Low Carb Diet for Diabetics | Does it Work?

low carb diet for diabetes

There is a lot of buzz about the low carb diet for diabetics right now. Low carb diets like keto are a popular way to help people lose weight. They are safe and effective and may help those with diabetes to keep their insulin level under control.

Several studies show that low carb diets can in may cases help manage both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Although more studies are needed to determine the exact effects of a low carb diet for diabetics, here’s what we know so far.

What is a Low Carb Diet?

A low carb diet is the type of diet that limits the consumption of carbohydrates, such as those found in starchy veggies, grains, and fruits. The diet emphasizes eating foods high in healthy fats and protein.

There are many different forms of low carb diets. The two most popular low carb diets are the Paleo Diet and the Ketogenic Diet. Depending on the type of low carb diet you follow, the amount of carbohydrates you’re allowed to eat on a day will vary.

According to Susan Kleiner, PhD, R.D, author of Power Eating,

Low carb diet plans can range from 100 grams of carbohydrates per day to zero grams. To put that into perspective, a small piece of fruit has about 15 grams of carbs and a banana contains up to 30 grams.

Low carb diets like keto are generally used for weight loss. However, some low carb diets come with health benefits beyond weight loss. For instance, the keto diet is believed to help people with diabetes.

Related reading: Is the Keto Diet Good for Diabetes?

Keto Diet for Diabetics

The keto diet is the most popular when it comes to a low carb diet for diabetics. It’s a high-fat, low-carb eating plan, which requires you to eat less than 50 grams of carbs per day.

keto dietNormally, we fuel our bodies with carbs. But with the keto diet, you will get your fuel from fats. Once you deprive your body of carbs, it will enter a state known as “ketosis“. While in ketosis, your body produces fatty acid substances known as ketones, which your body can use for energy.

Related reading: What Are Keto Diet Ketones?

Related reading: How Ketosis Works for Burning Fat Faster?

Research shows that people diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes can lower their blood sugar levels with the keto diet. One study found that people with Type 2 Diabetes lost weight and required less medication. Their A1c blood level normalized after following the keto diet for at least a year.

Dr Michael Mosley and Diabetes Cure 

Dr Michael Mosley, an English doctor turned TV presenter and author, was shocked when he was diagnosed with diabetes in spite of not being particularly overweight. With his medical knowledge and interest in health he managed to reverse it with a Mediterranean style low carb diet.

He wrote the 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet How To Beat Diabetes Fast and Stay off Medication which he later combined with his very successful Fast Diet to become The Fast 800 Keto.

His wife, Dr Claire Bailey, carried out a study with Oxford University based on the Fast 800 diet, a rapid weight loss diet. The study involved volunteers with type 2 diabetes being allocated ‘usual diabetic care’ or eating 800-1000 calories daily in the form of low carb meals for eight weeks.

Patients on the Fast 800 Diet lost an average of 9.5 kg and saw a big drop in their blood sugar levels, even though they had stopped some of their diabetes medication.

Related reading: How Does a Keto Diet Balance Blood Sugar?

Some say that it’s bad to lose weight quickly but Mosley says it’s not true. He reasons that people are more inclined to stick to the diet when they see quick results.  Plus, there is no evidence that it is harmful to health.

If you have diabetes, you are insulin resistant, which means you will have higher blood sugar levels since your body will not respond well to the hormone insulin. This is also referred to as metabolic syndrome.

Related reading: How To Reverse Metabolic Syndrome with Keto

When you lower your consumption of carbs by following a keto diet, you can benefit from ketosis since your body will require and produce less insulin.

Ketosis vs. Ketoacidosis

People understandibly often get confused about the difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis when thinking of starting a low carb diet for diabetics.

While both involve ketones, ketoacidosis is a dangerous condition that takes place when your body does not have enough insulin and there is too much buildup of ketones. It’s more common for people with Type 1 Diabetes than Type 2 Diabetes.

Ketosis is much safer than ketoacidosis. In fact, ketosis could happen to some people every day without them realizing it, depending on the amount of proteins and carbs they eat.

While you’re in ketosis, that’s when you start to experience weight loss, especially around the belly area. Also, people with diabetes will have lower A1c once they enter ketosis.

A1C, also known as HbA1c, is a blood test that gives an indication of your average levels of blood glucose (blood sugar), over the previous 3 months.

Is a Low Carb Diet for Diabetics Effective?

Several studies support a low carb diet for diabetics. In fact, before insulin was discovered in 1921, very low carb diets like keto were considered the standard treatment for people who have diabetes.

Related reading: 4 Top Low Carb Diet Benefits

In addition, low carb diets have been found to be more effective in the long term management of diabetes. In one study, people with Type 2 Diabetes followed a low carb diet for six months. Even three years later, they managed their condition well as they continued to stick with the diet.

Another study looked into people with Type 1 Diabetes. After following a carb-restricted diet, their blood sugar levels had significantly improved over the course of four years.

There are also a few studies that look into the keto diet’s effectiveness for people who have diabetes. One small study found that it helps people to lower their A1c levels.

But keep in mind that most of these studies have only focused on the short-term results of keto. It is still not clear if it can effectively manage diabetes in the long term.

Is Keto Safe if You Have Diabetes?

One of the questions people have when following the keto diet for diabetes is whether it is safe. This actually depends on several factors, such as the type of diabetes you have. In general, those with Type 2 Diabetes who are overweight can safely benefit from the keto diet.

Related reading: Is Keto Safe Long Term? Get Answers Here

However, it is best if you have Type 1 Diabetes to consult with your doctor first before you try the keto diet. You also need to monitor your blood glucose, insulin dose and health carefully and watch for any signs of ketoacidosis.

Regardless of the type of diabetes you have, it’s essential that you closely work with your doctor. He or she might have to change any medication you take once you start with the low carb diet.

It’s also worth noting that the keto diet comes with some side effects, especially at the start of the diet. One of the most common side effects of keto is the keto flu. It’s a group of symptoms that consist of fatigue, nausea, irritability, difficulty sleeping, constipation and foggy brain.

Final Thoughts

Talk to your doctor before you try the low carb diet for diabetics. The low carb diet is highly recommended for some diabetic patients, especially those who need to shed some pounds.

This eating plan may help improve your blood sugar level and lessen the need for medication and help prevent complications. However, the effects of low carb diets like keto are different for everyone.

Others might find that the diet could make their diabetes worse. Therefore, you have to be careful when you transition to the low carb diet and closely observe how your body reacts.


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