Ketogenic diets have been used since 1924 in pediatrics as a treatment for epilepsy. A ketogenic (keto) diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. The goal of the ketogenic diet is to shift the body’s metabolic fuel from burning carbohydrates to fat. On a keto diet, the body metabolizes fat instead of sugar for energy.
Over the years, ketogenic diets have been used to treat diabetes. One reason is that it treats diabetes from its root cause by reducing carbohydrate intake, which leads to lower blood sugar levels, reducing the need for insulin, which minimizes insulin resistance and the associated metabolic syndrome.
In this way, the ketogenic diet can improve blood glucose (sugar) levels while reducing the need for insulin. This point of view presents keto diets as a much safer and more effective plan than injecting insulin to suppress the consumption of high-carbohydrate foods.
The keto diet is actually a very restrictive diet. For example, in the classic keto diet, we get about 80 per cent of our caloric requirements from fat and 20 per cent from protein and carbohydrates.
This is a significant departure from the norm where the body uses sugar obtained by digesting carbohydrates for energy, but by severely restricting carbohydrates, the body is forced to use fat instead.
A ketogenic diet requires a healthy dietary intake of healthy fats such as coconut oil, pasty butter, organic pastured eggs, avocados, fish such as salmon, cottage cheese, avocado, almond butter, and raw nuts (raw pecans and macadamia nuts). People on a ketogenic diet avoid all bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, flour, starchy vegetables and dairy products.
It is low in vitamins, minerals and nutrients and needs supplementation.
A low-carb diet is often recommended for people with type 2 diabetes because carbohydrates turn into blood sugar, which in large amounts causes a spike in blood sugar. So for a diabetic with high blood sugar, eating additional sugar-producing foods is courting danger.
By switching the focus from sugar to fat, some patients may experience reduced blood sugar levels.
Changing the body’s primary energy source from carbohydrates to fat leaves a byproduct of fat metabolism, ketones, in the blood. This can be dangerous for some diabetic patients, as a build-up of ketones can put them at risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is a medical emergency requiring immediate medical attention.
Symptoms of DKA include persistently high blood sugar, dry mouth, polyuria, nausea, fruity breath, and difficulty breathing. Complications can lead to diabetic coma.