If you google “keto diet,” you get over 320 million results consisting of guides, food lists, and menus for beginners and veterans alike. With this kind of popularity, there's no reason why keto diets wouldn’t make headlines. But is it suitable for everyone -- specifically, someone living with type 2 diabetes? Let's take a closer look.
What Is a Keto Diet?
A ketogenic diet, commonly referred to as a “keto diet,” is a low-carb, moderate protein, high-fat eating pattern designed to induce ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state that occurs when the body burns fat instead of glucose for energy. Initially, the diet was prescribed for people with seizures and consisted of a 4:1 ratio of fat-to-carbohydrates plus protein. Nowadays, there are a few variations to eating keto, but all restrict the overall intake of carbohydrates.
Are Keto-Friendly Foods OK to Eat With Diabetes?
Keto diets allow fat and protein-rich food groups while limiting foods that contain a lot of carbohydrates. Examples of acceptable foods include:
- Full-fat dairy products
- Meat, seafood, and eggs
- Non-starchy produce such as berries, spinach, avocado, and bell peppers
- Plant-based oils
- Nuts and seeds
But believe it or not, there is no such thing as a “diabetes diet.” That’s because everyone has an individualized eating style. There are a variety of foods, including foods allowed on a keto diet that can easily fit into a diet that promotes blood glucose management.
What Are Keto Diet Advantages?
A keto diet can result in rapid weight loss by reducing carbohydrate intake. Foods such as bread, rice, pasta, beans, starchy produce, desserts, and sweetened beverages are all off-limits. Naysayers may say a caloric restriction in any food group can lead to weight loss. Still, some researchers say the metabolic effects of food, rather than the calories of specific foods, are the key to determining body weight over the long term, and carbohydrate restriction is more effective than fat restriction for weight loss treatment.
What Are Keto Diet Disadvantages?
While a keto diet may have its advantages for weight loss, it also has disadvantages -- especially for people with type 2 diabetes. A 2022 journal article suggests that a keto diet may cause low blood sugars. This is especially true for people who have diabetes and are on insulin or oral medications that may result in hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia, commonly known as “low blood sugar,” is a medical condition that occurs when blood glucose levels are less than 70 mg/dL. This condition is characterized by symptoms such as hunger, nausea, irritability, and fatigue, to name a few. If severe enough, hypoglycemia can impact the functioning of the nervous system and result in confusion, seizure, and coma.
Additionally, heart health should be of concern for anyone living with diabetes. According to the CDC, “people with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke compared to people without diabetes,” and since keto diets are high-fat diets, this is of concern. Research shows conflicting data on a keto diet's impact on heart health. For this reason, robust long-term research could increase our knowledge of how a keto diet impacts overall heart health.
How to Use This Information
There are several pros and cons to adhering to a keto diet. If you are interested in incorporating keto-friendly foods into your existing diet that contains carbohydrates, go for it. However, if you have type 2 diabetes and are on any medications, please consult your doctor and dietitian before sticking to a strict keto diet.
Photo Credit: Grace Cary / Moment via Getty Images
Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.
Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.