Weighing in on Diabetes and Fad Diets

Constance Brown-Riggs
Constance Brown-Riggs
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It’s been over 25 years since the American Diabetes Association announced that there is no longer a universal “diabetic diet.” Instead, based on your individual health assessment, there are tools that can be used to help achieve your diabetes goals. That opened the way for folks to develop different kinds of strategies to control diabetes successfully. But should fad diets be part of your strategy? It might surprise you to know that several fad diets have been studied in people with diabetes. Take, for example, intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is not a diet but rather a pattern of eating. Two of the most popular types of intermittent fast are the 5:2 fast and the time-restricted feeding fast.

The 5:2 fast, also known as The 5:2 Diet or The Fast Diet, calls for eating normally five days a week and restricting calories—500 calories per day for women and 600 calories per day for men—on the other two days. These fast days do not have to be right in a row.  

Time-restricted feeding calls for eating food within a narrow window of time, typically a six to eight-hour window. Then fasting for the remaining 16 to 18 hours a day. For example, with an eight-hour window, food is eaten between 11 AM to 7 PM.  Research shows this type of fast is more manageable because most of the fasting period is overnight and into the morning.

Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

An emerging body of evidence shows the benefits of intermittent fasting for type 2 diabetes and obesity are similar to those of a calorie-restricted diet but easier to follow. Research shows intermittent fasting reduces inflammation, lowers blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, and reduces insulin resistance.

Is Fasting Right for You?

If you take insulin or medications to control your blood glucose, intermittent fasting can increase your risk for hypoglycemia—low blood sugar. You may require a medication adjustment before going on an intermittent fast. As with any diet, you should first talk it over with your health care provider or diabetes health team to determine if intermittent fasting is right for you.  

Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet or keto diet is very low in carbs and very high in fat. Despite its’ recent popularity, the keto diet is a medical diet that has been used to treat epilepsy for almost 100 years. Today, however, the keto diet is herald primarily for its’ ability to promote rapid weight loss. A well-balanced keto diet is 70 to 80 percent fat, 5 percent carbohydrate with 20 percent protein.

Does a Ketogenic Diet Work?

The keto diet switches you from burning glucose (which carbs provide) to burning ketones (which fat produces) for energy. This results in your metabolism speeding, hunger levels going down, muscle mass increases, and blood pressure and heart disease risk profile improve.

A 2018 study found the keto diet safely lowered A1C, weight, and the need for medication in people with type 2 diabetes. On average patients experienced, lower A1C from 7.6 to 6.3 percent, weight loss of about 30 pounds, and reduced diabetes medicine use. Ninety-four percent of patients who were on insulin reduced or stopped their insulin use, and oral hypoglycemic meds were eliminated in all patients. And all the changes happened safely.

Is a Ketogenic Diet Right for You?

While the keto diet has many benefits, it is challenging for most people to follow long-term. Additionally, based on your medical history, the keto diet may do more harm than good. Before starting a Keto diet, you should speak to your health care provider or registered dietitian nutritionist to ensure the diet is right for you. Click here to find a registered dietitian near you who specializes in diabetes.

A Word of Caution

Most fad diets fall short of delivering on their promises. They make exaggerated or false theories of weight loss and diabetes reversal or remission.  Some fad diets are hazardous to health with adverse reactions such as headache, nausea, dizziness, low blood sugar, or even death. If you have diabetes, it is extremely important to consult with your health care provider before going on any diet—fad or otherwise.

Constance Brown-Riggs
Constance Brown-Riggs
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Constance Brown-Riggs, is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes care and education specialist, speaker and author of the Diabetes Guide to Enjoying Foods of the World, a convenient guide to help people with diabetes enjoy all the flavors of the world while still following a healthy meal plan.

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