Is keto good for weight loss? Can low carb diets help with blood sugar control? These are some of the most common questions people ask when they hear about the latest trends in nutrition for diabetes management. To help you navigate through the convoluted information, let’s discuss the attraction versus the science behind three popular diet trends for diabetes management in 2020.
Ketogenic or “Keto” Diet
The keto or ketogenic diet is one of the most famous diets around the internet and there is no sign that it will go away soon. This diet works by having high fat meals and very low carbohydrates. Reducing carbs allows your body to go into ketosis, which is when the body becomes better at turning fat into energy.
The attraction: Decrease blood sugar levels and may help with weight loss.
The science: Keto has been long used for persons with epilepsy and seizures. For diabetes, the data is still emerging. One of the concerns with keto and diabetes is that changing your body’s primary energy source from carbohydrates to fat causes an increase in ketones in the blood. Dietary ketosis can be an extremely dangerous condition. The American Diabetes Association states that “this approach may only be appropriate for short-term implementation (up to 3–4 months) if desired by the patient, as there is little long-term research citing benefits or harm.” Carbohydrate restriction and counting should be determined on an individual basis with the help of a Physician and Certified Diabetes Education Specialist.
Low carb diets
Low carb diets can start as low as 20 grams per day. People must have a high protein and fat intake and limits or restricts alcoholic drinks. Due to the low carb nature, it can feel limiting and if not done right people can be indulging in too much unhealthy fats.
The attraction: Quick weight loss and blood sugar control.
The science: A two-year study compared low carb to Mediterranean to low fat diets. Results showed that those on low carb diets loss 4.7kg versus 4.4kg for Mediterranean or 2.9kg for low fat diets. Another study at the UC San Francisco divided two small groups of people with type 2 diabetes ate either a Paleo or Mediterranean diet for several weeks running. Results showed that the Paleo group had improvement in blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Those on the Mediterranean diet saw little or no improvement.
The purpose of intermittent fasting is to allow the body to use fat instead of carbohydrate for energy, improve insulin mediated glucose uptake, cognitive improvement and focus. Common intermittent fasting methods involve daily 16-hour fasts or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week.
The attraction: The only restriction is on timing, not quality of food. Improve blood sugar control.
The science: A study found that intermittent fasting enhances cardiovascular and brain function, reduces blood pressure and increases insulin sensitivity. University of Alabama conducted a study with people with prediabetes. In one group they fed participant for 8 hours per day and the other group between 12 hours per day. The group that fasted for 8 hours had significantly lower insulin levels and improved insulin sensitivity. However, it is important to note that people who are on medications for diabetes, should not attempt intermittent fasting unless under the close supervision of a health care provider who can monitor them.
Choosing the “right diet”
It is very normal to have questions around popular diet trends and to wonder if it can help with blood sugar control. Consumers should understand that one diet does not fit everyone’s needs and trends are largely a spin on the already existing diets. A healthy diet consists of having lean proteins, vegetables and fruits, healthy fats and carbs. Ultimately, eating real foods, less processed will help anyone get into a better state in their health.