Over the years, there have been a variety of diets that have overpromised and undelivered, placing those seeking to lose unwanted pounds back at square one. The ketogenic diet, however, is the antithesis of a fad diet; it has been proven to help countless people lose weight fast, but is it safe, especially for those diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes?

In this article, we will address whether or not a ketogenic diet is advisable for those with this disease and look at the results from several independent studies. Hopefully, by the conclusion of this article, you will have enough information to decide whether or not this diet is proper for you.

What is the keto diet?

For those unfamiliar with the keto diet, it is a diet that is predicated on a dramatic reduction in carbohydrates and keeping fats and proteins relatively high. Needless to say, some doctors express concern about this lifestyle. But lately,the diet started to take center stage as those with diabetes are turning to this diet to lose weight.

keto diet

The difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes

Now that we have a cursory understanding of the ketogenic diet, let’s focus on diabetes. Although many people have heard of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, it doesn’t mean they are familiar with the differences between the two chronic diseases, and there are a few key differences. Those with type 1 diabetes are unable to produce insulin. On the other hand, those with type 2 diabetes may find that their body doesn’t respond to the insulin they produce.

Also, there is a marked difference between how quickly symptoms appear in those with type 1 diabetes over those with type 2 diabetes. Those who have developed type 1 diabetes will experience symptoms over several weeks. Conversely, those with type 2 diabetes may not experience diabetic symptoms for years. Despite these differences, the one thing that is salient amongst those who have diabetes are the symptoms, including:

  • An increased need to urinate
  • Frequently feeling fatigued
  • Blurred vision
  • Always feeling thirsty or hungry
  • Cuts or sores that don’t heal

The keto diet and type 2 diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes and you’re looking to lose weight, the ketogenic diet is not only safe, but effective. In a study overseen by Dr. Laura Saslow, an assistant professor of Behavior and Biological Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, those with type 2 diabetes that followed a ketogenic diet experienced an appreciable amount of weight loss and also enjoyed a 6.5 percent reduction in their hemoglobin A1c.

So what does this mean in layman’s terms? It suggests how those who followed a low-carb, high-protein, high-fat diet lost weight and managed to reverse their type 2 diabetes. Study participants were limited to a diet consisting of only lean meats and vegetables. It should also be noted that the study emphasized type 2 diabetes, as there is a stronger correlation between this variant of the disease and excess weight. Type 1 diabetes, although worthy of conversation, is a disease you are born with and is not as easily influenced by one’s weight.

The study

The study consisted of 25 participants, with 13 following the “plate method,” a diet consisting of grains, fruits, non-starchy vegetables, and low-fat dairy. The remaining 12 participants followed a keto diet. Those following the “plate method” filled half their plate with broccoli, carrots, peppers, and other non-starchy vegetables. They then filled a quarter of the plate with whole grains before filling the remainder with their choice of lean meats.

Regarding those following the ketogenic diet, their instructions were much more straightforward. They limited their non-fiber carbs to 50 grams. All study participants were in their 50s and were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes; additionally, they were each taking metformin, a medication designed to improve the body’s response to insulin, which is naturally produced in the body. Lastly, all participants were limited to 1,700 calories per day.


At the end of the 32-week study, the ketogenic diet proved more effective than the plate method. The study revealed that those following the keto diet plan lowered their HbA1c to 6.5 percent. Each lost an average of 28 pounds. Of those on the “plate method” diet, none of the participants lowered their HbA1c low enough to reverse diabetes. Concerning weight loss, study participants lost an average of 6.6 pounds.

ketogenic deit

Why did participants on the keto diet do so much better?

The 1,700 calorie cap on the ketogenic diet places the body in a state of ketosis, a normal metabolic process whereby the body draws energy from fat stores instead of carbohydrates. The carbs did not make up a very large percentage of the participants’ total caloric intake. Thus, reducing carbs forced the body to turn to fat as an energy source.

The keto diet and type 1 diabetes

Similar to type 2 diabetes, a study reviewed the efficacy of a keto diet amongst those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In this case, however, the study was led by a Harvard research team. The study reported that those with type 1 diabetes had improved glucose control while losing weight. They accomplished those results with little to no side effects. The pool of participants for the type 1 diabetes study was far more significant, as participants provided clinical data online, which was substantiated through medical charts and feedback from the participant’s doctor. That aside, there were a total of 316 participants from various countries. They each had a type 1 diabetes diagnosis and took insulin to manage the disease.


A low-carb diet did not produce the same favorable results detailed in the study involving those with type 2 diabetes. Indeed the low-carb intake seemed to have an adverse effect on many participants. They were unable to lower their HbA1c any lower than 7.2 percent. Also, the low-carb diet did not affect participants’ lipid profiles, as those remained unchanged. Future studies should assess the impact of a low-carb diet on those with type 1 diabetes. However, this may not be a viable option for those who have type 1 diabetes and are looking to lose weight.

What you should know before starting the keto diet

The findings detailed in these studies are compelling. However, further research must confirm the long-term effects of a ketogenic diet. The studies have not thoroughly addressed weight loss relative to blood sugar. Nor have they taken into consideration other components that may have contributed to a patient’s weight loss, says Dr. Michael Gonzalez-Campoy, medical director and CEO of the Minnesota Center for Obesity, Metabolism, and Endocrinology. Dr. Gonzalez-Campoy says that more extensive and randomized controlled trials are necessary before making a definitive conclusion on the diet’s efficacy.

Is a ketogenic diet right for you?

Deciding on whether or not to follow a ketogenic diet plan invariably comes down to the type of diabetes you have –  type 1 or type 2. Those with type 1 diabetes should avoid this diet as the body’s buildup of acids and ketones may place undue stress on the kidneys. For those with type 2 diabetes, this diet may be worth considering if you don’t mind a significant calorie restriction.

keto diet

Again, these studies were not large enough or randomized to the point where researchers could make a definitive conclusion. The data made available from these studies may be encouraging. But in the case of those with type 1 diabetes, this diet could be harmful. You should speak with your doctor if you are considering starting a ketogenic diet. They can assess your overall health and help you decide if a keto diet is right.

Are there any alternatives for the keto diet?

A variety of diets can help individuals lose weight, including the Atkins diet, Paleo diet, and many others. Still, very few are as beneficial in the face of type 1 or type 2 diabetes as the keto diet. If you desire to lose weight, you should practice portion control at mealtime. Furthermore, you must emphasize eating fresh fruits, lean meats, and vegetables instead of processed foods. Lastly, replace sugar-laden drinks with water, which contains no calories. By making these small changes, you will inevitably lose weight and improve your overall health.