Could Keto Be the Best Diet for Type 2 Diabetics?

By Heena Sehgal
Medically Reviewed by:

Heidi Wright, BSN, RN, PCCN, and Certified Master Herbalist

Could Keto Be the Best Diet for Type 2 Diabetics?

September 09, 2022

In the past few years, you may have heard of the Keto diet. It may seem to be a diet buzzword, but it’s more of a movement. The benefits are impressive, especially for those living with diabetes.

At a basic level, the ketogenic diet is a meal plan that drives your body into the state of ketosis. In this state, your body uses fat as a primary fuel source instead of carbohydrates, according to Stacey Mattinson, RDN.

The keto diet is centered around being higher in fat and lower in carbohydrates, where balance is key to healthy results. Registered Nurse and Certified Herbalist Heidi Wright comments on how the diet works: “Eating a specific balance of fats, proteins, and a lower amount of carbohydrates can reduce hunger pangs. Because ketogenic diets are often low in sugar and carbohydrates, they may be beneficial for type 2 diabetics looking to lower their blood sugar levels and improve their A1C number.” 

How Does the Keto Diet Work?

The keto diet aims to replace your body's primary source of fuel of carbohydrates with fats. Your body uses these food sources for energy. (1)

By restricting carbohydrate intake, the body begins to break down fat in the liver. This process produces ketones, which become the fuel your body uses for energy as an alternative to glucose. (2)

What is Ketosis?

When your body switches from using glucose for energy to using ketones for energy, it enters the state of ketosis. This is done by limiting your carbohydrate intake to 5-10% of your total calories. This is a big deal for many, as the average North American diet includes carbohydrates for anywhere between 40-50% of their total caloric intake.

How Keto Can Benefit Type 2 Diabetics

Research has shown that the ketogenic diet has positive effects on helping control type 2 diabetes; as part of epilepsy treatment; and for weight loss. (3)

For type 2 diabetes, Mattinson says, “There has been promising research showing that the ketogenic diet may improve glycemic control. It may cause a reduction in A1C —a key test for diabetes that measures a person’s average blood sugar over two to three months— which may help you reduce medication use.”

“Many type 2 diabetics see benefits from the keto diet because it can aid in calorie restriction, which in turn can aid in weight loss and help lower blood sugars,” Wright explains. “Because of the higher fat content, ideally with the addition of fiber-rich vegetables, protein-rich meats, and complex carbohydrates, people feel fuller after eating for longer, and often reach their calorie-restriction goals, thus helping them with reducing their blood sugar levels and weight loss.”

Are There Any Risks to the Keto Diet? 

It’s important to note before beginning the ketogenic diet that people with type 2 diabetes or obesity are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, and since this eating style can be high in fat, it is essential you consult your doctor before making any major dietary changes. Starting a diet high in saturated fats, without the proper balance of high-fiber vegetables and grains as well as protein-rich foods, may lead to a quick rise in cholesterol levels (particularly LDL, or “bad” cholesterol), and can potentially increase the risk for heart disease or stroke.

Consult your doctor and a trusted registered dietician when considering a change to the keto diet. 

Wright stresses the need for proper nutrition even when prioritizing fat over carbohydrates: “A big part of the Keto Diet is clean eating. This can include sugar-free drinks that are high in antioxidants and aid in digestion, like teas.” For the benefits of supplements in a cup of tea, check out the Herbaly Wellness Collection –a tea blend that combines 8 botanicals that can help you achieve better health and wellness with the addition of phytonutrients and antioxidants.

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