Ottawa researcher probes impact of ketogenic diet on Type 2 diabetics

An Ottawa medical researcher is heading a project to see if cutting carbs from the diets of people with type 2 diabetes can improve their management of the disease.

Over the course of their lives, about one-half of all young adults across Canada is at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the most frequently diagnosed form of the disease. Although the risk can be mitigated by choosing a healthier lifestyle, millions of Canadians still face a high chance of developing diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction in the body in which the immune system attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Type 1 is more likely to appear in adolescence and is often related to genetic factors.

Type 2 diabetes can be related to diet and other lifestyle factors, though genetics can play a role in the diagnosis.

For more information about type 1 diabetes, check out our “Lace Up” story.

Dr. Erin Mulvihill, an assistant professor and researcher at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, explained that in type 2 diabetes, the body can produce insulin but it isn’t being effectively responded to. Unlike in type 1 diabetes, where there is no insulin signal, with type 2 diabetes there is an insulin signal but no reception of that signal in the body.

This is why many type 2 diabetics take pills such as metformin or sitagliptin because these medications can help improve that signal.

‘We’re getting better with treatments, but there’s still not a good level of control that they’re able to have.’

— Dr. Erin Mulvihill, professor and researcher, University of Ottawa Heart Institute

Mulvihill is currently conducting a research project, with funding from Diabetes Canada, to explore the impact of high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diets on people with type 2 diabetes. Many people following the popular keto diet in recent years have had success in managing their type 2 diabetes by restricting carbs and saccharides.

Mulvihill wants to understand the impact that very low levels of glucose have on a person’s hormone-producing beta cells over time. Those cells, according to Mulvihill, are designed to sense glucose…

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