Going keto and cutting out carbs can reverse type 2 diabetes

The keto diet might be more than just a trendy health fad.

An ultra-low carb diet can significantly lower blood-sugar levels in people who are pre-diabetic, according to a study.

The ketogenic diet involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with foods high in fat and protein.

Advocates claim it can cause a myriad of health benefits, from keeping the mind sharp to improving heart health.

While many of the claims have proved to be bogus or unprovable, the latest study indicates the diet can prevent type 2 diabetes for those at highest risk.

Researchers looked at 150 people aged 40 to 70 whose blood-sugar ranged from prediabetic to diabetic levels and who were not taking medication for the condition.

One group ate their normal diet and were monitored for six months. The rest ate the equivalent of just 16 grams of carbs per month, the same as just one slice of bread.

People with diabetes or prediabetes who consumed no more than 60mgs per day of carbohydrates over six months saw lower hemoglobin A1c levels than people who stuck to their normal diets.

People with diabetes or prediabetes who consumed no more than 60mgs per day of carbohydrates over six months saw lower hemoglobin A1c levels than people who stuck to their normal diets. 

By the end of the study, those in the low-carb group saw a 0.26 per cent decrease in  hemoglobin A1c, or, the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood. 

Switching to an ultra-low carb diet could be enough to help prediabetics stave off worsening A1c levels, potentially avoiding a diabetes diagnosis.   

The group that maintained their normal diets saw their A1c levels drop only about 0.10 to 0.02 percent. 

What is the keto diet and is it safe? 

  • According to Healthline, the keto diet is a ‘low carb, high fat diet’ which ‘involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat’ 
  • The reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. When this happens, your body becomes ‘incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy’
  • UChicagoMedicine reported that the keto diet could cause low blood pressure, kidney stones, constipation, nutrient deficiencies, and an increased risk of heart disease 
  • MayoClinic also claimed, ‘There’s very little evidence to show that this type of eating is effective – or safe – over the long term for anything other than epilepsy. Plus, very low carbohydrate diets tend to have higher rates of side effects, including constipation, headaches, bad breath and more. Also, meeting the diet’s requirements means cutting out many healthy foods, making it difficult to meet your micronutrient needs’

People in the low-carb group saw A1c levels drop 0.23 per cent more than the people in the group who maintained their normal diets. 

Dr Kirsten Dorans, lead author and assistant professor of epidemiology at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine called these findings ‘modest but clinically relevant.

‘The key message is that a low-carbohydrate diet, if maintained, might be a useful approach for preventing and treating Type 2 diabetes, though more research is needed.’

The findings have been published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Approximately 37 million Americans have diabetes and type 2 diabetes makes up 90 per cent of those cases. 

Meanwhile, an estimated 96 million US adults have prediabetes.

Risk factors for developing diabetes include being overweight, having a family history of diabetes, not maintaining an active lifestyle, and consuming a lot of alcohol and fats. 

People older than 35 and those who are African American, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander have a predisposition toward type 2 diabetes. 

 People living with diabetes are encouraged by healthcare professionals to maintain a low-carb diet, which can help diabetics manage their blood sugar better, decrease medication needs, and reduce the risk of diabetic complications such as heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and nerve damage. 

The American Diabetes Association officially recommends people with diabetes and prediabetes stick to low-carbohydrate, low glycemic index, and high-protein diets to help manage their blood sugar. 

The study does not say that diet alone can manage a person’s blood glucose levels, but Dr Dorans said it opens the door for more investigation. 

Dr Dorans said: ‘We already know that a low-carbohydrate diet is one dietary approach used among people who have Type 2 diabetes, but there is not as much evidence on effects of this diet on blood sugar in people with prediabetes.’

‘Future work could be done to see if this dietary approach may be an alternative approach for Type 2 diabetes prevention,’ she added.

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