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You’ve probably seen dozens of headlines about the ketogenic diet by now, which has made its way into popular culture largely through the celebrities and supermodels who have given the long-standing fad diet a repeated stamp of approval. Is the keto diet the plan to follow if you have diabetes?

The diet is undoubtedly risky for people with type 1 diabetes, but in terms of type 2 diabetes management, several studies suggest the answer isn’t so simple. Some science shows its meal plan may be helpful, while other research, like one study published in September 2016 in Nutrients, highlights the importance of whole grains in the diets of people with diabetes — a restricted food category in the keto diet. (1)

age range for onset of type 1 diabetes explanation (🔴 and pregnancy) | age range for onset of type 1 diabetes quizlethow to age range for onset of type 1 diabetes for While the keto diet may offer many potential benefits for diabetes management, following it requires pretty serious commitment. So take a beat before you take the plunge — and consider these questions that can help you and your medical team determine if it’s right for you.

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How Does the Keto Diet Work Exactly?

There’s a good reason why the keto diet is also referred to as a low-carb, high-fat diet. Following the keto diet means reducing carbohydrate intake to typically less than 50 grams (g) of carbohydrates per day, while increasing fat and protein intake, according to a review published in August 2013 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (2)

Should You Try a Fad Diet to Manage Type 2 Diabetes?

age range for onset of type 1 diabetes nature (🔥 nurse teaching) | age range for onset of type 1 diabetes blood sugar levelshow to age range for onset of type 1 diabetes for To put that into perspective, a person on an average nonrestricted diet can easily eat more carbohydrates than that in one typical meal — for instance, a turkey, cheese, and veggie sandwich on whole-grain bread with a small, 1 ounce (oz) bag of classic potato chips comes in at around 51 g of carbs. The keto dietary changes drive down insulin levels, eventually leading your body into a state of ketosis, during which it is burning fat rather than carbohydrates.

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What Are Some of the Potential Health Benefits of a Keto Diet for Diabetes?

Here’s how the keto diet may help if you’re managing type 2 diabetes: “With a higher protein and fat intake, individuals may feel less hungry and are often able to lose weight, since protein and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrates,” says the Manhattan Beach, California–based Lori Zanini, RD, CDE, the author of Eat What You Love Diabetes Cookbook. It may also help keep your energy levels up.

The diet may bring other potential benefits, too. A review published in September 2016 in the Journal of Obesity & Eating Disorders suggests that, for a person with diabetes, a keto diet may help improve A1C test results (which show a three-month average of blood sugar levels) better than a low-calorie diet. (3) It may also help lower triglycerides more than a low-fat diet, which is a benefit for people with diabetes who are at a greater risk for heart disease.

Furthermore, a keto diet may be three times more effective for weight loss than a low-fat one — important because losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can offer health benefits such as improved cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A review published in August 2013 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a keto diet may help improve cholesterol levels and fasting blood sugar levels. (2)

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You already know that counting carbs is critical for controlling blood sugar. But could one of these low-carb approaches help you meet your A1C goal for good?

Is the Keto Diet the Best Eating Approach for Type 2 Diabetes?

A growing body of research supports using the ketogenic diet as part of a diabetes management plan, and some clinics have introduced therapeutic ketogenic programs. The Cleveland Clinic offers one, and Virta Health, which offers a diet and lifestyle program through telemedicine, has sponsored research showing that using online support may help people with type 2 diabetes lose weight, lower their A1C, and get off diabetes medication more successfully than the diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association. The study was published in February 2018 in Diabetes Therapy.

But the keto diet isn’t necessarily the best path for everyone with diabetes. Some studies suggest other eating plans, like the Mediterranean diet — which is rich in lean meats, fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and whole grains — can be beneficial for people with the disease. For example, a review published in April 2014 in Nutrients found that some research links the Mediterranean diet to a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (4)

More on Type 2 Diabetes Diets

randomized controlled trial published in January 2011 in Diabetes Care suggests that following a Mediterranean diet without calorie restriction may help ward off diabetes. (5) The eating style the 1 last update 07 Jul 2020 may also aid people already diagnosed with diabetes: The review cites some cross-sectional studies that associate following a Mediterranean diet with better blood sugar control.A randomized controlled trial published in January 2011 in Diabetes Care suggests that following a Mediterranean diet without calorie restriction may help ward off diabetes. (5) The eating style may also aid people already diagnosed with diabetes: The review cites some cross-sectional studies that associate following a Mediterranean diet with better blood sugar control.

The keto diet does come with some risks. The aforementioned 2016 study in the Journal of Obesity & Eating Disorders suggests that people with type 2 diabetes who take oral medication to lower their blood sugar may be more at risk for hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, when following a keto diet. And a keto diet could cause other unpleasant effects — including bad breath, dizziness, nausea, headache, fatigue, confusion, excessive thirst and hunger, fast heartbeat, fever, and chills. (6)

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What’s the Best Way to Start a Keto Diet if You’re Living With Type 2 Diabetes?

If you decide to start the keto diet, don’t go it alone. Consult with your diabetes medical team — including your endocrinologist and a registered dietitian who is also a certified diabetes educator — before trying this eating plan. You’ll want to start the diet slowly, cutting carbohydrates gradually, Zanini says. Dramatic reductions could lead to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, especially if you’re on oral diabetes medications or insulin. If your blood sugar levels severely dip, even the emergency medication glucagon may not bring them back up enough, notes Sylvia White, RD, CDE, who works in private practice in Memphis, Tennessee.

You’ll want to regularly test both your blood sugar and ketone levels to prevent serious side effects. “Doing so is very important for avoiding diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA,” says White. “Warning signs of DKA include consistently high blood sugar, high ketone levels, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, and frequent urination — and complications can cause a diabetic coma.”

More on DKA and Ketosis

You’ll also want to make sure you’re taking in a balance of nutrients — all those important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and more — as well as the proper amount of calories and healthy keto-friendly fats. “Healthy fats include monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and omega-3s, which may help reduce inflammation in the body and improve cholesterol levels,” says White. Look to fatty fish like salmon for omega-3s and avocado, almonds, peanut butter, and sunflower seeds for monounsaturated fats.

If you’re not sure what to reach for, ask your dietitian. “While this sounds so simple, often people are only thinking about what not to eat,” says Zanini. “They don''t for you if you have kidney disease, because you want to limit protein in that case, Zanini says.

age range for onset of type 1 diabetes hypoglycemia (⭐️ autoimmune) | age range for onset of type 1 diabetes prognosishow to age range for onset of type 1 diabetes for You should be wary of the keto diet if you have type 1 diabetes. Ketones (produced by the body during ketosis) are also a risk factor for DKA, which is more common in people with type 1 diabetes than people with type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. (7) You would need to be very diligent about monitoring other potential symptoms of DKA, notes White.

More on if Keto and Diseases

Additionally, anyone with a personal history of heart disease should be cautious about the keto diet. Cholesterol levels tend to spike during the initial stages of the diet, which could increase the risk of heart disease, according for 1 last update 07 Jul 2020 to the Harvard Health Blog. Also, yo-yo dieting, which can happen easily on a restrictive diet like keto, can strain the heart, increasing the risk for stroke and heart attack, per a large study published in October 2018 in Circulation.Additionally, anyone with a personal history of heart disease should be cautious about the keto diet. Cholesterol levels tend to spike during the initial stages of the diet, which could increase the risk of heart disease, according to the Harvard Health Blog. Also, yo-yo dieting, which can happen easily on a restrictive diet like keto, can strain the heart, increasing the risk for stroke and heart attack, per a large study published in October 2018 in Circulation.

Last, if you have a history of struggling with an eating disorder, work with your doctor to determine if this is the right diet for you. Despite what you may have read online, the keto diet and a personal history of binge eating disorder do not mix. In fact, “Because of the severe carb limits imposed by the ketogenic for 1 last update 07 Jul 2020 diet, the risks of bingeing, compulsive overeating, and other eating disorders is much higher,” says White.Last, if you have a history of struggling with an eating disorder, work with your doctor to determine if this is the right diet for you. Despite what you may have read online, the keto diet and a personal history of binge eating disorder do not mix. In fact, “Because of the severe carb limits imposed by the ketogenic diet, the risks of bingeing, compulsive overeating, and other eating disorders is much higher,” says White.

A Diabetes-Friendly Keto Diet Food List for Beginners

If you and your healthcare team determine that the keto diet is safe for you, follow this handy beginner’s menu for the keto diet. When in doubt, keep in mind that you will want to avoid or limit any foods that are high in carbohydrates, while loading up on foods that are high in protein and healthy fat.

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Here are some of the common foods in a keto diet plan:

  • Poultry and meat
  • Fish
  • Avocado
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Eggs
  • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • Nonstarchy veggies
  • Olive oil

Here are some foods to limit or avoid in a keto diet plan:

  • Grains (including healthy whole grains, like brown rice, and whole-wheat bread and pasta)
  • Alcohol
  • Fruit (especially high-carb fruit such as tropical fruits)
  • Sugar in all forms (granulated sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, baked goods, candy)
  • Artificial sweeteners such as Equal and Splenda
  • Processed food (including crackers, and corn or potato chips)

Additional reporting by Melinda Carstensen and Jessica Migala.

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Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

  1. Li X, Cai X, Ma X, et al. Short- and Long-Term Effects of Wholegrain Oat Intake on Weight Management and Glucolipid Metabolism in Overweight Type-2 Diabetics: A Randomized Control Trial. Nutrients. September 2016.
  2. Paoli A, Rubini A, Volek JS, et al. Beyond Weight Loss: A Review of the Therapeutic Uses of Very-Low Carbohydrate (Ketogenic) Diets. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. August 2013.
  3. Azar ST, Beydoun HM, Albardi MR. Benefits of Ketogenic Diet for Management of Type Two Diabetes: A Review. Journal of Obesity & Eating Disorders. September 2016.
  4. Georgoulis M, Kontogianni MD, Yiannakouris N. Mediterranean Diet and Diabetes: Prevention and Treatment. Nutrients. April 2014.
  5. Salas-Salvadó J, Bulló M, Babio N, et al. Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes With the Mediterranean Diet. Diabetes Care. January 2011.
  6. Weight Loss: Low-Carb Diet: Can It Help You Lose Weight? Mayo Clinic. August 29, 2017.
  7. DKA (Ketoacidosis) & Ketones. American Diabetes Association. March 18, 2015.

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