor your blood glucose level is different from that of type I diabetes. You should set up a schedule with your doctor to get your blood glucose level checked.
Research, the ketogenic diet for diabetes
In 2008, a 24-week long research was undertaken by researchers to determine how a low carbohydrate diet affects people with obesity and type II diabetes. At the end of the study, it was observed that people who followed a ketogenic diet showed greater control of their blood glucose level and lesser dependency on anti-diabetic medicines as compared to other people who followed a low -glycemic diet. A study done in 2017 determined that ketogenic diet showed better results than conventional, low-fat diabetes diet in 32 weeks in terms of A1c and weight loss. A 2013 review again showed that a ketogenic diet causes more significant improvements in blood sugar control, weight loss, A1c, and reduced dependency on insulin as compared to other diets.
The ketogenic diet can become a ray of hope for people struggling with type II diabetes who are finding it difficult to manage their symptoms. After following this diet, not only do the people feel better with reduced symptoms, they find that their dependency on anti-diabetic medicines is also reduced.
However, not everyone benefits from ketogenic diet. Some people might find it difficult to stick to its strict routine difficult for a long term and therefore, we will suggest that you should start it only if you are willing to commit to it for life.
While it might be tempting to start the keto diet on your own, we will suggest that you do not do it without consulting a physician. This diet has a capacity to throw your blood glucose level off the chart and cause further problems, especially if you are on medication for lowering blood glucose level.