The most important way to manage diabetes is through proper nutrition; however, if you want to reverse this disease and reduce or even eliminate diabetes medications, then it could be advisable to avoid the American Diabetes Association dietary guidelines, and turn away from commonly prescribed diets that have made diabetes much, much worse.
A growing body of scientific data is pointing towards a diet that has the potential to reverse Type 2 Diabetes, and even reduce drug dependence for Type 1 Diabetes: The Ketogenic Diet.
More than just a diet, using fat to fuel the body instead of carbohydrates has scientifically proven to improve biomarkers of age, optimise weight loss and reverse many chronic diseases, including some cancers.
Not only does the ketogenic diet offer a potential cure for diabesity (diabetes + obesity), the positive side-effects of this lifestyle choice are numerous.
Big claims? Indeed, however, new long-term research into this way of eating is shattering old-school paradigms on nutrition and is changing the way we view and approach our modern diet.
The ketogenic diet has been around since the beginning of time and is an important part of our evolution, without the ability to burn fat instead of glucose as fuel, many people would have starved to death. Ketosis refers to the fuel source your body survives on.
The standard western supermarket diet is high in carbohydrates and as your body absorbs these carbohydrates they are converted into glucose (sugar), these glucose molecules are then transported into cells by insulin to fuel each cell in your body.
When we reduce our carbohydrate intake to a minimum (usually 5 to 10% of daily caloric intake) there is no longer enough glucose to fuel the body, so the body very cleverly goes looking for a second fuel source.
It turns to stored fat cells and/or dietary fat, and the liver converts this fat into ketones. Ketones then become the primary fuel for each cell in your body.
This is called fat-adaptation, and the clinical term for this is to say you are in a ketogenic state, or your body is in nutritional ketosis. And the side-effects can be extremely positive.
What Is Nutritional Ketosis?
The term nutritional ketosis was coined by Dr. Stephen D. Phinney some thirty years ago to clarify confusion, particularly amongst physicians, between ketosis induced by carbohydrate restriction and ketosis caused by the absence of insulin in Type 1 diabetics, which leads to ketoacidosis.
Ketones in extremely high levels can be a toxic byproduct of fat metabolism; however, in very low doses they are also a useful substrate for healthy fat metabolism and weight loss.
There is no more risk of ketoacidosis in healthy individuals by inducing nutritional ketosis, as there is inducing diabetic coma in healthy individuals. A healthy body will keep these levels in a healthy range.
Some argue this is humans’ natural state; babies are born in ketosis and breast milk is ketogenic. Paleolithic man did not have access to grains and sugars like we do today and their natural diet would have been low in carb (carbohydrates) and higher fat.
It is our modern diet of high grains and sugars that have led to higher glucose levels and insulin. When carbohydrate intake is restricted, the need for insulin reduces and it is much easier to manage blood sugar levels.
Nutritional Ketosis For Diabetes?
A comparison of the American Diabetic Association diet (which is a lower calorie, low fat, moderate carbohydrate diet) to a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet took a group of participants, with either Type 2 Diabetes or insulin resistance (pre Type 2 diabetes), and then randomly assigned individuals to one of these two dietary protocols over a three month period. After three months the assessment determined there to be a significant difference with the low-carb ketogenic group demonstrating a significant drop in their hemoglobin A1C or overall blood sugar reading. And a far greater portion of the low-carb ketogenic group (44% vs 11%) were able to discontinue one or more of their diabetes medications and lost 5.5 kg compared to 2.6 kg.
Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism in 2005 followed 21 participants with Type 2 Diabetes over a 16 week period on a low-carb ketogenic diet. The study concluded that the low-carb ketogenic diet improved glycemic control in patients with Type 2 Diabetes to a point that diabetes medications were discontinued or reduced in most participants.
So yes, there is a lot of research into the effects of the ketogenic diet for diabetes to prove it is worth trying. Even for Type 1 Diabetes. My advice? While the ketogenic diet has such a positive impact on blood glucose and insulin levels, it is still important to be under close medical supervision as your requirement for medications can change very quickly. So ensure you seek thorough advice by an expert in this field.
The ketogenic way of eating also provides enormous levels of satiety (fullness after a meal), as the body becomes deeply nourished when we eat this way and therefore our brain isn’t constantly looking for nourishment. High carb diets make you hungry.
Another benefit is that obtaining a ketogenic state optimises brain function. In fact, this diet has proven to reduce symptoms of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, brain cancer, autism and multiple sclerosis.
It has long been used to treat childhood epilepsy; ketosis has been clinically proven to significantly reduce seizures.
The Paradigm Shift Away From Low Fat Diets
It is obvious to see that the low-fat/high-carb diet has truly been one of the biggest dietary blunders in history; it has led to unprecedented rates of obesity, heart disease and chronic illness. Simply put — we were wrong!
Fat doesn’t make you fat or unhealthy — carbohydrate (sugar) does.
For most of us, the suggestion that high-fat diets may actually be healthy seems totally contradictory to everything we’ve been told about nutrition, as experts have endorsed low-fat/high-carb for over 60 years.
But it’s time every health professional took the time to research thoroughly the evidence that has been brought to light. It takes a brave clinician indeed to change their opinion and admit we all had it very wrong, but we must.
There Is Hope
Sweden has become the first country to officially reject the low-fat/high-carb diet and has publicly announced new dietary guidelines to support low-carb/high-fat nutrition advice.
The Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment provided a two-year study analysing 16,000 nutrition studies published through May 2013. So there is hope that other countries may eventually change.
The first to lead will be countries that allow science to prevail over politics. However, it is a known fact that currently politics wins over science!
The Cholesterol Myth
The leading question is “what about cholesterol, won’t this cause heart disease and cause heart attacks?” While this is still a mainstream attitude by most health professionals, the answer is no, dietary cholesterol has no impact on the body’s cholesterol levels.
So next time your doctor suggests you lower your butter intake, ask them if they, in fact, mean you should lower your sugar intake.
The cholesterol myth is that dietary fat causes heart disease; however, this is a hypothesis that to this day has never been scientifically validated!
Ketosis For Weight Loss
Without being aware, most people today have become carb sensitive. Our blood sugar levels are on a constant rollercoaster resulting in highs and lows in energy; if you are a mid-afternoon napper or snacker, you will know what I mean.
But high blood sugar also contributes to many chronic degenerative diseases, including heart disease. Other symptoms of carbohydrate intolerance are: bloating, sleepiness after eating, physical and mental fatigue, depression and fat storage.
Due to a life on the high-carb diet, carb sensitivity is now a common problem. The ketogenic diet provides the solution.
Over the past decade I have spent 80% of my time in nutritional ketosis; I am living proof that a long-term ketogenic diet works. It is while I am in this fat-adapted state that I perform at my absolute best.
When I started I was insulin resistant with high LDL cholesterol, chronically high cortisol and my weight constantly fluctuated. I craved sugars and carbs and would fall asleep mid-afternoon.
Over a decade later after my lifestyle change, I have a BMI of 21 and a biological age of a woman 10 years younger, all my biomarkers have normalised and for a woman in her forties my weight hasn’t fluctuated more than a few kilos in years.
So if you are struggling to maintain your energy levels across the day, or struggling with your weight, consult an expert in nutritional ketosis to see if it’s right for you.
After coaching thousands of people from all around the world through these types of programmes, I personally believe this approach to eating is valid of investigation to see if it’s right for you.
At my clinic we offer either online self-taught programmes or professional eight week coaching packages whereby almost daily contact is offered, so clients stay both motivated and inspired to achieve their goals.
There is a healthy way to approach this diet and a very unhealthy way, so ensuring your body gets the nutrients it requires while on this protocol is the key for long-term success.
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DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to replace professional advice or offer dietary guidelines. Please consult your healthcare professional.
Deborah Murtagh – Wholefood Expert