Is Keto for Me?

We all want the best outcome for ourselves and our health especially if we live with type 2 diabetes. We search, we read, we analyze, we try new ideas, we analyze again, we search more, we try more. What we try that will support our diabetes will be different for each of us. Over the years, I have tried many new things: different monitors, new exercises, new groups online that support diabetes (this is the best one by the way!), new recipes, new foods, and new diets.

Healthy eating vs dieting

My focus today is on a particular ‘diet.’ Diet is an ugly word to me. It conjures up all kinds of thoughts like deprived, sacrifice, and even mild fear. A couple of years ago wording shifted away from diet to eating ‘healthfully.’ I understand the concept but to be honest, that word reminds me of when my daughter was little and she made up her own words. It meant something to her because she created the word and we understood what it meant but wouldn’t use it in regular conversation. I prefer healthy eating.

What is the keto diet?

As I peruse online, journals, magazines, etc. looking at healthy eating and current nutrition information there’s one way of eating that both intrigues and baffles me at the same time. The ‘keto’ way or ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet was originally developed to medically treat epilepsy in children, but only after two drugs were tried to control seizures unsuccessfully.1 So how did it become so popular with diabetics?

"The main objective of the ketogenic diet is to get the body to start relying primarily on fat for energy…" (instead of carbohydrates).2 What appears to appeal to many people and the reason it flowed over into the general population is that it produced weight loss by severely minimizing the amount of carbohydrate intake, less than 50gm a day. The other appeal, you can eat as much high-fat food as you like to feel full. In my layman’s mind, if there is no carb available then the excess fat I’m taking in will be burned for energy as well as the excess fat in my body.

Now on the surface, this sounds great. Weight loss! Yay! But this is the part I really don’t understand about the diet. In order for the body to burn this fat, you have to force the body into making ketones. These ketones can lead to ketoacidosis, a serious life-threatening condition for diabetics that can lead to coma and sometimes death.

So why would I want to force my body into this? As it turns out, according to the American Diabetes Association, ketoacidosis is ‘rare’ in people with type 2 diabetes.3 The equivalent organization in the UK, does not support this in total. They are more specific. The keto diet is not recommended for diabetics using insulin, type 1 or type 2, or people with longstanding type 2.4

Many people with diabetes say it’s beneficial because they lost weight; lost weight meant lower blood sugars, better control, and A1cs that are in the target range… what’s the expression? The proof is in the pudding...right?

Should I try the keto diet?

For me there are still a few unanswered questions:

  • If I eat a diet high in fat, what will my lipid profile look like over time?
  • Have I dealt with one problem, but created another one?
  • Is this diet supportive of heart health?

And finally: Diabetes. Is. Progressive.
As my diabetes ages, will the keto diet put me at high risk for ketoacidosis?

I am not judging those who find the keto diet to be their answer. I do question whether it is right for me.

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