Special diets for type 2 diabetes often focus on weight loss, so it might seem crazy that a high-fat diet is an option. The ketogenic (keto) diet, high in fat and low in carbs, can potentially change the way your body stores and uses energy, easing diabetes symptoms.
With the keto diet, your body converts fat, instead of sugar, into energy. The diet was created in 1924 as a treatment for epilepsy, but the effects of this eating pattern are also being studied for type 2 diabetes.
The ketogenic diet may improve blood glucose (sugar) levels while also reducing the need for insulin. However, the diet does come with risks. Be sure to discuss it with your doctor before making drastic dietary changes.
Many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, so a high-fat diet can seem unhelpful.
The goal of the ketogenic diet is to have the body use fat for energy instead of carbohydrates or glucose. On the keto diet, you get most of your energy from fat, with very little of the diet coming from carbohydrates.
The ketogenic diet doesn’t mean you should load up on saturated fats, though. Heart-healthy fats are the key to sustaining overall health. Some healthy foods that are commonly eaten in the ketogenic diet include:
- fish such as salmon
- cottage cheese
- olives and olive oil
- nuts and nut butters
The ketogenic diet has the potential to decrease blood glucose levels. Managing carbohydrate intake is often recommended for people with type 2 diabetes because carbohydrates turn to sugar and, in large quantities, can cause blood sugar spikes.
However, carb counts should be determined on an individual basis with the help of your doctor.
If you already have high blood glucose, eating too many carbs can be dangerous. By switching the focus to fat, some people experience reduced blood sugar.
The Atkins diet is one of the most famous low-carb, high-protein diets that’s often associated with the keto diet. However, the two diets have some major differences.
Dr. Robert C. Atkins created the Atkins diet in the 1970s. It’s often promoted as a way to lose weight that also controls numerous health issues, including type 2 diabetes.
While cutting excess carbs is a healthy step, it’s not clear if this diet alone can help diabetes. Weight loss of any kind is beneficial for diabetes and high blood sugar levels, whether it’s from the Atkins diet or another program.
Unlike the keto diet, the Atkins diet doesn’t necessarily advocate increased fat consumption. Still, you might increase your fat intake by limiting carbohydrates and eating more animal protein.
The potential drawbacks are similar.
Aside from a high saturated fat intake, there’s the possibility of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, from restricting carbs too much. This is especially true if you take medications that increase insulin levels in the body and don’t change your dosage.
Cutting carbs on the Atkins diet can potentially aid weight loss and help you control diabetes symptoms. However, there aren’t enough studies to suggest that Atkins and diabetes control go hand-in-hand.