Can the Keto Diet Cure Diabetes?

It seems like everyone these days is talking about the keto diet. While many people participating in this lifestyle change are trying to lose a significant amount of weight – sometimes even as much as 50 pounds or more – others are trying it out to control chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes. Those individuals are hoping that the keto diet can help them control their blood sugar and rely less on medication. But does it work? Can the keto diet really “cure” diabetes?

What is the keto diet?

Eating keto has a very strict and specific set of rules. That’s part of the reason it receives criticism from some nutritionists who may deem it “too restrictive” for the long term. When you’re following the ketogenic diet, you’ll need to give up eating most processed foods, grains, sugar, fruit, and tuber vegetables.

You may be wondering what that leaves you with. Since the keto diet is all about fueling your body with fat, most of your diet should consist of meat (especially red meat and organ meats), fish, eggs, leafy greens, low-carb vegetables, nuts and seeds, high fat dairy, avocados, and berries. The ideal keto diet is made up of 70% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates.

Keto diet

Keto | ThitareeSarmkasat/iStock/Getty Images

What does the keto diet do?

The main goal of the keto diet is to convert fat into energy instead of sugar. Successfully reaching this goal is known as getting into a state of ketosis. When your body is in ketosis, you’ll start losing weight. That’s because your body will need to burn stored fat to survive.

The diet was originally developed in 1924 for children who suffered from epileptic seizures. But now people are starting to wonder how the keto diet can help people with different chronic ailments — including type 2 diabetes.

Can the keto diet help diabetics?

Diabetics following the keto diet often report that they have a reduced need for insulin while adhering to the high fat, low carb eating plan. Several research studies have also confirmed that diabetics following the ketogenic diet enjoyed positive results. They experienced weight loss, greater glycemic control, and a reduced need for medications such as insulin.

The ketogenic diet forces people to rethink everything they know about fat. Since it’s a high fat diet, it can feel strange reaching for foods that you’ve been avoiding your whole life because you thought they were unhealthy.

It is possible to lose weight following a high fat diet like the keto diet. The important thing is to choose heart-healthy fats such as those found in eggs, salmon, cottage cheese, avocados, olive oil, nut butters (not peanut butter), and seeds. It’s also acceptable to eat coconut oil, red meat, and organ meats such as liver.

healthy food

Healthy food | dulezidar/iStock/Getty Images

How can the keto diet affect blood glucose?

Following the keto diet can help decrease blood glucose levels. Consuming large amounts of carbs causing blood sugar to spike and be generally irregular. That’s why diabetics are often instructed to reduce their carbohydrate intake. Changing to a high fat diet could help reduce blood glucose levels.

Risks of the keto diet

However, the keto diet is not the perfect solution for every person with type 2 diabetes. Going keto will raise the amount of ketones in your blood, which could prove dangerous if it goes too far. Too many ketones in the blood may lead to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). It’s more common for people with type 1 diabetes, but in rare instances can occur in people with type 2 diabetes. That’s why you should only attempt the ketogenic diet under the direct supervision of your doctor.

Warning signs of DKA include consistently high blood sugar, dry mouth, frequent urination, nausea, breath that smells like fruit, and difficulty breathing.

The final word on the keto diet for people with type 2 diabetes

Anyone looking to control their type 2 diabetes and lose weight should consider making lifestyle changes, and the keto diet is a good place to start. However, it’s not a magical cure that will make your diabetes disappear. You’ll need to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits before beginning the diet.

Making a commitment to going keto is also important. Yo-yo dieting and excessive “cheat days” can make your symptoms even worse. But if your doctor gives you the green light and you’re willing to make the commitment, the keto diet can be an excellent tool for managing your diabetes symptoms – and losing a bit of weight, too.