ketogenic diet

The Ketogenic Diet for Diabetes: Benefits, Concerns & Side Effects

ketogenic diet

Do you know the ketogenic diet? Contrary to many other diets , it is increasingly popular in the West. It is very effective in weight loss, but also has many interests for athletes. Due to its particular nature, this diet should ideally be accompanied by medical monitoring. So what do you need to know about the ketogenic diet?

What is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet is a diet that targets weight loss and athletic performance gains, including endurance. It has been around for almost a hundred years. Originally, the ketogenic diet was devised for patients with epilepsy. Today, and since the 1980s, it has come back into fashion with the Paleo diet 1 ). Many consider the ketogenic diet to be a close cousin of the low-carb diet. It is interesting to note that the ketogenic diet is neither more nor less than the daily and ancestral dietary practice of certain peoples, still perpetuated today by the Inuit, the Mayans or certain Native American tribes.

The ketogenic diet was invented in 1921 by Dr. Russel Wilder in Minnesota ( 2 ). He wanted to reproduce the effects of fasting in a diet that could be maintained indefinitely. Fasting had shown beneficial results in treatment-resistant patients with epilepsy ( 3 ). Indeed, depriving the brain of sugar seemed to protect it from seizures. When the body lacks glucose, it enters a state of “ketosis” and then converts fat into energy.

While for several decades, the food industry has presented us with a pyramid of food needs with carbohydrates at the base of the latter, the ketogenic diet completely challenges this mode of eating. What are its principles?

The principles of the ketogenic diet 

The ketogenic diet consists of favoring lipids very largely in your diet, leaving room for some proteins and especially very few carbohydrates. However, we know that the fuel of the body comes first from carbohydrates, then from lipids, and finally from proteins. This diet is therefore inspired by fasting to force the body to draw its energy from our fat reserves. It forces it to produce “ketones,” a source of energy from stored fat in the body ( 4 ). And this, in order to replace carbohydrates as fuel. 

As part of a keto diet, we greatly reduce our consumption of carbohydrates. Fat intake is increased to prevent muscle wasting and promote ketosis. If the body drew on proteins, there would be a catabolism effect with the risk of muscle atrophy. In ketosis, the metabolism uses ketone bodies for its energy needs instead of glucose.

Ketone bodies are created from fatty acids. It is a more stable source of energy than glucose, which is derived from carbohydrates. People who follow this diet enter ketosis after 3 to 7 days. But for that, they must consume less than 30 grams of sugar per day.

How to start a ketogenic diet?

Ideally, you should start with a basic food re-education. Replace processed food with healthy foods as much as possible and stop sweet snacking. Discover the list of keto foods to favor and those to avoid.

Ketogenic diet: Prohibited and authorized foods

List of foods to avoid

  • Cereals, pastas, breads, rice, croissants, pancakes, wraps, potatoes, corn, wheat, flour and even quinoa.
  • Starchy vegetables: beans, peas and lentils.
  • Limit omega-6, pro-inflammatory, contained in sunflower, grapeseed, corn oils. Favor monounsaturated fatty acids (omega 3) such as olive oil.
  • Processed fats, such as margarine.
  • Sweets: desserts, milk chocolate, pastries, snack bars, confectionery…

Foods allowed

It's time to discover foods rich in good fats and that do not make you fat .

  • Meat, fish and eggs. Choose organic meat and wild fish, rich in omega 3 . Eat as many eggs as you want, preferably organic and from free-range, flaxseed-fed hens. 
  • Starchy vegetables: mushrooms, broccoli, cucumbers, asparagus, salad, peppers, cabbage, tomatoes, garlic, onions, etc. The avocado is low in carbohydrates and rich in good fats: it is ideal in the ketogenic diet.
  • Dairy products. In any case, it is recommended to limit dairy products. Overconsumption poses risks for hormone-dependent cancers. As part of the diet, favor natural cheese that contains protein and fat, but no sugar. Choose high-fat dairy products with little lactose. In addition to cheese, mascarpone, cheese creams, fresh cream, Greek yogurt, Isigny cream… Always choose organic products from healthy fed animals. This allows you to avoid pesticides, hormones, antibiotics... Also consider vegetable alternatives such as cream or coconut milk.

In the implementation of your ketogenic diet, you can also consume: 

  • Lots of water ;
  • Unsweetened coffee or tea;
  • Coconut oil, a star food of the ketogenic diet  ;
  • Natural sweeteners: stevia and erythritol in limited quantities;
  • Some sauces such as mayonnaise, mustard or pesto can be kept;
  • Chicken or beef broths are excellent for rebalancing your sodium doses and filling a gap.
  • pickles and other pickled vegetables;
  • Seeds and nuts: chia seeds, pecans, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts…

What are the benefits of the ketogenic diet?

How can the ketogenic diet be beneficial? And what are its limits?

The benefits of the ketogenic diet on the practice of sport

The ketogenic diet has been shown to have positive effects for weight loss ( 5 ). As it pushes our body to draw energy from our fat reserves, it makes it possible to considerably reduce the adipose mass that composes it. This is a diet followed by many weight loss people.

After a period of adaptation to the change in diet, cravings disappear. Blood tests are improving. People who follow this ketogenic diet experience a real improvement in their physical condition ( 6 ). And they practice it precisely to improve their athletic performance ( 7 ).

The ketogenic diet may improve the body's ability to control systemic inflammation. This type of inflammation occurs after intensive sports practice. Ketones, found in optimal amounts in the body, are found to be beneficial for reducing fatigue after exercise ( 8 ).

The health benefits of the ketogenic diet

But there's a lot of talk about this dietary solution for certain chronic conditions ( 9 ). As in the fight against certain cancers ( 10 ). According to several studies, it would reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, epilepsy, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, etc. Thanks to ketones, the body would deliver energy to healthy cells and neurons. This source of energy then helps to counter certain diseases such as cancer for the former, and Alzheimer for the latter ( 11 ) ( 12 ).

It would seem that healthy cells feed mainly on fat. Cancer cells feed mainly on sugars, including complex sugars (including glycogen). By depriving them of their favorite source of energy, and boosting healthy cells, the diet high in fat and very low in glucose would help the body better defend itself ( 13 ). Finally, the ketogenic diet is known to be great for suppressing oxidative stress ( 14 ).

The health benefits of good fats

According to dozens of studies carried out on more than 900,000 people, fats are not bad for your health. It is even necessary. But you still have to know how to choose them! Indeed, some are dangerous for health. This is the case of trans fatty acids found in industrial products. In contrast, some fat sources like saturated and monounsaturated fats do not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease ( 15 ). On the contrary, these sources of lipids generate significant improvements for cardiometabolism: insulin, blood sugar, ectopic fat storage, blood pressure and blood lipids.

The disadvantages of the keto diet

What are the limits and risks of this particular diet?

What are the risks and dangers of the ketogenic diet?

Following the ketogenic diet is very difficult, especially the first few weeks. The drastic changes it involves require a fairly long and often very difficult period of adaptation. Many people give up very quickly when flu-like symptoms appear. But rest assured: with appropriate medical monitoring, you will quickly feel the benefits of this diet. Similarly, you should not be too demanding with your body during this period: the practice of sport can be difficult, even impossible for a few days or weeks.

Contraindications to this diet

However, some people are contraindicated in this drastic diet. This is the case for patients with type 1 diabetes, for example. The same goes for anyone who is prone to metabolic abnormalities regarding fatty acid oxidation. People with hepatocellular insufficiency or respiratory deficits cannot deprive themselves of carbohydrates either.

In any case, it is essential to consult your doctor and/or a nutritionist before considering a ketogenic diet. Indeed, it can be dangerous to make such changes in your diet without benefiting from personalized monitoring. There is a real risk of deficiencies, in particular. Food supplementation may be necessary!

Tips for better living the transition phase to ketogenic

Entering “ketosis” is not without impact. To do this, you have to endure great upheavals in your habits and in your body. The period of adaptation to this specific diet lasts an average of fifteen days.

Support the keto flu

This is the most difficult phase of the ketogenic diet and that most people who seriously challenge themselves encounter this... It is called "ketogenic flu", or "low-carbs flu" (in English low = weak, carbs = carbohydrates ), or “keto-flu”. When the fat/sugar ratio forces the body to get its energy from fat, in addition to sometimes ravenous hunger, flu-like symptoms can appear. These symptoms are: fatigue, cough, stuffy nose, headache, irritability, nausea, etc.

They can last a day or two, rarely longer. They are the body's natural reaction when it needs to change from one mode of energy production to another. It is the result of the "detox" of sugar compensated by the transformation of fatty acids into ketone bodies.

What actually happens is that the body lacks electrolytes, especially sodium. When starting the diet, you drastically reduce processed food and replace it with natural food, which causes a big drop in sodium.

Eventually, starving yourself of carbohydrates will lower insulin levels. This will reduce the level of sodium stored in the kidneys. Your body will then rebalance its own needs. It is said to be “keto-friendly”. But, in the meantime, your level of sodium and other electrolytes remains low.

Better support the drop in sodium

From the first days of your diet, consume a beef or chicken broth every evening, for a week to ten days. You can drink extra when you start feeling woozy to warm up your body and boost sodium. For a while, put more salt in your food. You can also increase your doses of salt from the start of the diet in anticipation of this period in order to avoid it or to pass it as quickly as possible and finally benefit from your new body dispositions. Eat more foods high in salt, such as anchovies or pickled vegetables.

From junk food to the ketogenic diet

It would be counterproductive to try to go from a highly unbalanced diet, with lots of sugars, carbonated drinks, foods high in carbohydrates and trans fats to a diet as drastic as a ketogenic diet. The symptoms of detoxification of the body would be difficult to bear, similar to a detox. As crazy as it may sound, certain forms of food including sugar can have the effect of a hard drug. To switch to the ketogenic diet in these cases, start by replacing sugary drinks with water and fruit and drastically reducing carbohydrate-rich foods. After a few weeks of moderation, you can then embark on the adventure.

Read product labels carefully

As a general rule, avoid products with long ingredient lists if possible. Nitrites and preservatives are camouflaged under the barbaric names based on "E"! In the nutritional values, beware of those indicated by portion which rarely correspond to those served. Always look at the 100 gram values ​​and avoid all products high in carbohydrates and sugar.

So, is the ketogenic diet miraculous or dangerous?

Not to mention miraculous, one can only be excited about the results offered by the ketogenic diet. But it must be taken into account that it must be followed for life. It is not possible to go back to a sassy diet after that. Otherwise, these benefits fade with him.

The ketogenic diet can actually promote weight loss and improved athletic performance. However, for this, it must be correctly carried out and always adapted to the nutritional needs of each one. Unfortunately, embarking on such dietary changes alone is risky. Therefore, we strongly advise you to seek quality medical follow-up with a doctor and/or a nutritionist. The establishment of a personalized food program should be considered.