June 26, 2021

Is The Keto Diet Good For Diabetes?

Curious about the keto diet and how it can affect those living with diabetes? Here we cover eating keto with TD1 and TD2, keto supplements, and low-carb options. Learn more about this lifestyle choice!

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Home / Living with Diabetes / Is The Keto Diet Good For Diabetes?

If you’re a person with diabetes, there’s a good chance you’ve heard someone suggest the ketogenic diet as a way to deal with your condition. This diet is low in carbohydrates and high in fatty foods, making it seemingly perfect for diabetes management. Even actor Halle Berry, who was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 22, has said this diet has had a significant positive impact on her health. And her claims come from personal experience, as she’s followed the keto diet for decades.

“Because I’m diabetic, nutrition has been a big part of my life. For the past almost 30 years I have been following the ketogenic lifestyle,” Berry said in an interview with Insider.

According to Berry, the keto diet has helped her with everything from weight loss to “possibly revers[ing] type 2 diabetes.” But can any diet really have this much of an impact on the lives of people with diabetes – and is the keto diet genuinely safe for people living with this condition? We’ve researched keto and diabetes, and in this article, you’ll learn what we found.

The Keto Diet and Type 1 Diabetes

high-protein-diet-for-diabetesAre you wondering if you can safely try the keto diet while living with type 1 diabetes? As it turns out, there isn’t a straightforward answer to this question. Instead, you’ll need to be aware of various risks and precautions before starting this diet.

Studies show that the keto diet can significantly lower blood sugar levels and improve levels of A1C in people with type 1 diabetes. Still, there’s a catch – the diet can cause blood sugar in some people with diabetes to become too low. Complications from low blood sugar can range from confusion to a loss of consciousness, so you might need to adjust your insulin dosage to avoid this.

Keto can also help people lose weight – but weight loss isn’t desired or safe for everyone with diabetes. If you’re underweight or have other health concerns related to losing weight, the keto diet may not suit you.

Finally, it’s important to remember the differences (and the similarities) between diabetic ketoacidosis and nutritional ketosis. Nutritional ketosis refers to the state where a keto diet encourages the body to produce ketones from fat in the liver while using fat as its primary fuel source. As part of this process, ketone levels in the bloodstream rise.

Diabetic ketoacidosis also involves elevated ketone levels, but the same is true for blood sugar – which can throw the acid-base balance of your blood out of whack. Because of this, ketoacidosis is considered a medical emergency. While these conditions are far from identical, they both involve blood ketone levels. As a result, you’ll need to consult your healthcare team before embarking on a keto diet.

The Keto Diet and Type 2 Diabetes

As is the case for people with type 1 diabetes, the keto diet can encourage lowered blood sugar levels among people who have type 2 diabetes. This diet’s avoidance of carbohydrates may seem to make it a natural fit for people living with diabetes. However, you ought to be careful if you decide to follow the keto diet while living with type 2 diabetes.

For people with type 2 diabetes, the keto diet can cause dangerously low blood sugar levels. To avoid this, you’ll want to do blood sugar tests throughout the day and make adjustments in response to your results.

Diabetic ketoacidosis is relatively rare in people with type 2 diabetes, but high ketone levels are a risk factor. With that in mind, it’s important to know what to look out for if you are following a keto diet with type 2 diabetes. Specifically, if your blood sugar is above 240 mg/dL, you should use a urine strip to test for ketones.

The Keto Diet, High Cholesterol, and Diabetes

If you have diabetes, blood sugar levels are far from the only thing you have to worry about – this condition also increases your risk of high cholesterol. Though scientists believe cholesterol, insulin, and blood glucose are interlinked, the exact interaction between these substances is not yet understood. In any case, it’s necessary for people with diabetes to take cholesterol seriously, too.

High cholesterol levels can cause severe problems for people with diabetes (and anyone else unlucky enough to have them). Cholesterol can eventually harden in the arteries, restricting blood flow. That increases a person’s odds of having a heart attack or stroke.

Research suggests that the keto diet can increase people’s levels of “good,” or HDL, cholesterol. However, it may also result in increases in “bad,” or LDL, cholesterol. Since people with diabetes are already at heightened risk of high cholesterol levels, make sure to think seriously about how starting a keto diet could impact your cholesterol.

Keto Diet Pills and Diabetes

Several supplements are available to people who are following the keto diet. Here are a few of these supplements and what you should know about each one:

  • Ketone supplements/ketone esters work to boost the availability of energy to the body. These primarily consist of “BHB salts,” which combine the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate with sodium and potassium. These salts put ketones in the bloodstream, meaning the body doesn’t need to burn body fat to access ketones. While valuable for athletes, these supplements are not ideal for people with diabetes interested in weight loss.
  • Magnesium helps keep sodium and potassium levels in check, especially in the early days of a person’s keto diet. Unless it impacts kidney function, excessive magnesium should not be a problem.
  • MCTs, AKA “medium chain triglycerides,” are a dietary fat source touted by some researchers as being ideal for ketone development. This fat source can help people follow a keto diet while eating more carbs than they could otherwise. However, the jury is currently out on whether or not MCTs are better than other fats regarding weight loss.
  • Cinnamon has been theorized to help boost insulin response and increase the speed of glucose metabolism. Because of this, some people on the keto diet have started eating cinnamon before meals. Still, we should note that research has not proven that cinnamon affects insulin sensitivity.

The Difference Between A Keto Diet and A Diabetes Diet

While keto is one of the most well-known low-carb diets today, it is not the only option for people with diabetes. You’ll likely be better off working with a registered dietician and your healthcare team to create the perfect diet for your own needs.

The team at US MED recently put together an article featuring some diabetes-related dietary tips. We encouraged people with diabetes to:

Focus on eating nutritious vegetables and proteins. Fruits generally have more carbs than vegetables, but they can still be healthy.

Avoid overeating carbohydrates but continue to eat some foods in this category. Whole grains such as oatmeal or brown rice are good choices; processed grains are not.

Keep fats, oils, and sweets to the bare minimum to avoid weight gain since this can cause problems related to diabetes management.

A diet created with these tips in mind won’t be as restrictive as the keto diet, and it may be the better option for people with diabetes overall.

Enjoy Our Delicious Low-Carb Recipes

Though the keto diet may seem like a “magic bullet” for people with diabetes, life is rarely that simple. Instead, the best option may be eating a balanced diet designed with your nutritional needs in mind. However, if you are curious about the keto diet, ask your healthcare provider about what you should do to get started.

Are you interested in finding high-quality, low-carb recipes that have been written specifically for people with diabetes? US MED has put together a collection of these recipes for you. Our recipe database is easy to use and 100% free – try it out today!

US MED is also your one-stop shop for diabetes testing supplies, insulin pumps, and continuous glucose monitors, always shipped for free with 90-days supplies.

Shirley DeLeon Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist

Medical Review by Shirley DeLeon, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

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