Low Carb Ketogenic Diet & Diabetes: Is It Safe?

ketogenic diet mealYou might be surprised to know that the ketogenic diet has been around for over 80 years. It was originally used to treat people with epilepsy. The ketogenic diet is very high in fat, extremely low in carbohydrate with a moderate amount of protein. The severe restriction of carbohydrate resulted in improvements in the seriousness and frequency of seizures. The diet is also associated with weight loss, improvement in risk factors for diabetes and enhanced brain health.

How the Ketogenic Diet Works

Carbohydrate is the body’s primary source of energy. When following a very low carbohydrate diet, the body is forced to burn stored fat for energy. But fat isn’t clean fuel: it leaves an acidic waste in your blood stream called ketones. Your body can get rid of some, but not all, of the ketones by excreting them in the urine. This process is known as nutritional ketosis.

It is not the same as diabetic ketoacidosis, which can be fatal. In diabetic ketoacidosis, ketones build up to much higher levels than those found with nutritional ketosis. The blood glucose levels are also extremely high in diabetic ketoacidosis due to insufficient insulin. Research shows when the body is in a state of nutritional ketosis there is a decrease in hunger and longer satiety after eating, resulting in weight loss.

Are Low Carb Ketogenic Diets Safe?

Before the discovery of insulin therapy in the early 1920s a ketogenic type diet was used for people with diabetes. However, after the discovery of insulin therapy and oral hypoglycemic medications, recommendations for carbohydrate intake gradually increased. Today the question about how much carbohydrate is a source of controversy. Some diabetes experts say limit carbohydrate for better diabetes control and others say higher carbohydrate—noting concerns about safety.

There’s an emerging body of evidence showing the benefits and safety of carbohydrate restriction in people with diabetes.