What is the ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet can be described as a rather extreme form of a low-carbohydrate diet that has gone famous today. It holds the promise of rapid and significant weight loss by forcing ketosis, a bodily state that occurs when carbohydrate intake is considerably low.
When in ketosis, our body produces ketones (energy byproduct of ketosis) through the breakdown of fats in the liver. Key components of this diet, along with a reduced carbohydrate intake (ideally below 20 grams per day and a maximum of 30 grams), include consuming a moderate amount of protein and a high amount of fats.
A typical ketogenic diet macronutrient breakdown would consist of 70% fats, 25% protein and 5% net carbohydrates (carbohydrates excluding fiber). Keto diets encourage a high intake of non-starchy vegetables, high in fiber, to prevent constipation and other complications. Additional claimed benefits of the ketogenic diet include controlling sugar blood level, enhancing mental focus (permitted by the increase in fatty acids intake and by the avoidance of big spikes in blood sugar), increasing energy and reducing hunger.
So no carbohydrates, no insulin spike?
On regular-carb diets, sugar spikes are many throughout the day and constitute a heavy burden on people with type 1 diabetes. When considering the key components of keto diets, it may sound as if keto diets are very convenient for people with both types of diabetes. After all, the heart of keto diets is reduced or even absent consumption of carbohydrates, which significantly reduces the risk of spikes in blood sugar levels and a reduction in the amount of insulin needed.
Low blood sugar levels remain a concern for type 1 diabetes patients adopting the keto diet. However, low blood sugar levels remain manageable and can be treated with using one standard glucose tab providing a steady increase in blood sugar levels.
Why aren’t all people with type 1 diabetes on the keto diet?
The above may make it sound as if the ketogenic diet is a way to cheat type 1 diabetes. Except for having to give up all sorts of carbohydrates and making a major shift in dietary habits, it is a way to naturally control insulin spikes and lose fat at the same time. The keto diet is however not that simple to choose as a lifestyle. Other than the fact that the keto diet may be unrealistic and effortful for many, it also comes with many health risks and threats. Patients with type 1 diabetes need to follow the keto diet very meticulously to avoid diabetic ketoacidosis. It is a toxic situation where high levels of blood sugar are mixed with ketones. This condition is serious and threatening and may occur when type 1 diabetics on the keto diet have a high-carbohydrate cheat meal. This will cause glucose spikes, therefore causing a number of ketones that is too large. While people without diabetes are also at possible risk for ketoacidosis, pre-diabetics and people with diabetes (especially type 1 diabetes) are at a much higher risk.
Symptoms of ketoacidosis develop quickly (in under 24 hours) and include:
- Excessive thirst,
- Frequent urination,
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Abdominal pain,
- Extreme fatigue,
- Difficulty breathing,
- Weirdly scented breath, sometimes fruity,
- Cognitive confusion.
All in all, dieting for diabetics is tough. Ketogenic diets might be good but it is always a good idea to consult your physicians before taking such actions. After all, sugar might be bad but we still need it. Stay safe and stay away from hypos!
A huge thank you to our guest writer, supporter and friend Maryam Bayram for providing us with those valuable insights.