Ask any diabetic what kind of foods they need to avoid, and you’ll likely hear answers like sugar, processed grains, too much fruit — in other words, carbs.
For many diabetics, limiting carbohydrate intake is one of the most effective ways to control their blood glucose levels. So, does that mean a low-carb diet like keto is the way to go?
If you’ve been wondering whether a keto diet is healthy for a diabetic, we’re here with the answer. Keep reading below to learn more about the ketogenic diet, its benefits, and why it may not be the right choice for everyone.
Defining the keto diet
The keto diet — or ketogenic diet — is categorized as a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet that’s been around since the 1920s. It was originally used as a treatment for epilepsy, but these days, people are far more likely to go keto in an attempt to lose or manage weight.
So, how does it work?
Normally, our bodies use carbohydrates as an energy source for our cells. These carbs are broken down into glucose and used for energy throughout the body. When you’re low on carbs, though, your body still needs energy, so it turns to fat instead. As the body begins breaking down stores of fat (a state called ketosis), it uses ketones for energy instead of glucose.
How keto can help?
The keto diet limits carbohydrates, which can be beneficial for diabetics who need to watch their carb intake. Limiting carbs can help diabetics better manage their blood glucose levels. So, in that sense, it may prove beneficial to diabetics looking for greater control over their diabetes or diabetic neuropathy.
It can also assist with weight loss — an important consideration if you are overweight or obese since excess weight is one of the leading contributing factors to type 2 diabetes. As an additional benefit, weight loss can also help improve blood sugar levels, making them easier to control.
Is a keto diet dangerous for diabetics?
For most people, following this trendy way of eating shouldn’t be a problem. For some, though, a keto diet can be ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. So, when is a keto diet bad for diabetics? Here are a few problems diabetics may face when going keto.
1. Nutrient deficiencies
Cutting down on carbs is all well and good, but you want to make sure you’re not cutting out other necessary nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
2. Short-term gains
Most diets are easy to follow for a few weeks, but it often takes much longer to see the results you were expecting. Keto diets are fairly restrictive and may be particularly hard to follow for carb lovers or anyone who has a hard time following strict diet habits.
3. Improper medication dosages
If you are taking insulin, going keto may change the amount of insulin that your body needs to regulate your blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar levels drop too low because you’re in a state of ketosis, you may experience hypoglycemia.
One of the most dangerous and potentially deadly complications of diabetes, ketoacidosis most commonly occurs in type 1 diabetics. It happens when your body produces extremely high levels of ketones. High-fat, low-carb diets like the keto diet may trigger ketoacidosis.
When keto may work?
When is a keto diet good for a diabetic? It may be a good diet for you if:
- Are committed to sticking with keto long-term.
- Aren’t going to miss cutting out the carbs.
- Need extra help improving your blood sugar levels.
However, you should always speak to your healthcare provider before trying any new diets, even if you think you’re a good fit.
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