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Is The Keto Diet Safe For Diabetics?

Published: 07/24/2013

Diabetes can be a brutal disease to live with, afflicting almost 26 million Americans with a constant stream of health scares and a challenging quality of life. But many are asking if a new diet could be part of the solution that we have been waiting for.

The ketogenic diet (also referred to as the “keto” diet) furnishes the body with a high fat content while restricting carbohydrates and proteins to minimal amounts. It’s not an easy diet to live with.  While the ADA recommends an average carb intake of 135 carbs per day, the keto diet cuts the amount down to a mere 20 grams per day.

When following the ketogenic diet, your calorie intake should be 80% fat and 20% proteins/carbs. According to the Ketogenic Diet Community, “The diet mimics aspects of starvation by forcing the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates.” It essentially brings individuals to a state of ketosis, where your body processes fat – rather than carbs – for energy. When the liver converts fats into ketone bodies, they replace glucose as the body’s primary source of energy.

The keto diet has been used by many patients suffering from diabetes and epilepsy. A recent study at Kuwait University found that “LCKD [low-calorie ketogenic diet] has a significant beneficial effect in ameliorating [improving] the diabetic state and helping to stabilize hyperglycemia.” Their results displayed that the diet enabled patients to bring their glucose levels down to near-normal levels.

To give you an idea of what the ketogenic diet looks like on your plate, TheKetogenicDiet.org offers the following sample meal plan:

Breakfast: Ham and cheese omelet or two fried eggs with two strips of bacon

Lunch: Two hamburger patties with cheese and bacon or salad with ham and cheese

Dinner: Roast pork belly with cauliflower cheese or pork chops with stir-fried greens

While it might look like any carnivore’s dream, there are a few things to understand about the keto diet. It’s incredibly difficult. In an editorial piece in the New York Times, author Fred Vogelstein illuminated his family’s experience with the keto diet, which they began to help his son grapple with epilepsy. The diet was incredibly effective – it brought the boy’s seizures down from 100 a day to less than 30 – but the child found the experience to be near-intolerable. He isn’t alone: the heavily restricted food options and high-fat choices are often unpalatable (and ultimately unbearable) to patients.

While the ketogenic diet sounds like a newfangled concept, it is actually embedded in medical history. In 1921, the Mayo Clinic used the diet to treat both epilepsy and diabetes – and it worked. Today, many Type 2 Diabetes patients have vastly improved their quality of life by utilizing the keto diet; researchers at Duke University conclude that “lifestyle modification using low carbohydrate interventions is effective for improving and reversing type 2 diabetes.”

If you’re suffering from diabetes, it might be time to consider the ketogenic diet. But before you take the plunge, first speak with your doctor to learn more about the side effects and restrictions associated with it.

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  1. I am an adult who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 5 years ago. My father and brother also has this disease and I was well versed what needed to be done to keep my blood glucose(BG) levels in check. Intellectually I understood butt found sticking to a moderately low carb diet impossible. I continued to gain weight and my BG went out of control. I recently started a ketogenic diet and I have found it the most easy diet to follow. The high fat is satisfying and I don’t feel hungry as on every other diet I’ve tried even though I am still very calorie limited (1200 per day.) The first week was rough and for my husband who had an A1C of 12 (average BG of 350) it caused an initial reactive hypoglycemia with vomiting and fatigue for about 10 days, but now that he’s past that and we’re both at healthy BG levels with minimal medications it’s a miracle. Our prescription bills are cut by 90% and through pinterest and reddit I have found lots of great recipes including desserts and bread substitutes. For the health gains it is amazing! I have also found increased mental clarity and much higher energy, not to mention weight loss. The ketogenic diet is a lifesaver and I strongly encourage anyone with type two diabetes to speak with their doctor and try it as well.

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