If you are experiencing diabetes and trying to lose weight, you may feel frustrated and confused about what to eat. Right now, the ketogenic diet (keto diet) is trendy. Although some people initially experience rapid weight loss, the keto diet is not good for diabetes in the long term.
If you are following the keto diet, you could be harming your health in ways you have not considered. In this article, I will explain some of the problems with the keto diet and an overview of a healthier way to eat.
What is the Keto Diet?
The keto diet overloads your body with fat and minimizes your carbohydrate intake. The meals are high in animal products and animal fat. When you deprive your body of carbohydrates, you begin burning fat for fuel rather than carbs. As your body burns fat, it produces acids called ketones that accumulate in the blood. Over time, as you continue burning fat, you’ll enter a state called ketosis.
This is clearly a major reason why the keto diet is not good for diabetes. In fact, the most likely result of the keto diet is a shorter lifespan. [Ref 1]
The Weight Loss is Difficult to Sustain
On a keto diet, some individuals will lose weight and reduce their blood sugar, but these results are difficult to maintain. [Ref 2].
It is a struggle to keep the body in a state of ketosis forever. A person would need to remain on the keto diet for the rest of their life. This is such a struggle to maintain that the majority of people gain their weight back in a year.
The Body is Designed to Use Carbohydrates as Fuel
The body is capable of burning fat, but that is not supposed to be the body’s main fuel. Normally, carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel. If you didn’t have any food to eat, your body fat is designed to burn fat to avoid starvation. But constantly burning fat is not how we are designed to live long term.
Plant-based Nutrition is Better for Weight Loss
A more natural way to lose weight is low-fat, whole food, plant-based nutrition. This consists of low-fat, low-calorie, high-fiber meals, focusing on complex carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes). A healthy body weight is much easier to achieve with whole food plant-based nutrition.
A high-fat diet centered around animal products promotes insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes). But studies show that plant-based nutrition reverses insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes). [Ref 3]
The Keto Diet Depletes Energy
Normally healthy carbs like fruits vegetables and whole grains provide excellent fuel. However, on a keto diet, these foods are restricted. So you may literally feel like you are running out of gas. With so few carbohydrates, the keto diet leads to fatigue, low energy, and crankiness.
Imagine the power goes out in your house. You will probably use candles until the power is restored. You are limited in the kinds of things you can do by candlelight when the power is out for too long. Similarly, a person who burns fat for fuel is limited. They don’t have the energy they need to function fully.
Keto Diet Decreases Muscle Mass
On the keto diet, your body not only burns fat, it may also burn muscle for fuel. Because you are operating on the wrong fuel day after day, you will likely feel tired and lose muscle mass.
The keto diet depletes your energy further as it weakens your muscles. Ultimately this interferes with your ability to exercise and sets you up to gain weight and experience worsening diabetes..
If your goal is to lose weight or improve a chronic condition such as diabetes, avoid the keto diet. The short term weight loss is not worth the risks.
For those who want to learn more about how to beat diabetes the healthy way, download the Guide to Overcoming Diabetes Naturally.
Ref 1. Seidelmann S, Claggett B et al. Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis. The Lancet Public Health. 2018 Sep vol 3, issue 9: PE419-E428https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(18)30135-X/fulltext
Ref 2. Mayo clinic minute: why the keto diet is more hype than help for most people. Mayo clinic website.
https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-minute-why-the-keto-diet-is-more-hype-than-help-for-most-people/ Accessed April 24, 2019.
Ref 3. McMacken M, Shah S. A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017;14(5):342–354. doi:10.11909/j.issn.1671-5411.2017.05.009
Carla Hightower, MD, MBA is a physician, health coach, workplace wellness consultant, and speaker. She helps people heal themselves with food. Through wellness workshops and courses, she helps companies create healthy, energetic teams.
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