The ketogenic diet has gained popularity in recent years as a way to lose weight, improve athletic performance, and manage chronic conditions like diabetes. But what exactly is the ketogenic diet, and how does it benefit those with diabetes and heart health concerns?
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
A ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that induces a metabolic state called ketosis. In this state, the body burns fat for fuel instead of glucose from carbohydrates. The typical macronutrient breakdown for a ketogenic diet consists of 70-80% fat, 10-20% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrates.
Benefits for Diabetes
Diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels due to the body’s inability to produce or properly use insulin. A ketogenic diet can help regulate blood sugar levels by reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing fat intake.
Studies have shown that following a ketogenic diet can improve glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. In one study published in Nutrition & Metabolism, participants on a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet showed significant improvements in HbA1c (a marker of long-term blood sugar control), fasting glucose levels, and insulin sensitivity compared to those on a low-glycemic index diet.
Another study found that individuals with type 2 diabetes who followed a very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet were able to reduce or eliminate their medication while maintaining good glycemic control.
Benefits for Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. The risk factors include hypertension (high blood pressure), dyslipidemia (abnormal cholesterol levels), obesity, and insulin resistance – all of which are improved with a keto-style eating plan.
One study showed that following a high-fat Mediterranean-style keto-diet resulted in significant improvements in cardiovascular risk markers such as HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, triglycerides levels reduction , fasting insulin level reductions but also decreased blood pressure.
Another study found that the ketogenic diet can reduce inflammation, a key factor in the development of heart disease. The high-fat component of the ketogenic diet has been shown to improve levels of adiponectin, an anti-inflammatory hormone.
Other Potential Benefits
In addition to benefits for diabetes and heart health concerns, a ketogenic diet may also have other potential benefits:
1. Weight loss: Since the body is burning fat for fuel instead of glucose from carbohydrates, weight loss can be significant on a ketogenic diet.
2. Improved brain function: Ketones produced during ketosis can serve as an alternative energy source for the brain and may improve cognitive function in some individuals.
3. Reduced seizures: A ketogenic diet has been used for decades to reduce seizures in individuals with epilepsy who do not respond well to medication therapy alone.
4. Better athletic performance: Some athletes follow a cyclic ketogenic diet (cycling between periods of ketosis and carbohydrate intake) to improve endurance performance while maintaining muscle mass.
Challenges and Considerations
While there are many potential benefits to following a ketogenic diet, it’s important to note that this type of eating plan is not suitable for everyone or every situation. Here are some considerations:
1. Nutrient deficiencies: Since a keto-diet restricts certain foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains which all contain essential vitamins and minerals , it’s important that people following this style eating plan take supplements or eat vitamin-rich foods like leafy greens or nuts/seeds/avocadoes.
2. Adherence challenges : This way of eating requires careful planning especially when dining out . People might find it hard stick with this type of eating plan long-term due to social isolation , fear they’ll slip up by indulging in carbs at any time .
3.Keto flu symptoms : As one transitions into ketosis fatigue dizziness & nausea can occur but typically resolve within 3-5 days post induction phase
4. High fat intake: While healthy fats are essential for good health, a keto diet that is high in saturated and trans-fats can increase cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.
5. Not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women or those with liver/kidney disorders .
A ketogenic diet may offer benefits for people with diabetes and heart health concerns, as well as other potential advantages such as weight loss and improved brain function. However, it’s important to consider the challenges associated with this type of eating plan before making any significant changes to your current diet. Consultation with a registered dietitian is highly encouraged prior to starting this kind of eating style .