If you have type 2 diabetes you may have heard the ketogenic diet can help reduce—or even reverse—the effects of your disease. There’s tons of information on the internet linking high-fat diets, like keto, to lower blood glucose (blood sugar) levels.
So does this mean the keto diet can get rid of diabetes? Is it even safe to switch to a high-fat diet when you are a type 1 or type 2 diabetic?
In this article, we’ll break down the relationship between the keto diet and diabetes. You’ll learn what they are, if keto is okay for diabetics, how keto improves blood glucose levels, and the potential risks.
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<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">What Is The Keto Diet?</p></h4>
The <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-101-a-beginners-guide/"><strong>keto diet</strong></a> (“keto”) is a high-fat, moderate protein nutritional approach. At <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/"><strong>Warrior Made</strong></a>, we love the keto diet for its ability to help people lose weight and transform their bodies.
In terms of <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/why-you-should-be-calculating-your-macros/"><strong>macronutrients</strong></a>, the keto diet is typically split at about 25% protein, 70% fat, and 5% carbohydrates. Keto is a low-carb diet—which is one reason why people link it to diabetes and lowering blood sugar. Users limit their carbohydrate intake to about fifty grams per day or less. This way you enter ketosis, a natural state where your body uses ketones to burn fat.
The keto diet has some similarities to the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/atkins-vs-keto-a-side-by-side-comparison/"><strong>Atkins diet</strong></a>.
<h5><p style="color: #000000">What Do You Eat?</p></h5>
Keto dieters base their meals around starchy green vegetables, quality protein sources like eggs, chicken, and salmon, and good fat sources like coconut oil, butter, and ghee.
Warrior Made’s <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/"><strong>nutrition section</strong></a> is full of recipes and guides for healthy, tasty keto diet meals. For example, check out this low-carb, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/low-carb-breakfast-frittata/"><strong>keto-approved frittata</strong></a> recipe.
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<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">What is Diabetes?</p></h4>
Diabetes is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar (blood glucose) levels<sup>1</sup>. People with diabetes either don’t make enough insulin—a hormone that regulates blood sugar in the body—or can’t effectively use the insulin they have. There are two versions of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, meaning that your body attacks and destroys its own cells. In this case, your body damages your pancreas cells. The pancreas is where the body makes insulin. Type 1 diabetes is something people are born with.
Type 2 diabetes is also known as “insulin resistance.” Due to poor lifestyle choices and nutrition, your body no longer becomes desensitized to the effects of insulin. This causes your blood sugar to ebb and flow outside of the normal range. Leading to cell damage which can result in serious side effects like limb amputation and even death.
Typically people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. They likely do not exercise much. Some people take it as a wake-up call when their doctor diagnoses them with “prediabetes.” This means they are on the path to becoming insulin resistant. Without some lifestyle changes, they will soon be resistant to the hormone’s effects.
Keep in mind that we are mainly talking about the keto diet as it relates to type 2 diabetes or prediabetes in this article.
<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Is the Keto Diet Okay for Diabetics?</p></h4>
Most people are past the days where they believed that “fat makes you fat,” but in case you missed the memo. . .
Actually, high-fat diets like keto work well for people that are overweight with type 2 diabetes. High-fat, low-carb diets do a good job of steadying and even lowering blood glucose levels<sup>2</sup>. This is because quality fat sources tend to be filling and digest slowly. Providing you longer, more sustained energy than simple carbohydrates do.
When a person follows a high-fat diet, their energy comes from fat. The beauty of the ketogenic diet is that once your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-long-does-it-take-to-get-into-ketosis/"><strong>body adapts to being in ketosis</strong></a>, you burn fat doing *everything*. Simple tasks like walking, working, and cleaning the house actually help you lose weight faster by burning up your fat storages.
<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Is It Safe for a Diabetic to Go into Ketosis?</p></h4>
People with diabetes should keep in mind that adjusting to the keto diet does take some time. Besides the pains of the “keto flu”—common symptoms experienced as you adapt to fat-burning early on—diabetics also need to consider the very different, and dangerous, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)<sup>3</sup>.
<h5><p style="color: #000000">What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis?</p></h5>
Ketoacidosis means that the body has too many ketones in it. It’s an extremely dangerous condition that people with type 1 diabetes are more prone to. It happens when your blood sugar is too high and ketones build up to dangerous levels in your body<sup>4</sup>.
Though ketoacidosis is rare for type 2 diabetics, it’s still important to monitor blood sugar levels throughout the day. To make sure they are in the target range. The American Diabetes Association recommends testing for ketones if your blood sugar exceeds 240 mg/dL.
Keep in mind there is a big difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis<sup>5</sup>.
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<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Can Keto Reverse Diabetes?</p></h4>
The keto diet is a proven way to lose weight, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/ketosis-and-brain-function/"><strong>improve brain function</strong></a>, feel more energy, and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/"><strong>transform your body</strong></a>.
But if you’re living with type 2 diabetes, can it reverse the effects of the disease?
There have been many cases where type 2 diabetics taking insulin no longer needed the synthetic hormone due to the ketogenic diet<sup>6</sup>. Even two months of following the ketogenic diet has helped some people reduce and even reverse the symptoms of diabetes.
The key is consistency and talking to your doctor. A high-fat, low-carb diet might help reverse the effects of diabetes, but you should always ask your primary physician for their opinion before starting a new diet.
<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Is It Safe To Use The Keto Diet with Diabetes?</p></h4>
Again, this is a question that you’ll need to run by your doctor. However, we can tell you that many of the symptoms of diabetes start to reduce—or even disappear—from following a high-fat diet like keto.
What’s important is to continue monitoring your blood sugar even if you are noticing results. Don’t stop taking medications unless cleared by your primary physician. You’ll want to check both your blood glucose and ketone levels to ensure that you are in the right ranges and not at risk for ketoacidosis<sup>7</sup>.
After your body makes the necessary adjustments and begins burning fat, you may still want to check in with your doctor and talk about medication.
<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Keto Diet and Diabetes—Wrapping Up</p></h4>
If you’re looking to make a change, reduce symptoms, or reverse the disease, there are many positive benefits to the keto diet for people living with type 2 diabetes. In many cases people are able to get off their medication, lose a ton of weight, and level out their blood sugar levels in just a few months.
It’s absolutely essential that, if you’re living with diabetes, you talk to your primary doctor before starting the ketogenic diet. While this advice is promising, they’ll know best how to treat you and can ensure you don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re at risk for ketoacidosis.
For more things keto, check out our <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/"><strong>nutrition section</strong></a>. We’ve got tasty recipes, full guides, and beginner tips for starting the ketogenic diet. Whether you have diabetes or just want to learn more, there’s plenty of info in there for you!
<h5><p style="color: #000000">Resources</p></h5>
1. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes">Everything You Need to Know About Diabetes</a>
2. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes-ketogenic-diet#effects">Effects on blood glucose</a>
3. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes-ketogenic-diet#risks">Potential dangers</a>
4. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/ketoacidosis">What You Should Know About Diabetic Ketoacidosis</a>
5. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/ketosis-vs-ketoacidosis">Ketosis vs. Ketoacidosis: What You Should Know</a>
6. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/why-i-tried-keto-diet#3">I Tried the Keto Diet to Manage My Diabetes</a>
7. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes-ketogenic-diet#monitoring">Monitoring your diabetes</a>