The pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes (AKA: what goes awry in your body) is an inability of your cells to respond to the hormone insulin, allowing excessive amounts of glucose to accumulate in your blood.
From this perspective, it would make sense that reducing the number of carbohydrates you consume (glucose) would have a beneficial effect on blood sugar irregularities in diabetes. This understanding is exactly why many people with diabetes or other metabolic conditions that impact blood sugar turn to diets like the ketogenic diet.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Future Foods, researchers examined the impact of a ketogenic diet on participants with type 2 diabetes to uncover the potential benefits of carbohydrate restriction beyond a standard low-carb diet.
By assessing both physiological and abdominal MRI data, the investigators found some promising results for the potential therapeutic effect of the keto diet in type 2 diabetes.
Let's dive in.
Participants and Methods
Eight participants were carefully selected under the following guidelines:
- They were aged 18 to 65 years old.
- They all had a BMI greater than 25.
- They had a diabetes diagnosis for three years or less.
- To avoid conflicting factors, the participants chosen did not have any severe complications such as nephropathy, retinopathy, and diabetic foot.
- Similarly, there were no coexisting chronic diseases such as heart or lung disease.
Before the intervention, each participant had physiological parameters that are associated with diabetes assessed, including:
- Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), which gives an indication of the participant's average blood glucose levels over the last three months.
- Triglyceride (TG) levels, which measure triglycerides in the blood, high levels of TG in the blood are seen as a risk factor for diabetes.
- Fasting blood glucose, defined as no caloric intake for at least 8 hours.
- Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.
- Alanine aminotransferase (ALT), a liver enzyme that's released when liver cells are damaged. High ALT is an associated risk factor for diabetes.
Furthermore, the researchers collected abdominal MRIs for the subjects to assess adipose (fat tissue) volume before and after the intervention.
Once all data were collected, the participants began a three-month intervention, restricting their carbohydrate intake to 20-30 grams of carbohydrates per day, with no other dietary restrictions. They were asked to report their progress upon request throughout the three months and encouraged to stay active and keep a food journal to help track their dietary intake.
Now for the interesting part; the study results.
After three months of following a ketogenic diet, the participants were reassessed for all biological parameters and took a new set of MRI images.
Across the board, the eight participants showed significant positive changes in their biological parameters, including:
- Reduced HbA1c, indicating that the interventions of the last three months effectively reduced overall blood sugar and, therefore, reduced the severity of diabetes.
- Reduced Fasting Blood Glucose, indicating an enhanced ability for the body to absorb glucose from the blood.
- Reduced ALT and TG, indicating a reduction in the severity of diabetes, along with improved liver function.
- Reduced BMI and adipose tissue volume, indicating that the diet promoted weight loss and specifically fat loss.
The study authors note that the beneficial biological changes we see with the ketogenic diet are likely not due to the reduction of carbohydrates alone, but rather the ketogenic diet's ability to help participants shed excess weight.
In this way, the ketogenic diet may prove beneficial in other metabolic conditions where obesity is a driving factor. The authors also note that they plan to conduct larger trials in the future to expand their dataset and receive more insights into the therapeutic mechanisms behind the ketogenic diet.
What Does This Mean For You?
This research gives us some exciting insight into how the ketogenic diet may help to turn around markers for diabetes and pre-diabetes.
Many people give the ketogenic diet a try for a month or so and then fall off the bandwagon because they can't keep it up. In this study, participants committed to three months of following a ketogenic diet, and their outcomes were significantly positive.
If you've been wavering on trying a ketogenic diet, it may be worth considering if you could give yourself at least three months of commitment. Although it can be challenging to start a new diet, there are plenty of resources out there for you – including BioCoach.
When you sign up with BioCoach, you'll get to choose a diet plan and a health coach, you'll receive a glucose and ketone meter, and you'll have access to all kinds of bonuses and support. The goal of BioCoach is to help you take the guesswork out of your diet so you can put your focus where it matters.
As the ketogenic diet continues to grow in popularity, more researchers are digging in to uncover the potential benefits of very low-carb dieting. Along with the known neurological benefits, studies like this one show us that the ketogenic diet may be an excellent option for turning around metabolic conditions like type 2 diabetes.
As always, be sure to consult with your doctor or healthcare professional before beginning a new diet to make sure it's the right choice for you.