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The Pros and Cons of Ketogenic Diet for Diabetes

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The Ketogenic Diet is all the rage right however it’s difficult to find true guidelines on how to follow it in the most healthful way.  Medical professionals have recommended Keto for health conditions like Epilepsy,  Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), and Metabolic Syndrome, a precursor to Type 2 Diabetes.   In this article, we’ll touch on the pros and cons of the Ketogenic Diet for Diabetes.

What is the Ketogenic Diet or Keto?  In its most basic sense, not necessarily everything you read on social media or what your best friend tells you, the Ketogenic Diet is all about eating the “right” foods in the right proportions. When you get it right, it’ll trigger your body to start burning stored fat.

 

Ask the Nutritionist

Nutritionist, Veronika Larisova explains the pros and cons of the Ketogenic Diet for type 2 diabetes.

The Ketogenic Diet is one that is very low in carbohydrates, high in fat, and low to moderate in protein.  The drastic reduction in carbohydrate (20-50g per day) intake puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis where your body uses ketones as an alternative source of energy instead of glucose.  As carbohydrates are the main source of glucose, reducing their intake will result in decreased insulin requirements, improved insulin sensitivity, and a reduced postprandial glycemia. This is why it is thought to be a favorable diet for the prevention and treatment of Type 2 Diabetes.

 

Does Keto really work for weight loss?

The answer is Yes — But.   It takes two to three weeks on the diet to start fat burning (ketosis) in the body.  Results are not instant as social media may have you believe.   Some studies have shown that adhering to low- or very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets help people lose weight. Weight loss is often vital for people with type 2 diabetes.

Losing weight can effectively reverse type 2 diabetes.  Interestingly, some studies show that long term there is little difference between a ketogenic diet and a higher carbohydrate diet. Some people are incredibly successful in losing weight, maintaining weight, and reversing diabetes with the Ketogenic Diet while others are not.

It’s important to consider the Ketogenic Diet as a lifestyle change instead of a diet that you go on and off of.  The traditional Keto Diet uses a ‘ketogenic ratio’ of 4-parts fat to 1-part protein and carbohydrate.  Therefore, around 80% of the calories in your diet come from fat.  Modified ketogenic diets allow a little bit less fat and more carbs (still under 50g though) have proven to work quite well for fat loss and metabolic disorders.

Although the Ketogenic Diet is very effective in weight loss and glucose control/sensitivity, there are few things to consider before adopting this style of eating.

 

Things to Consider Before Adopting a Keto Diet
  • Before changing your diet talk to your doctor especially if you have type 2 diabetes.  Any lifestyle change can have consequences that you and your doctor must be aware of.  One of the goals of Keto is to reduce your bool sugar which is a good thing,  but sometimes the blood sugar can go too low and you may become hypoglycemic.

 

  • The ketogenic diet is quite restrictive and adherence is difficult from the nutritional, mental, and social perspectives.   When you are on the Keto Diet entire food groups are restricted.  You have fewer options which can make eating out with friends more difficult.

 

  • You might miss out on important phytonutrients and adequate fiber which may negatively impact your gut microbiome, digestion, and overall health.

 

  • Most studies on higher carbohydrate diets focus on highly refined carbohydrates and omit the possibility of consuming good quality carbohydrate-rich foods such as root vegetables, legumes, pulses, pseudo-grains like amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, and wild rice.   The quality rather than the quantity of carbohydrates should be considered to achieve your desired health outcomes. Low carbohydrate non-ketogenic diet and Mediterranean diets, for example, are safe, can be maintained throughout your life, and have strong and stable effects on glycemic control when compared to a standard diet, in addition to reducing postprandial lipemia.

 

  • The ketogenic diet is not suitable for some patients with Type 2 Diabetes. If you are pregnant or lactating, at risk for eating disorders, or have a renal disease you should avoid Keto.

 

On a More Practical Level

Taken into consideration the most current research and all the pros and cons of a ketogenic diet, a non-ketogenic diet supplying 100–150 g carbohydrate/day may be more practical on every level. It’s easier to adhere to in a long term and more likely to provide adequate fiber and micronutrient intake if structured well.

Instead of consuming rapidly digestible carbohydrates such as sugars, syrups, potato, white rice, white bread, and any highly refined carbohydrates, the focus should be on healthy carbohydrate-rich foods with low glycaemic index and high fiber and macronutrient content such as vegetables, legumes, pulses, and whole grains.

Download Veronika’s Keto Meal Plan Here!

 

About the Author

Veronika Larisova is a Nutritionist, Exercise Physiologist, Fitgenes practitioner, and Educator.  She has worked with a wide range of clientele ranging from Olympic athletes to weekend warriors. She is also the Co-Founder of Chief Nutrition.

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