Keto Diet for Diabetics: Benefits, Risks, Side Effects

Numerous studies show that the keto diet’s approach to limiting carbs can help people with type 2 diabetes reduce their medication and lose weight.The keto diet reduced blood glucose levels, which helps people with type 2 diabetes control their symptoms.Before trying the keto diet, know the risks and side effects including fatigue, vitamin deficiencies, and in certain cases, kidney stones.This article was medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.This story is part of Insider’s guide to Diabetes. 

The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb eating plan. On the keto diet, you’re usually eating around 80% fewer carbs than what national guidelines typically advise. 

Research shows that the diet’s approach to limiting carbs may help people with type 2 diabetes manage their condition. Here’s a closer look at how the keto diet works — and what people with type 2 diabetes should know before giving it a try. 

Relationship between type 2 diabetes and carbs

Type 2 diabetes means that the body doesn’t respond to insulin like it should. The hormone insulin helps your body utilize blood sugar, or glucose, for energy. For patients with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, insulin is still produced — but it may be in insufficient amounts or the body doesn’t use insulin properly. This causes blood sugar levels to increase. If not treated, chronically high blood sugar levels can lead to heart disease, kidney damage, nerve damage, eye damage, sleep apnea, and more.

To keep diabetes under control, you want to keep your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible, says Osama Hamdy, MD, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and senior staff physician at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. 

“Glucose in blood comes predominantly from carbohydrates, so eating more carbohydrates increases blood glucose and reducing carbohydrates reduces blood glucose.”

That’s why the carb-cutting keto diet might be helpful for people with type 2 diabetes.

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