By the year 2050, estimates show that 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes.
Maybe you know someone now who has it – family members, friends, or your doctor has told you that you’re high risk. If you think the count for Americans with diabetes (30 million) is high, consider the number in China: 114 million.
Why so many and why is it increasing?
The American Diabetes Association estimates that those with diabetes will spend two times more in medical expenses than those without the disease. Also, people who have diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those without it. All the more reason to prevent or manage it as much as possible.
November has been American Diabetes Month and it’s a good time to consider the impact of this disease and what can be done, specifically through diet, to make things better. In this blog, I invite you to explore with me some considerations on prevention and disease management for those who are choosing diet to wage war against diabetes.
Is it possible to “kick diabetes through keto”?
Michael Griffith recently joined me for a Podcast interview. He is a practicing physical therapist who helps athletes with chronic injuries and has been published in Men’s Fitness and Diabetes Forecast. At age 9, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and began the arduous task of tracking his blood sugar levels at every step of his life. Managing his diabetes during high school sports sparked his interest in the science behind his condition.
Today, he’s been able to control his diabetes and is largely symptom-free.
How did he get there?
He credits one of his early doctors as the catalyst to change his mind from being a reactive victim to having a courageous approach of self-driven, disease management. In this process, Michael learned of bodybuilders who were using the ketogenic approach to be more lean in their fitness regimen. He looked into it and decided to try keto. After experimenting and becoming fat-adapted, he found that keto helped his blood sugars remain stable.
Since then, he’s enjoyed good health, been able to exercise regularly, and encourages others to do the same. What is his message for controlling blood sugars? Avoid carbs. Carbs lead to too much glucose in the bloodstream – still is called hyperglycemia – and that is an ongoing problem for diabetics. A few years back, he tested the amount of insulin his body needed when he did eat carbs. In one example, he found that eating pancakes required him to inject 20 units of insulin to get back to normal.
Michael also tells of an experience he had many years ago while helping manage the type 1 diabetes of his 12 year old daughter. The registered nurse at an endocrinology clinic who saw her suggested some steps to respond to her apparently not growing as much as she should. Her main suggestion? Eat more carbs especially in the form of cookies and milk every night for a snack. Michael politely protested, “but isn’t sugar contra-indicated for diabetics?” An argument commenced, each side standing their ground as to what was best for the child. They heard her advice and left not intending to return.
What was his conclusion?
Not all medical professionals see things the same way. Do your research, try finding a keto-friendly doctor in your area. Here is a link to find doctors in your area.
What about type 2 diabetes?
Earlier this year, Dr. Sarah Hallberg gave a presentation on “Ketogenic Diet for Type 2 Diabetes”.
She’s the Medical Director at Virta Health and is an adjunct Clinical Professor of Medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine. Dr. Hallberg is an expert in diabetes care and is board certified in Internal Medicine, Obesity Medicine, and Clinical Lipidology and also a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist from the ACSM.
I recommend that you view her speech and consider her findings.
For some background information – People with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance. The body still produces insulin, but it’s unable to use it effectively. When someone develops type 2 diabetes, their pancreas attempts to compensate by producing more insulin. Since the body in this scenario is unable to effectively use insulin, glucose begins to accumulate in the bloodstream. Type 2 diabetes is much more common that type 1. According to the 2017 National Diabetes Statistics Report, one in ten people in the United States have diabetes and of those, about 90 percent have type 2 diabetes.
How are type 1 and type 2 diabetes diagnosed?
The primary test for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes is called the glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test. An A1C test is a blood test that determines your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. Your doctor may draw your blood or give you a small finger prick.
The higher your blood sugar levels have been over the past few months, the higher your A1C level will be.
An A1C level of 6.5 or higher indicates diabetes.
Experts suggest that nutritional management is an important part of life for people living with diabetes. For type 1 diabetics, the normal course of action is to consult with a doctor to identify how much insulin to inject after eating certain types of food. As noted previously, carbohydrates cause blood sugar levels to spike. One can counteract this by taking the right amount of insulin.
People with type 2 diabetes are instructed to focus on healthy eating and weight loss, especially the avoidance of animal fats and junk food.
In her remarks, Dr. Hallberg notes that diabetes is costing $400 billion a year in medical expenses. And from her observations and experience, this is the cycle of diabetic disease:
- Eat carbs
- Blood sugar rises
- Insulin needs to go up
- It’s that simple
So, she recommends an avoidance of carbs as the best way to manage type 2 diabetes. Is that really possible?
Comments posted to her presentation YouTube page seem to reflect that recommendation.
“Keto and intermittent fasting cured my type 2 diabetes in 12 weeks. A1C went from 7.4 to 5.3! It has been 6 months with no diabetic medication. I am 70 years old. Keto for life! Thank you so much.”
“As a FORMER Type 2 diabetic, I can personally attest to all that the good doctor is saying. Thanks to a ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting I went from an A1C of 7.3 to my current A1C of 5.1. My weight has gone from 230lbs to 160lbs (and is still going down). All this was, in fact, relatively easy once the craving for sweets and the like went away. And to top it all off comes the wonderful mental clarity one gets from the ketogenic diet, it’s almost unbelievable.”
My take on all this?
I appreciate these stories and educated perspectives from those who believe diabetes doesn’t have to halt a healthy life. These are messages of hope. Diabetes can be managed and controlled. If there is a diagnosis in your life, know that you can be empowered to make necessary changes. You don’t have to be limited to a reaction-based approach of medication dependence. You can build a lifestyle based on healthy food choices and healthy fitness.
What can you do?
- You can control diabetes through a good diet. My keto program can help you.
- If you want good control of your blood sugars, avoid carbs
- Don’t be afraid of keto, it can help stabilize your blood sugars
- Remove as much carbs from your diet, it will help you reduce the amount of insulin you require and make a huge difference in your blood sugar highs and lows
- Be sure to check your blood sugar levels more often throughout the day than normal until you are fat adapted through keto
- Consider using a continuous blood glucose monitor, which tracks the effects of what you eat in real-time
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